The Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD) has arrested three suspects in the March armed robbery at Il Pastaio, the department announced at a May 12 press conference. The March 4 robbery took place in broad daylight, with three suspects stealing a luxury watch from a patron at gun point. The BHPD conducted a joint investigation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), leading to the arrests of Los Angeles residents Malik Lamont Powell, 20, Khai McGhee, 18, and Marquise Anthony Gordon, 30. They have been charged in federal court with Conspiracy to Commit Interference with Commerce by Robbery of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1951(a).
“Beverly Hills Police Detectives, along with the FBI, worked tirelessly on this case,” said Interim Police Chief Dominick Rivetti. “The case was solved through witness statements, examination of digital evidence, and DNA evidence recovered from the scene. This is an excellent example of modern police work, tenacious investigative work combined with technology, and a strong cooperative effort between the FBI and the Beverly Hills Police Department.”
According to FBI Special Agent Matthew Moon, who leads the Bureau’s L.A. field office and participated in the press conference, the suspects are members of the Rollin’ 30s street gang.
The arrests took place “across Southern California” on May 11. The suspects are currently in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Downtown Los Angeles without bail. The terms of their bail will be set by a magistrate judge during arraignment. An initial appearance is scheduled at the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and United States Courthouse for 1 p.m. on May 12.
Lawyers for the defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The criminal complaint filed against the suspects alleges that five individuals were involved in the robbery. Powell and McGhee participated in the robbery itself, while Gordon served as the getaway driver, according to the legal document. One of the robbers remains at large. The charges carry a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison.
According to Rivetti, another suspect had scouted out the area minutes before the robbery, taking note of the high-end Richard Mille watch worn by Shy Belhassen. Belhassen described the experience to the Courier in the immediate aftermath of the incident. “I just saw them walking down, then running towards me with a gun,” he said.
One of the three men put a gun to his head while another began to take off his watch, a which Belhassen valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars. Belhassen had purchased the watch at a jeweler in the Business Triangle, mere blocks from where it was stolen.
Belhassen said that he then “grabbed the gun” from the suspect and “fought him to the ground.” In the ensuing scuffle, the gun went off and injured another patron, Amanda Shawshan, who sustained a minor injury as a result.
Belhassen managed to wrest the gun away from the robbers. The robbers, however, made off with his watch. Belhassen is offering a $50,000 reward for help recovering the watch.
According to a March 4 statement, BHPD first received reports of a robbery and gunshots around 2:09 p.m. and arrived on the scene “within 90 seconds.”
Beverly Hills has seen a number of high profile robberies since the new year. On April 26, two students at Beverly Hills High School reported that two female suspects stole a gold necklace from one victim’s neck and attempted to steal a cellphone from the other victim. Police made an arrest in the case on April 29.
Rivetti attributed these incidents to a “spike in crime throughout California,” which he tied to criminal justice reform measures passed over the last several years, including AB 109, Proposition 47 and Prop 57.
Despite the headline grabbing incidents, crime remains down, according to the most recent statistics released by BHPD. The monthly report for March noted an increase in aggravated assaults, but a decrease in property crime and a 25 percent drop in robberies. Total crime is down 8 percent compared to the same time last year. While the first COVID-19 lockdown could distort the comparison, March of this year saw fewer crimes (98) than March of 2019 (135).
When asked about the department’s own data indicating lower crime rates, Rivetti said, “We’re still seeing [that] crime is down, but we’re seeing an uptick.”