Man says he held up Belleville store twice to pay girlfriend's phone bill

News-DemocratOctober 23, 2013 

AP GRAPHIC

A Belleville man has pleaded guilty in federal district court to two counts of armed robbery and one count of brandishing a firearm.

London Brown, 21, admitted guilt in two robberies, U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Wigginton announced Wednesday.

The charges relate to separate robberies of a Circle K gas station at 2709 W. Main St. in Belleville on July 22 and Aug. 15. In both robberies, Brown pointed a rifle at the clerk on duty and demanded that the clerk give him the money from the cash register. Investigators said the July robbery netted Brown $100 while the August robbery netted him $358.

Brown was charged under the Hobbs Act, which makes robbery a federal crime if interstate commerce is obstructed or delayed by a robbery.

According to Wigginton, the stolen sums were proceeds of sales of goods that had moved in interstate commerce. And it was the practice of Circle K to deposit the funds into a bank account in Belleville, which transmitted them electronically to Circle K's headquarters in Indiana.

Wigginton said the Hobbs Act prosecution was his first.

"It will not be the last," Wigginton said. "I will continue to creatively use all of the resources at my disposal to enhance the safety of all of the citizens of Southern Illinois."

Following the Aug. 15 robbery, the Circle K clerk alerted Belleville Police, who spotted Brown as he fled, carrying the rifle. A foot chase ensued, and police caught Brown hiding in some bushes in a residential area several blocks from the store.

Brown confessed to police, admitting that he had intended to use some of the proceeds from the robberies to pay his girlfriend's telephone bill.

Brown faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each robbery, a $250,000 fine or both. The firearm charge carries an additional minimum seven years in prison, which must run back-to-back with any other sentence and up to an additional $250,000 in fines.

Sentencing is set for Jan. 24 at 10:30 a.m.

The case was investigated by Belleville Police Department and the FBI.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 239-2626.

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