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Man is convicted of robbing dealers of 150 pounds of marijuana at Pelican Hill resort

Man is convicted of robbing dealers of 150 pounds of marijuana at Pelican Hill resort
Thomas Lamarr Prince, 40, of Anaheim was convicted Wednesday of robbing marijuana dealers at gunpoint during two large-scale drug deals at The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast in February and March.  (Courtesy of Orange County district attorney's office)

An Anaheim man was convicted Wednesday of robbing marijuana dealers at gunpoint during two large-scale drug deals at The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast in February and March.

An Orange County Superior Court jury found Thomas Lamarr Prince, 40, guilty of four counts of felony robbery, according to court records.

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Prince is expected to be sentenced Dec. 15. He could face up to 25 years in state prison.

One dealer told Newport Beach police that he met with a man named Jonathan — whom police later identified as Prince — in the parking lot of the Newport Coast Shopping Center on Newport Coast Drive on Feb. 18.

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The man brought 30 pounds of marijuana to the center to sell to Prince, but Prince refused to move forward with the transaction until 60 pounds had been delivered, Det. Joshua Vincelet testified during a preliminary hearing in May.

The dealer asked a middleman used to access the supplier of the marijuana to get the rest of the drugs, Vincelet said.

Later that day, the group met at the shopping center and Prince instructed the sellers to follow him to Pelican Hill to complete the sale.

When they arrived, Vincelet testified, the sellers put 60 pounds of marijuana valued at about $130,000 in Prince's Range Rover. Prince directed them to a suite where he said he had cash, but when they entered the room, several men with guns jumped out and ordered them to the floor, Vincelet said.

The armed men said they were police officers and searched the sellers' pockets, taking cellphones, wallets and cash. Eventually the gunmen left.

When the sellers left the room, Prince was gone.

Two men alleged to be the dealer's associates — Steele Burnside, 28, and Nicholas Hernandez, 30 — are accused of holding the dealer hostage in exchange for the $130,000 estimated value of the marijuana lost in the robbery.

Police said Burnside and Hernandez took the man to an apartment in Anaheim and told him to call his father and request money for his ransom.

"The victim's father was not able to acquire the ransom amount," Det. Jason Blakely wrote in a declaration filed with the court to increase Hernandez's bail. "The defendant was going to hold the victim for ransom until the money was paid. During this phone call, the victim told his father his [captors] were armed."

Newport Beach detectives launched an investigation into the reported kidnapping and robbery after the man's father called police to report him missing.

Police arrested Burnside and Hernandez shortly after midnight Feb. 20 near the apartment where the dealer was being held.

Both Burnside and Hernandez are facing a felony charge of kidnapping for ransom and a felony count of attempting or threatening to extort. Both pleaded not guilty in June, according to court records.

They are expected to appear in court Friday for a pretrial hearing.

Steele Burnside, left, and Nicholas Hernandez are facing kidnapping charges.
Steele Burnside, left, and Nicholas Hernandez are facing kidnapping charges. (File Photo)

Prosecutors said police identified Prince as a suspect in the robbery as part of the kidnapping investigation.

Authorities said Prince robbed another dealer March 21 under similar circumstances.

A Newport Beach detective testified that Prince met another man at the Newport Coast Shopping Center to buy 90 pounds of marijuana. Prince, who called himself Rick during the transaction, directed the dealer to follow him to the Pelican Hill resort and led him into a suite.

When they entered the room, Prince walked upstairs and two men pointed guns at the man, led him into a bedroom and took his cellphone, wallet and cash, according to testimony at the preliminary hearing.

The detective testified that after the men left, the dealer climbed out a window and realized Prince had fled with the drugs. The value of the marijuana wasn't clear.

Newport Beach detectives arrested Prince on March 29 and searched his home in Anaheim. They found $10,000 in cash in a safe and several cellphones, police said. Prince also had a Porsche, a Maserati and a Range Rover parked outside the house, according to court records.

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

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