A 30-year-old North Charleston man has been found guilty of taking part in a string of 39 robberies that targeted Asian restaurants, check-cashing outlets and loan businesses around the Lowcountry.
A jury in Charleston convicted Winard Montez Eady on Thursday following a four-day trial in U.S. District Court, according to U.S. Attorney for South Carolina Bill Nettles.
The offender’s twin brother, Raynard Montel Eady, and another former accomplice, 34-year-old Christopher Donnell Simmons of Wadmalaw Island, testified against him during the trial, authorities said.
Evidence presented during the trial established that the twins and Simmons conspired to rob more than three dozen businesses in and around Charleston County between July 2009 and March 2011, Nettles said.
Most of the holdups occurred in the Charleston area, but some ranged as far as Walterboro, Holly Hill and Georgetown, Nettles said.
Raynard Eady and Simmons had previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the crimes, each admitting to committing more than 25 robberies. Raynard Eady is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 80 years, and Simmons, a mandatory sentence of 32 years, Nettles said.
Raynard Eady testified this week that his brother participated in at least a half-dozen of the robberies in question, authorities said.
The jury convicted Winard Eady of conspiring to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce and possession of a firearm in furtherance of the conspiracy. The conspiracy conviction carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment. The firearm conviction carries a mandatory five-year consecutive prison term of imprisonment.
U.S. District Judge David Norton oversaw the trial, and will impose a sentence for all three defendants at a later date, Nettles said.
The trio of suspects began their crime wave robbing Asian restaurants, and then altered their tactics to target check-cashing and loan businesses, officials have said.
Fear in that restaurant community was palpable at the time, as some places were hit more than once. Several workers told frightening stories about having guns waved in their faces while frightened family members looked on.
Authorities created a law enforcement task force and 15 local police departments worked together with the FBI and State Law Enforcement Division to investigate the string of armed robberies. Authorities also offered a $20,000 reward.
The task force eventually arrested Raynard Eady and Simmons in February 2011 on suspicion of robbing finance stores. Investigators first tied them to a holdup at Cash Advance in Georgetown in which a store employee was held at gunpoint and shut in a bathroom, warrants stated.
In May 2012, investigators secured indictments against the pair and Winard Eady in connection with the wider robbery spree.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nathan Williams and Nick Bianchi of the Charleston office prosecuted the case.