Leader of jewelry heist crew gets 31 years in federal prison

CHICAGO (STMW) - A Chicago man who pleaded guilty last year to leading a robbery ring that struck a gas station and three jewelry stores was sentenced to 31 years in federal prison on Friday.

Federal prosecutors charged that Palo Brown and his crew robbed or attempted to rob three jewelry stores and a gas station, and were captured when they tried to carjack a woman after the last jewel heist in the North Side Edgewater neighborhood.

Brown, 34, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to obstruct, delay and affect commerce by robbery; using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence; and attempted car-jacking, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office. U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall sentenced him to 376 months.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Flanagan called Brown “the mastermind of a multi-week campaign of armed violence” who “organized a crew that threatened numerous people with guns.”

In a plea agreement, Brown admitted his crew robbed Thornton’s Gas Station in Forest Park on Sept. 24, 2012. Paris Starwalt, one of his accomplices, pistol-whipped a customer over the head during the robbery, which netted $500 and two cartons of cigarettes, prosecutors said.

The next day, the crew struck Arab Jewelry in East Albany Park, where Brown, Starwalt and Felice DeSilva got away with about $200,000 worth of diamonds and jewelry, prosecutors said. An employee was duct-taped to a chair during that robbery.

About a week later, Brown and DeSilvia entered Lake Forest Jewelers in Lake Forest armed with concealed handguns, but when an employee walked outside to make a call on a cellphone, they feared he was calling authorities, so left the store without taking anything, prosecutors said.

The final robbery in the spree occurred on Oct. 8, 2012, when Brown, Starwalt and DeSilvia went to Bryn Mawr Jewelry in Edgewater, held two employees at gunpoint and stole $120,000 worth of loose diamonds and jewelry, prosecutors said.

But as they left, Brown and Starwalt tried to carjack a woman at gunpoint in a nearby parking garage, but the woman “screamed and bit Starwalt on the arm and hands, causing her and Starwalt to fall to the ground,” prosecutors said. Brown and Starwalt ran but were caught by Chicago Police.

Starwalt, a resident of Mattoon, pleaded guilty in 2014 to the same charges as Brown and will be sentenced April 1 by Judge Kendall.

DeSilvia, of Chicago, pleaded guilty in 2014 to conspiracy to obstruct, delay and affect commerce by robbery; and using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, prosecutors said. She will be sentenced by Kendall at a date to be determined.

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