Three people from Columbus were convicted of a September 2014 carjacking in Opelika, Ala., in which they stole a car they sold to a man on Craigslist, said George L. Beck Jr., the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama.
Stanley Jawan Hinton, 24, Jacinto Taron Robinson, 26, and Tawanda Aeiah Sears, 26, were convicted of carjacking. Hinton and Robinson were also convicted of brandishing a firearm during the commission of a crime, Beck announced in a news release.
In late August 2014, the victim of the carjacking purchased a vehicle from Hinton that was advertised on Craigslist. After buying the car, he discovered that there were problems with the title and the rims on the car were rentals.
He then demanded his money back and the defendants promised to give him a refund.
On Sept. 4, 2014, Hinton, Robinson, Sears and an unidentified male met the man at the a Circle K gas station in Opelika, Ala, where the man planned to return the vehicle in exchange for the refund.
After arriving at the gas station, the unidentified male got into the purchased car, pointed a pistol at the victim and forced the victim out of the car. The gunman and Robinson then drove away in the victim’s vehicle, and Sears and Hinton drove off in another car. The victim ran inside the gas station convenience store and called 911.
The incident was investigated by the Opelika Police Department, Columbus Police Department and the FBI.
During the investigation, authorities identified the suspects and learned that the Craigslist advertisement had been posted by Hinton under a false name.
“These days, you must be careful when buying from or selling to a stranger,” Beck said in the release. “Sadly, everyone cannot be trusted, please be cautious when dealing with people you do not know. However, those that take advantage of these trusting people must be prosecuted, those that use guns to steal must be prosecuted, and we will ask the court to give these criminals a sentence that is commiserate with their threats and/or violence.”
All three defendants are set for sentencing this fall.
Hinton and Robinson face a potential sentence of up to 15 years for their carjacking convictions, plus a consecutive, mandatory minimum sentence of seven years for the brandishing a firearm conviction.
Sears faces a sentence of up to 15 years in federal prison for her carjacking conviction in a case prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys John Geer and Brandon Bates.
“The Opelika Police Department is most appreciative of the prosecution of this matter by the United States Attorney’s Office,” said Opelika Police Chief John McEachern. “We are grateful for the working relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Safe Streets Task Force and would like to thank the Columbus Police Department for their assistance in this case.”