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Trio connected to string of armed robberies around Lowcountry sentenced to prison

The three men involved in dozens of armed robberies around the Lowcountry, including a string of them at Asian restaurants, have been sentenced to prison.

Christopher Donnell Simmons, 35, of Wadmalaw Island was sentenced to 18 years and four months in prison and Raynard Eady, 32, was sentenced to 25 years in prison by U.S. District Judge David Norton Thursday in federal court in downtown Charleston.

Raynard Eady's twin brother, Winard Montez Eady, 32, was sentenced Monday to 10 years and three months in prison.

Raynard Eady and Simmons had previously pleaded guilty to several charges in connection to the armed robberies.

Winard Eady was found guilty by a jury after a four-day trial in Charleston in November. Simmons and Raynard Eady both testified against him.

The three defendants played different roles and had different levels of involvement in the more than 40 armed robberies that occurred between 2009 and 2011, according to prosecutors.

Most of the holdups occurred in the Charleston area, but some ranged as far as Walterboro, Holly Hill and Georgetown, according to authorities.

Simmons admitted to investigators he was involved in 18 to 20 of the armed robberies around the Lowcountry, according to statements made during his plea hearing in January 2013.

Raynard Eady testified that his brother participated in at least a half-dozen of the robberies in question, authorities said. During Winard's sentencing hearing, however, his attorney, Jill HaLevi, said he participated in no more than five of the robberies and was not involved in the planning.

During the investigation authorities identified possible suspects and obtained their cellphone records, according to prosecutors.

In February 2011, cellphone activity showed Simmons and Raynard Eady near Georgetown. An armed robbery had taken place at a check-cashing store in Georgetown, where Simmons forced a store employee at gunpoint to the front of the store and shut her in a bathroom, according to arrest warrants.

The trio began their crime wave targeting Asian restaurants, and then altered their tactics to target check-cashing and loan businesses, officials have said.

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.

Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.

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