Anatomy of a robbery investigation

Marvin Spencer Sr.
Marvin Spencer Sr.
Derrick Lynch
Derrick Lynch
Marvin Lee Clinton Spencer Jr.
Marvin Lee Clinton Spencer Jr.

Pawn America robbery, shooting suspects make their way through the legal system

Those who regularly read Roseville Police Chief Rick Mathwig’s “One Chief’s Perspective” newsletter recently got a look at the prosecution of the suspects charged in last year’s armed robbery of the Pawn America in Roseville.

The May 8 newsletter offered an intriguing look at wha’s happened since the inital investigation, and as the Review delved into the topic, details revealed the robbery was anything but “the perfect crime.”

‘Guns a-blazing’

The July 21, 2014, robbery was described by Roseville police at the time as a sort of Wild West scenario, in which two men with “guns a-blazing” allegedly shot an employee in the leg, fired at two others, smashed a display case and made off with $200,000 in high-end jewelry in a few terrifying moments.

Two suspects were eventually identified: Marvin Spencer Sr. and Derrick Lynch of St. Paul, both 52. Police also suspected Spencer’s son, Marvin Lee Clinton Spencer Jr., 25, was an accomplice.

However, as the investigation progressed, they discovered Lynch was the one who allegedly smashed the display case, by swinging a bag containing a brick and a vise grip at it.

Lynch was arrested in Woodbury two and a half weeks after the robbery, and admitted to having robbed the store with Spencer Sr., but said he did not know Spencer Sr. had a gun.

He also didn’t know where the loot was.

According to a Ramsey County complaint, Lynch told investigators he and Spencer Sr. were “supposed to meet days after the robbery to split up the proceeds,” but Spencer Sr. left without divvying up the cash, and Lynch wasn’t in contact with him.

Spencer Jr. pulled in

Although Spencer Jr. wasn’t on the scene at the time of the robbery, he was far from being let off the hook. According to a Ramsey County complaint, he obligingly provided the evidence in the case.

A “concerned citizen” in DeKalb County, Georgia who had heard Spencer Jr. and Sr. allegedly bragging about robbing a jewelry store—while they were wearing an impressive amount of jewelry—decided to research their claims, found media reports about the Pawn America robbery, and alerted local authorities to their location,

Spencer Sr. had disappeared at that point, but authorities arrested Spencer Jr., who told them his father and his “long-time friend” Lynch had robbed the store. Lynch later told investigators Spencer Jr. had assisted them by destroying the clothing they had worn during the robbery and hiding the getaway vehicle.

Investigators were also tipped off to Spencer Jr.’s involvement in selling the stolen jewelry when they discovered photos of the accessories—with the Pawn America price tags still attached—as well as photos of Spencer Jr. wearing “gold rings which had visible price tags” on his cell phone. A Pawn America employee was “even able to identify his own handwriting on the tags,” the complaint states.

In November 2014, Spencer Jr. pleaded guilty to felony aiding and abetting the robbery “by destroying or concealing evidence of that crime,” a charge which has a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. He is currently serving a stayed 5-year sentence and is on probation.

Federal charges

After more than a month-long search, investigators were finally able to track Spencer Sr. to a house in Moline, Illinois, where he “gave himself up without incident,” according to a Roseville police statement released last year.

At the time of his arrest, Spencer Sr. allegedly admitted to the robbery and said he did not mean to shoot the employee. He faced multiple charges in Ramsey County, including attempted intentional second-degree murder, first-degree aggravated robbery, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and two counts of second-degree assault.

However, the chief’s May 8 newsletter notes Spencer Sr. and Lynch were instead federally indicted under the Hobbs Act, a law that “prevents the interruption of commerce by robbery.”

Enacted in 1946, the Hobbs Act was reportedly aimed at racketeering. But it has also been used to prosecute robbery and extortion.

According to the federal criminal complaint against Spencer Sr. and Lynch, prosecutors allege the two “did unlawfully and knowingly obstruct, delay and affect commerce ... by robbery.”

The federal complaint states Pawn America “engages in and affects interstate commerce” because roughly 6 percent of its transactions in July 2014—the month the robbery took place—involved customers from outside of Minnesota.

Erica Schumacher, director of strategic initiatives and community relations with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, says the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota decides to take up cases from the local level on an individual basis, but “[Ramsey County] would’ve prosecuted them had [the U.S. Department of Justice] not.”

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice could not be reached for comment.

Rejecting defense help

Lynch reportedly has accepted a plea deal by pleading guilty to two counts: aiding and abetting interference with commerce by robbery and aiding and abetting using, carrying and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. The chief’s newsletter reports Lynch is serving 22-25 years in federal prison.

Spencer Sr. appears to be fighting the charges, according to the newsletter, which reports that he’s fired his first two public defenders—one of whom reportedly “refused to meet with him alone” out of fear of physical harm—and now, after having found a third attorney, has said he wants to defend himself.

“As they say, a defendant who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer,” the chief’s newsletter states. “Still, this is the best legal system in the world.”

Spencer Sr. is charged on the federal level with a total of four counts: aiding and abetting interference with commerce by robbery; conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery; using, carrying and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition—armed career criminal.

To view the May 8 “One Chief’s Perspective” newsletter, visit http://bit.ly/may8newsletter.

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.


Criminal convictions all around

According to the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, all three suspects have criminal backgrounds. Their convictions include:

• Marvin Spencer Sr.: first-degree aggravated robbery (2001); theft (2009); third-degree burglary (2009); and violation of order for protection (2012). He also reportedly has criminal records in Illinois and Georgia, and most recently was discharged from prison in Minnesota in April 2014.

• Marvin Lee Clinton Spencer Jr.: felony receiving stolen property, which was later downgraded to a misdemeanor after the completion of a probation sentence (2010).

• Derrick Lynch: criminal damage to property (2004); burglary (2004); possession of a firearm by a felon (2010); and third-degree arson (2010). He also reportedly has felony convictions for burglary in Illinois.


 

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