'Chesapeake Bandits' member sentenced to prison, tied to armored car heist

A suspect, seen in a CCTV footage, is wanted for his alleged involvement in a series of armored car robberies between February 2022 and February 2023. The robberies have occurred in South Los Angeles, Hawthorne, and Inglewood, California. It is alleged that Davis and several unknown suspects operate by overtaking the armored car drivers when they service drive-thru ATMs or exit businesses. (FBI)
A suspect in a series of L.A. armored car heists is seen in CCTV footage. (FBI)

A Los Angeles man who acted as a lookout during the armed robbery of an armored truck was sentenced Friday to nearly 14 years in prison.

James Russell Davis, a member of a group law enforcement officials dubbed the "Chesapeake Bandits," pleaded guilty in February to a count of interference with commerce by robbery and a count of discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

The 2022 robbery, in which a co-conspirator fired a handgun, netted the group more than $160,000 in cash. Davis, who was captured by the FBI, has been held in federal custody since March 2023.

U.S. District Judge Fernando L. Aenlle-Rocha ordered Davis, 35, to pay $166,640 in restitution.

“When people commit crimes with guns, tragedies happen,” U.S. Atty. Martin Estrada said in a statement. “This is why it is so important that we bring the weight of federal prosecution against the perpetrators of violent gun crime."

In a sentencing memo, Jay Lichtman, Davis' attorney, asked the judge to consider his client's "tragic personal history," including physical harm and emotional damage as a child.

Lichtman also noted that when Davis was about 25, he was hit in the chest by a stray bullet while attending a youth basketball game. Lichtman wrote that the bullet has remained lodged over the aortic arch of the heart, "causing Mr. Davis daily physical pain and emotional stress."

"Mr. Davis deeply regrets his involvement in the offenses charged in this case," Lichtman wrote. "He humbly asks the Court to consider his personal history and characteristics in deciding on an appropriate sentence."

Reached by phone, Lichtman said the judge considered the mitigating factors in handing down his sentence.

"Although we would have preferred a lower sentence, it was still below the guidelines," he said.

Read more: At least six suspects at large in theft of armored cars in L.A. area, FBI and LAPD say

Authorities believe the group was behind a series of heists targeting armored cars across the Los Angeles region. They were called the "Chesapeake Bandits" because they carefully planned the holdups at a home on Chesapeake Avenue in L.A.’s West Adams neighborhood, investigators say.

Members would force security guards to the ground at gunpoint, zip-tie them and grab money bags before fleeing, according to law enforcement.

In a plea agreement, Davis admitted that in 2022, he and a co-conspirator cased a credit union in Hawthorne, where they observed a Sectran truck driver servicing an ATM. On Feb. 14 of that year, he admitted, he and co-conspirators robbed a Sectran Security Services armored truck by ambushing the driver.

Davis' co-conspirators were armed with a black semiautomatic handgun and an AR-style rifle, which they pointed at the driver, identified in the agreement as J.G.

Davis admitted to acting as a lookout and performing countersurveillance nearby.

According to the plea agreement, the group forced J.G. to the ground by holding a firearm to his head, then stole bags filled with approximately $166,640 in cash.

“Imagine the terror of being pulled to the ground with a gun pointed at your head," Krysti Hawkins, acting assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said in a statement. "Davis and his accomplices violently ambushed an individual just doing his job so they could make off with other people’s money."

Read more: 'Chesapeake Bandits' fugitive in L.A. armored car heists is captured by FBI

The lead defendant in the case, Deneyvous Jayan Hobson, 38, has pleaded not guilty. His trial is scheduled for Sept. 3.

Hobson is charged with one count of Hobbs Act conspiracy, one count of Hobbs Act robbery, one count of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

According to FBI spokesperson Laura Eimiller, the agency is seeking additional suspects it believes are linked to the series of armed robberies.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.