Minneapolis cell phone theft ring: Man sentenced to nearly 5 years in prison

A 23-year-old man was sentenced on Tuesday afternoon in connection to a cell phone theft ring in Minneapolis. He was the first to plead guilty in the racketeering case. 

Alfonze Stuckey pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering on Dec. 1.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s office is using a unique strategy in state criminal court, having charged a dozen suspects with racketeering for orchestrating a sophisticated and sometimes violent scheme. Authorities have alleged this was a coordinated, brazen, criminal enterprise victimizing more than 40 people mostly in and around the city’s popular bar districts over the last year-plus.

With the racketeering charge, prosecutors can seek stiffer sentences over charges for individual cell phone thefts.

A dozen suspects were initially charged with working together to snatch cell phones, stealing tens of thousands of dollars through the victim’s online financial apps, and ultimately selling the expensive devices on the black market.

As part of the plea deal, Stuckey agreed to a nearly five-year prison term, officially 57 months. In exchange, the state signed off on not adding any additional charges against him beyond what is already laid out in the racketeering complaint. In a couple of incidents, it is alleged Stuckey physically assaulted victims by punching them to steal their cell phones.

Additionally, Stuckey will not have to testify against any of his codefendants in the conspiracy in open court, which is often what prosecutors are looking for as they attempt to hold all the players in a criminal conspiracy accountable, according to Hamline Mitchell Emeritus Law Professor Joseph Daly.

"Just because you're not going to use them at a trial doesn't mean they won't use the information that they can get from them to bring in the other racketeers," explained Daly, who is not directly involved in the case. "So that's a pretty significant plea bargain to not have to testify against the other people. It's always, always a terrifying reality if you're going to turn state's evidence against higher-level racketeers. I mean, it's dangerous."

The statutory maximum penalty for racketeering in Minnesota is 20 years in prison.