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Federal sentences imposed in Minneapolis carjacking ring that targeted Somali rideshare drivers


By Stephen Montemayor
Thursday February 15, 2024

Three of four Minneapolis men charged in a violent 2021 carjacking conspiracy that terrorized rideshare drivers in the Twin Cities received federal sentences of just under a decade in prison this week.

The sentences are bringing to a close a case that federal prosecutors say involved a campaign of extreme and “utterly gratuitous” violence that singled out Somali Uber and Lyft drivers and left a lasting toll on its victims. The indictment, announced soon after U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger returned to office in 2022, became an early emphasis of Luger’s ongoing focus on prosecuting violent crime in Minnesota.

 

“The defendants targeted innocent people who were simply doing their jobs,” Luger said in a statement Wednesday. “The crimes committed by these four men contributed to the sharp increase in violent carjackings throughout the Twin Cities in recent years and left victims with physical and emotional scars.”

According to the charges, the four men targeted mostly Somali Uber and Lyft drivers and lured them to locations under the guise of picking up or dropping off passengers. Once there, they robbed their victims at gunpoint — including pistol-whipping and beating them — and transferred money from the victims’ bank accounts to their own before stealing their vehicles.

Shevirio Kavirion Childs-Young, 20, received the longest sentence so far of the group when U.S. District Judge Katherine Menendez on Monday imposed an eight-year federal prison sentence for the previous guilty plea by Childs-Young to conspiring to carry a gun while committing a violent crime. It is the third gun-related felony conviction for Childs-Young.

Menendez sentenced Javeyon Demario Tate 23, to 6½ years in prison Tuesday, and followed up with a five-year sentence for Eric Harrell Knight, 20, on Wednesday. All three also received three years of supervised release to begin once their prison terms are complete.

Menendez is scheduled to sentence William Charles Saffold, 21, next week on the same charge plus an additional conviction for carrying a gun while committing a violent crime and one count of assault on a federal officer for drawing a pistol and pointing it at an FBI agent in May 2022 before fleeing on foot.

Prosecutors sought eight-year sentences for Knight and Tate, and asked Menendez to sentence Childs-Young to between 11½ and 14½ years in prison. They are also asking that Menendez sentence Saffold to nine years in prison next week. Manny Atwal, first assistant federal defender and the attorney representing Childs-Young, said her client repeatedly apologized to his victims at sentencing this week but acknowledged that saying sorry could not take away their pain. Eight years in prison is a long term for someone his age, said Atwal, who added that the sentence will provide a lot of time for Childs-Young to reflect on his actions.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Calhoun-Lopez, in making his case to the court, called the attacks “violent, wanton and needlessly cruel,” noting that the men continued to steal money from the victims and even their family members after the robberies. Calhoun-Lopez cited statements from victims, one of whom called the ordeal the “most horrific day” of his life and noted that he thought he was going to die and never see his family again. The driver quit work, and has been plagued by nightmares and panic attacks.

Another described fearing that the perpetrators will come back for him. He lost his job and has felt alienated from loved ones. He stopped taking in-person classes at the University of Minnesota after the crime, and said the robbers “destroyed” a part of his life.

The Minneapolis Police Department and FBI investigated the case, and received assistance from Uber and Lyft during the investigation, which included the seizure of 14 firearms, according to a statement Wednesday.

Uber employs former law enforcement professionals who work on an on-call basis to assist investigators.

“We applaud the dedication of the FBI, the Minneapolis Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office as they worked to bring this group of bad actors to justice, said Heather Childs, chief trust and security officer at Uber. “In this case, our Public Safety team worked to support these investigations, and we are proud to have been able to assist them.”

“The residents of Minneapolis have dealt with violent crime for far too long,” said Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara. “The sentencing of these individuals sends a clear message: Anyone who chooses to use violence and terror for personal gain will be held accountable.”

Alvin Winston, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis division, added in a statement that the FBI and law enforcement partners were “determined not to allow our community to become a breeding ground for violent, carjacking criminals.”

“Our community deserves safety and security, and we are prepared to take whatever steps necessary to ensure that carjackers are brought to justice,” Winston said.

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