Duo charged in fall robbery of Belaggio Jewelers


Jef­frey Har­ris­on and Daniel Wat­son didn’t mess around when they robbed Be­lag­gio Jew­el­ers in the North­east last Novem­ber, au­thor­it­ies say.

Based on vic­tim ac­counts and sur­veil­lance video of the heist, po­lice be­lieve that Har­ris­on and Wat­son burst in­to the shop at 2115 Cottman Ave. with pis­tols drawn, her­ded three em­ploy­ees in­to a rear stor­age room, snatched some $200,000 worth of mer­chand­ise from dis­play cases and took off on foot, run­ning for a car they had parked nearby.

But Har­ris­on, 56, and Wat­son, 44 — who have been de­scribed by one Phil­adelphia po­lice in­vest­ig­at­or as seasoned ex-con­victs — couldn’t man­age to es­cape for good.

Po­lice and FBI agents ar­res­ted both men last month fol­low­ing a lengthy in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to a rash of armed rob­ber­ies at a vari­ety of busi­nesses, most of them in the city’s North­w­est sec­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Lt. George Mc­Clay of North­w­est De­tect­ives, mem­bers of his unit, along with mem­bers of the FBI’s Vi­ol­ent Crimes Task Force, cap­tured Har­ris­on on Feb. 16 at his res­id­ence on the 3800 block of N. Dari­en St. They caught Wat­son on Feb. 21 at his res­id­ence on the 5200 block of N. 16th St.

Both men have ex­tens­ive crim­in­al re­cords, Mc­Clay said. Wat­son pre­vi­ously served time in fed­er­al pris­on for a Hobbs Act rob­bery con­vic­tion. The dates of his in­car­cer­a­tion were not im­me­di­ately avail­able.

Har­ris­on has dozens of pri­or ar­rests, the de­tect­ive su­per­visor ad­ded. Ac­cord­ing to court re­cords, Har­ris­on was first ar­res­ted in Phil­adelphia in 1972, at age 16, in con­nec­tion with a couple of auto thefts. Both cases were dis­missed later that year.

Since then, he’s been charged in con­nec­tion with six drug pos­ses­sion and/or drug deal­ing cases, as well as two rob­bery cases and a re­tail theft. He beat all of those raps but one, a 2003 drug pos­ses­sion con­vic­tion for which he was sen­tenced to pro­ba­tion.

Non­ethe­less, Har­ris­on has at least 12 dis­tinct ali­ases lis­ted on his Phil­adelphia rap sheet.

Both men have been charged with nu­mer­ous of­fenses in con­nec­tion with the Nov. 4 jew­elry store heist. Po­lice have also iden­ti­fied Har­ris­on as a cul­prit in the rob­ber­ies of four Ra­dio Shack stores, a Be­ne­fi­cial Bank branch, a Rite-Aid and a Cash Well check-cash­ing agency between Jan. 19, 2011, and Feb. 8, 2012.

A third man, John Town­send, 30, of the 300 block of W. Mount Pleas­ant Ave., is ac­cused of team­ing with Har­ris­on on the four Ra­dio Shack and one Rite-Aid rob­ber­ies. He was ar­res­ted on Feb. 10.

Po­lice have not re­covered the $200,000 in miss­ing jew­elry from the Be­lag­gio Jew­el­ers heist, Mc­Clay said. The three store em­ploy­ees, an off-duty po­lice of­ficer who wit­nessed a por­tion of the crime and a neigh­bor of one of the al­leged rob­bers helped po­lice to identi­fy and loc­ate Har­ris­on and Wat­son.

The sus­pects ex­posed their faces dur­ing the heist, which was filmed by the store’s sur­veil­lance cam­er­as. Po­lice re­leased the foot­age pub­licly soon after the rob­bery in hope of gen­er­at­ing leads.

The crime oc­curred at about 4:50 p.m. No pat­rons were in the shop at the time. No gun­shots were fired. No in­jur­ies were re­por­ted.

Har­ris­on alone also is ac­cused of rob­bing the Be­ne­fi­cial Bank at 5301 Chew Ave. on Jan. 19, 2011; and the Cash Well at 5812 Old York Road last June 17.

Town­send and Har­ris­on are ac­cused jointly of rob­bing Ra­dio Shack stores at 1200 Welsh Road in Mont­gomery Town­ship (Feb. 8, 2011), 39 E. City Ave. in Lower Merion (Dec. 19), 7723 Crit­tenden Ave. (Dec. 26) and 101 E. Ol­ney Ave. (Dec. 28); as well as the Rite-Aid at 8243 Stenton Ave. on Feb. 8.

Wat­son is in jail in lieu of $1 mil­lion bail. He is sched­uled for a pre­lim­in­ary hear­ing on March 8. Har­ris­on and Town­send each re­main in jail in lieu of $300,000 bail and are sched­uled for an April 19 pre­lim­in­ary hear­ing. ••


You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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