A 3rd Man Gets Prison for Beverly Hills Heist of $500,000 Watch

A 3rd Man Gets Prison for Beverly Hills Heist of $500,000 Watch
Matthew Moon, left, special agent in charge of the criminal division, FBI, addresses the media outside of Beverly Hills City Hall to talk about the arrest of three gang members in Los Angeles, on Feb. 28, 2022. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Tribune News Service
By Lila Seidman From Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES—A third gang member was sentenced to federal prison Monday in connection with an armed robbery of a $500,000 watch at a Beverly Hills restaurant where one diner was struck by gunfire.

Marquise A. Gardon, 41, received five years for his role in the brazen heist carried out in March 2021 at an upscale Italian restaurant on North Canon Drive, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Earlier this month, two men—Malik Lamont Powell, 21, and 18-year-old Khai McGhee—were each sentenced to 12 years for their part in the robbery, which was carried out in broad daylight.

Gardon pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery and using a firearm in a crime of violence, according to court documents. The same month, Powell and McGhee, also known as Cameron Smith, pleaded guilty to three felony robbery and weapons charges.

U.S. District Court Judge John Walter handed down the three sentences. About two weeks ago, he called the crime “outrageous and unacceptable” as he sentenced Powell and McGhee.

All three men are documented members of the Rollin' 30s Crips gang, according to court documents.

Authorities said five suspects were involved in the March 4 robbery at the Italian restaurant Il Pastaio.

The robbers drove into the wealthy neighborhood that day, scouted out victims and keyed in on jeweler Shay Belhassen as he sat outside the restaurant frequented by celebrities. The men held up Belhassen at gunpoint and stole his half-million-dollar watch designed by Richard Mille, according to court filings.

While one of the robbers pressed the gun against his head, Belhassen struggled for control of the weapon and wrested it away. The gun fell to the ground, and one of the robbers picked it up, fired twice in different directions in the crowded restaurant and struck a woman who was sitting nearby in the leg, according to an FBI affidavit. The weapon was left behind at the restaurant, authorities said.

Powell was connected to the robbery through his black BMW, which was used as the getaway car, authorities said.

His cellphone was also in the area at the time, and his social media accounts featured images of guns and high-value wristwatches, according to prosecutors. Hours after the robbery, Powell discussed the stolen watch in a series of Instagram messages, referring to the piece by name and writing about his efforts to sell it quickly.

After the attack, a bloodstain on Belhassen’s shirt was found to match McGhee’s DNA, and prosecutors said McGhee was featured in Powell’s Instagram feed.

Belhassen told the Los Angeles Times after the robbery that he doubted whoever had the jewelry would try to sell it any time soon, in part because of the attention paid to the theft.

“It’s a very rare watch, so whoever is going to be offered it is going to know they are being offered stolen stuff,” he said. Belhassen offered a $50,000 reward for its return.

Prior to the blatant daytime theft, security camera footage showed Gardon getting out of the back seat of Powell’s car and getting into the driver’s seat. And about 30 minutes before the robbery, surveillance video captured a woman, referred to as a “scout” in the court affidavit, walking around high-end watch and jewelry stores on Rodeo Drive.

Two other suspects involved in the theft have not been identified, police said.

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