PEKIN — Area police say they used high-tech tools to solve armed robberies at two cellphones stores, including one in Pekin more than a year ago.
The work of detectives in Normal and Pekin has produced Tazewell County charges against three Bloomington residents, two of whom a grand jury indicted Thursday.
Aminah Lewis, 27, and Tatyana Colston, 24, were charged with aggravated robbery, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Davon Ruffin, 34, faces up to 30 years if convicted of armed robbery, for which he was indicted in December.
The women allegedly conspired with Ruffin, who was identified using store security video as the man who used a handgun to rob the Sprint store in Pekin of numerous cellphones in November 2018.
Ruffin also is suspected, but not yet charged, of robbing a Verizon Wireless store in Normal last Nov. 5. Lewis is charged with felony theft in that case, according to McLean County court records.
A key to cracking the Pekin store robbery came with two “suspicious” phone calls to the store from two women shortly before the crime, court records stated. One woman asked if the store had received any new models of a cellphone brand, then hung up when told it had.
Officers traced those calls to Lewis and Colston’s phones and, using historical cell data, learned the two phones had traveled from Bloomington to the Sprint store area the day of the robbery. After Ruffin was identified as the alleged robber, the same method traced his phone traveling to Pekin just before the robbery, court records stated.
In the Normal robbery, Ruffin made off with a batch of phones that included a “bait phone,” equipped with a GPS tracking device that led police to Lewis’ apartment where they found the phones and Ruffin just outside, court records stated.
More cellphone data revealed that, the day of the Pekin robbery, Ruffin and Lewis traveled to Chicago. Lewis took a photo there of 14 unopened cellphone boxes and another of a woman’s hand holding a stack of cash topped with a $100 bill, court records stated.
Ruffin and Colston remain held on $200,000 and $50,000 bonds, respectively. Lewis posted 10 percent of her $75,000 bond for release pending prosecution.