Two charged in connection with robbery at auto dealership

Essex County resident Kareem O. Spann and Middlesex County resident Christopher B. Phillips have been arrested and charged in connection with a coordinated robbery of $20,000 in cash that took place at a Springfield car dealership earlier this year, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Springfield Police Chief John Cook jointly announced Tuesday.  

Spann, 42, of Orange, and Phillips, 33, of Dunellen, are both charged with second-degree robbery and second-degree conspiracy to commit robbery.

At approximately 2:10 p.m. on Friday, August 21, 2020, members of the Springfield Police Department responded to the 21st Century Auto Group on U.S. Route 22 East in Springfield on a report of a robbery that had just taken place, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Peter DeRose, Supervisor of the Prosecutor’s Office’s Major Crimes Division.

An investigation spearheaded by Springfield Police Department Detective John Patrick and assisted by members of the Major Crimes Division’s Intelligence-Driven Prosecution Unit revealed that on the day of the robbery, Phillips, a salesperson at the car dealership, had been speaking with two prospective customers who were in possession of $20,000 in cash. A masked man later identified as Spann then approached those customers in the rear of the dealership, wrestled the bag containing the cash away from them, and sped away in a white Cadillac sedan.

Following the execution of a search warrant and a communications data warrant for the cell phones of both Phillips and Spann, the investigation revealed that the two men had been in constant contact during the time immediately before and after the robbery took place. Location data from Spann’s phone also showed the device in the area of the robbery at the time of the robbery, then leaving and returning to his municipality of residence.

Phillips was arrested in Green Brook and Spann was arrested in Orange without incident on Thursday, October 1, and both were lodged in the Union County Jail pending a first appearance and detention hearing scheduled to take place in Superior Court. The Cadillac believed to be used during the robbery was also recovered on Wallace Street in Orange, and following the execution of a search warrant, it was towed from the scene to be searched. 

Convictions on second-degree criminal charges are commonly punishable by 5 to 10 years in state prison.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.