D.C. police target alleged violent armed robbery crew

By Clarence Williams
Saturday, March 19, 2011; 12:53 AM

A half-dozen members of an alleged robbery crew, described by investigators as ruthless and well disciplined, were about to get in cars outside a District office building one night this month, carrying nine pistols and an assault rifle. Their evening's work, the planned stickup of a drug dealer, was soon to begin.

Or so they thought.

Suddenly, like a thunderclap, the deafening flash-boom of a nonlethal concussion grenade lobbed by D.C. police stunned the men. Then another exploded, and another, as helmeted officers of the Emergency Response Team, armed and clad for combat, rushed at the disoriented suspects.

All six were arrested in the dramatic March 10 takedown, which law enforcement sources say capped a week-long sting operation in which undercover officers infiltrated the crew and gave the men guns from which the firing pins had been removed.

The sources said the targeted drug dealer was fictitious, invented by police to lure the suspects to where they were arrested.

On Friday, an indictment was unsealed in which the men were charged with conspiring to commit armed bank robbery and possessing firearms during a crime of violence. The indictment, issued by a grand jury in U.S. District Court in the District, stems from an alleged plan to rob a bank in Pennsylvania.

Undercover officers helped the men formulate the plan, sources said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing, the sources said police suspect the men robbed at least seven stores and a bank in the Washington suburbs. The group might have committed similar crimes in other states, the sources said.

"Major bad guys," said one investigator.

"There's a coldness about them," another said.

The investigation began when a confidential police informant put undercover officers in touch with the alleged robbers, sources said. They declined to specify what personas the officers took on to gain the crew's trust as the sting unfolded during the week and investigators worked day and night.

Sources said conversations that were secretly videotaped caught the men boasting to undercover officers about robberies they had committed locally and elsewhere.

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