Authorities in Sonoma County are investigating a spate of violent marijuana-related home invasions by intruders who officials say are traveling from out of state for the robberies.
In the latest robbery Wednesday, two men broke into a Santa Rosa home, tied up a female resident and made off with an unknown amount of marijuana. The robbery is Sonoma County’s sixth cannabis-connected home invasion since February, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday.
Official say the recent legalization of cannabis for California adults 21 and over is directly contributing to the recent spate of home invasions in the North Bay.
“The only clarity we know is that word has gotten out that marijuana in California is abundant and it’s easy to get,” said Sgt. Spencer Crum, a spokesman for the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. “And it’s way more profitable in the areas where they live, where it’s illegal.”
A man from Miami was arrested Thursday in Oakland for Wednesday’s robbery. The second suspect remains at large, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said.
Authorities in March arrested seven men from North Carolina and Virginia for allegedly invading three homes in Petaluma to steal marijuana.
The suspects were transferred from Sonoma County Sheriff’s custody Wednesday and brought to San Francisco for arraignment in U.S. District Court.
They are suspected of kicking down the doors of three homes on a small private street outside Petaluma before dawn March 12 and demanding marijuana and cash from the residents, pistol whipping one man. No cannabis was found and nothing was taken, authorities said.
The group fled in two rented vehicles, pursued by police into Marin County. Hours later, one man was caught trying to escape in an Uber, three men were apprehended at a Costco parking lot in Novato and another three men were intercepted by San Francisco police before they got through a security line at San Francisco International Airport, police said.
Chrisshawn Denardray Beal, 20, Jaray Day-Shawn Simmons, 28, and Ledarrell Javon Crockett, 28, all from Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Melvin Corbin, 19, Nakia Robert Lydell Jones, 22, Romello Shamar Jones, 20, and Siddiq Jafar Abdullah, 21, all from Richmond, Virginia, were indicted April 26 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco for their alleged roles in the home invasions. All are being kept in federal custody.
The suspects pleaded not guilty in federal court Wednesday to five criminal counts, including conspiracy, attempted robbery and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Abraham Simmons.
They still face charges in Sonoma County for kidnapping, robbery, false imprisonment, burglary and assault with a firearm, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Troye Shaffer.
A Sonoma County Superior Court judge issued a bench warrant of $1.4 million to each suspect involved in the Petaluma home invasions, Shaffer said.
In February, four men and a woman allegedly invaded two houses in Santa Rosa in search of marijuana and killed a man, Jose Luis Torres, 54, at one of the homes. The suspects then led police on a high-speed chase to Vallejo before being arrested.
The four men arrested are from Mississippi, New York, Virginia and Santa Rosa. A woman from Virginia was later arrested in North Carolina.
Investigators found that the suspects in the February and March cases came to the Bay Area “with the express purpose of stealing marijuana,” Crum said.