The Philadelphia district attorney’s office last week dropped felony charges against a man suspected in the armed robbery of Bellagio Jewelers in the Northeast last year, clearing the way for federal prosecution.
Jeffery Harrison, 56, of the 3800 block of N. Darien St., was one of two gunmen who allegedly burst into the store at 2115 Cottman Ave. on Nov. 4, bound three employees in a back room and made off with about $200,000 in jewelry.
Harrison also took part in similar robberies of Radio Shack, at 39 E. City Ave. in Lower Merion, on Dec. 19; Radio Shack, at 7723 Crittenden St., on Dec. 26; and Radio Shack, 101 E. Olney Ave., on Dec. 28, investigators claim. He was charged locally with the Dec. 26 and 28 heists, but the DA’s office withdrew both cases just before a scheduled preliminary hearing on April 19.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia FBI has filed a federal complaint against Harrison in connection with the Nov. 4 and Dec. 26 crimes, alleging he used a firearm in the robbery of businesses engaged in interstate commerce. Formal federal charges are pending.
Harrison remains in local custody in lieu of $300,000 bail.
An alleged co-conspirator in the Bellagio robbery, Daniel Watson, is scheduled for a May 18 preliminary hearing. But that local case may also be withdrawn in deference to federal charges.
Watson, 44, of the 5200 block of N. 16th St., has not been implicated in other robberies, although he has a separate case pending locally involving drug possession, drug dealing and firearm possession.
According to the FBI’s affidavit of probable cause, the Bellagio Jewelers manager reported to Philadelphia police that the two robbers forced three employees to the rear of the store at gunpoint and bound them with zip ties. One of the suspects dismantled a surveillance video recording device, while the other grabbed trays of engagement rings and bracelets from display cases and an office safe.
The robbers fled on foot to a getaway car they had parked nearby. An off-duty city police officer saw the suspects as they entered the car and noted part of the license plate number. Later, an informant told police detectives that Harrison was responsible for the robberies at the jewelry store and Radio Shack, the affidavit said.
Detectives recovered fingerprints from a jewelry store display case that allegedly matched Harrison’s known prints. Also, victims in two of the Radio Shack robberies recognized Harrison in a prior arrest photo shown to them by detectives.
Harrison surrendered to detectives on Feb. 16 and admitted to robbing the jewelry store and three Radio Shacks, according to the affidavit.
A federal court hearing has not been scheduled. ••EndFragment