A federal judge on Monday sentenced two men to 12 years in prison for their role in the armed robbery of a diner’s $500,000 watch at a Beverly Hills restaurant in March.
Malik Lamont Powell, 21, and 18-year-old Khai McGhee, who is also known as Cameron Smith, each pleaded guilty in September to three felony robbery and weapons charges. Five suspects were involved in the March 4 robbery at the Italian restaurant Il Pastaio, according to prosecutors.
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge John Walter called the crime — in which another diner was shot — “outrageous and unacceptable” as he sentenced Powell and McGhee to 12 years each in federal prison.
“These types of robberies, which are becoming more and more prevalent in our community, have to stop,” Walter said.
One other suspect, Marquise Anthony Gardon, pleaded guilty to interference with commerce by robbery and using and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. He will be sentenced later this month. All three men are documented members of the Rollin’ 30s Crips gang, according to court documents.
The robbers drove into the wealthy neighborhood on March 4, scouted out victims and keyed in on jeweler Shay Belhassen as he sat outside the Italian restaurant on Canon Drive. 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, according to cell data, and his social 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 efforts to sell it quickly.
After the attack, it was discovered that a bloodstain on Belhassen’s shirt matched McGhee’s DNA, and prosecutors said McGhee was featured in Powell’s Instagram feed.
Belhassen told The Times after the robbery that he doubted whoever had the jewelry would try to sell it anytime 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 backseat 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.
The two other suspects involved in the theft have not been identified, police said.