Local firefighter Rakeem Lennard of North Sound, and 21-year-old Lekhoy Hughes of no fixed place of abode were jointly charged alongside 25-year-old Tray Audain who was born in St Croix but raised on Virgin Gorda.
The trio appeared before Magistrate Christilyn Benjamin on Tuesday, charged with two counts of robbery at the Valley on Virgin Gorda on October 15.
They are accused of robbing Ruby Esther Saballa Manzueta of one hand bag, one Louis Vuitton purse, a cheque in the amount of $336, one pair of $200 air-buds, $500 cash, and one Dominican Republic identification card.
They are also accused of robbing Marian Santos-Hernandez of one handbag, $3,841 cash, two bank cards, one white iPhone 11 plus, one driver’s license, and a number of documents.
Crown Counsel Kael London alleges that on the date in question, a Virgin Gorda resident contacted the local police station and reported that two-armed mask men had just robbed two females of their belongings while sitting at the front of the store.
Members from the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force immediately responded at the scene of the incident where they were informed that the robbers had fled in a white rental vehicle shortly after committing the crime.
The witness also informed the officers that prior to the incident, the two females were watching a movie on their mobile device when they observed two persons dressed in all black with shirts covering their entire face, wearing gloves with guns in their hands. The two persons approached the complainants from the back and forcefully snatched both their hand bags and fled the scene.
London also said that during the investigations, police had received information that the gunmen were fleeing towards North Sound in the vehicle described.
The police immediately headed toward the direction of North Sound in pursuit of the suspects where they spotted lights on an empty road side heading towards the North Sound area.
The prosecutor further said police eventually reached the area of the North Sound basketball court where they observed a number of parked vehicles, including a white Kia rental jeep which matched the description of the suspected vehicle.
The officers noticed that the engine of the vehicle was still running and upon approaching the vehicle one of the occupants exited from the passenger side, ran, and escaped through a bushy area. Police then observed that three other occupants were in the vehicle.
Crown Counsel London noted that Audain’s name was behind the rental of the vehicle and he was sitting in the driver seat when the vehicle was intercepted. The other two accused were both in the rear passenger seats of the vehicle.
The three accused were cautioned and a search was conducted on the vehicle where two female handbags were found on the front passenger floor of the vehicle. When the accused men were asked about the bags, all three denied ownership.
The victims arrived at the location shortly after and were able to identify the bags as the ones stolen.
London further told the court that CCTV footage was retrieved from a local mini mart where two masked men were seen walking towards the front of the store and snatching the bags from the two ladies and fleeing the scene.
The police also conducted interviews of the three accused. According to the Crown, Hughes admitted to the allegations that were made against him, stating that he was among the two masked men that robbed the ladies of their bags.
Audain, however, denied the allegations and indicated that he was not involved in any robbery. Meanwhile, 28-year-old Lennard gave a no comment in the interview, only answering a few questions.
Police remain on the hunt for the fourth person who remains at large and according to London, they are continuing investigations into the incident as none of the firearms have been discovered.
Both Hughes and Lennard were represented by attorney Ruthilia Maximea while Audain was represented by Stacy Abel.
In presenting a case for bail for Lennard, Maximea argued that the defendant is a father of two and the present breadwinner of his immediate family, as he is currently employed as a firefighter. She said he has no previous run-ins with the law and, to her judgement, is not a flight risk.
In Hughes’ argument, she said he was working as a junior plumber prior to COVID-19. She argued that to remand him would cause more harm than good, as a rehabilitation programme would better serve her client who has had to battle on his own, since his mom and sister passed away.
Attorney Abel in her argument for Audain’s bail, stated that while her client was presently on bail for an unrelated matter, she believes that he should be treated as innocent until proven guilty, as no hard evidence was directly pinned to her client.
Magistrate Benjamin however ruled that she found the allegations to be compelling and believed that if the accused were set free, they could interfere in the ongoing investigations.
She said two of the accused had no fixed place of abode, which raised further concerns.
The magistrate said she believed no reasonable bail conditions existed in this matter and therefore denied bail for all three.
They were therefore remanded until January 27, 2021 where a paper committal will take place to have the matter transferred to the High Court.
No plea was needed as the matter is triable at the High Court