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Attempted robbers of jewelry store sentenced 

Left to Right: Darnell Brown, Charles Fortune, Zack Cender.

Left to Right: Darnell Brown, Charles Fortune, Zack Cender.

Three men from East Lansing were sentenced this week for their roles in the attempted robbery of a jewelry store in Plainfield Township in January.

According to U. S. Attorney Patrick Miles, Judge Janet T. Neff sentenced both Darnell Kenneth-Maurice Brown, 23, and Charles Milton Fortune, 22, to 30 months in prison, and Zackary Ian Cender, 19, to 12 months and one day in prison.

On the morning of January 23, Brown, Cender, and Fortune, along with four other men, left Lansing for Grand Rapids, in two cars, for the purpose of robbing a jewelry store in Grand Rapids.

They drove by the jewelry store, at 4518 Plainfield NE, north of 5 Mile Rd, before parking at a nearby apartment complex. They then stole a pickup truck, and Brown, Cender, and three others travelled to the jewelry store in the stolen truck. Fortune and another stayed with the cars at the apartment complex. Once at the store, the driver waited in the truck while four robbers, including Brown and Cender, entered. Brown acted as a lookout, while Cender and two others went to jewelry cases containing Rolex watches and began smashing the glass cases with short-handled sledgehammers. Employees and customers fled the showroom. The robbery was disrupted when one of the employees returned to the showroom and fired a weapon in the direction of the robbers.

The suspects fled the scene, then abandoned the stolen vehicle and were seen getting into two different vehicles: a black Chevy Impala, and a new silver Dodge Durango. Kent County Sheriff Sgt. Bryan Muir was responding to the call when he witnessed the black Impala traveling eastbound on I-96. He waited for backup to arrive before conducting a felony stop on I-96 near M-6. Brown, Cender, and Fortune were then taken into custody. The other four conspirators escaped and have yet to be charged.

“This was a carefully planned attempted robbery,” U.S. Attorney Miles said. “The coordination and circumstances of this robbery indicate that these defendants had help. We are asking for the public’s assistance in identifying the other perpetrators of this criminal act and in bringing them to justice.”

The U.S. Attorney noted that the public can contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) at (313) 965-2323 with any information about this case.

“The audacity with which this robbery was committed posed a substantial threat to the business place and public-at-large, and will not be tolerated,” stated Paul M. Abbate, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Detroit Field Office. “The FBI, along with its law enforcement partners on both sides of the state, is committed to seeing that all of the co-conspirators involved in this case are arrested and brought to justice, and will not stop pursuing them until this is accomplished.”

The FBI and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department are investigating this case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Justin M. Presant and Daniel Y. Mekaru are prosecuting it.

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