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Feds sentence robber who provoked another man's murder

ATLANTA — A man who robbed homes around Atlanta, and whose crimes prompted another man to commit murder in retaliation, has been sentenced to federal prison.

Larry Pratt, 40, of Decatur, was part of a group of robbers that committed crimes around metro Atlanta, including a home invasion in Rockdale County in November 2009. In that incident, Pratt robbed a man who would retaliate two years later by murdering another man he wrongly believed had been involved in the crime.

According to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Pratt has been sentenced in federal court to 17 years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release.

Pratt and the five other men indicted with him by the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office belonged to a robbery crew that targeted suspected drug dealers. The robbers used tracking devices they secretly put on the victims’ cars to learn their habits and where their intended victims stored drugs and money. The armed robbers would dress like police, including wearing bullet-proof vests, raid jackets and hats with the word “POLICE” printed on them. They would then storm the victims’ houses in a “SWAT”-like tactic, yelling, “Police, get down!” From there, they would tie up and beat the victims until they provided the locations of the drugs and money.

In November 2009, Pratt and several others kicked in the front door of a residence on River Circle in Rockdale County armed with handguns and baseball bats. The men tied up the occupants in the home, including Chad Ashley Allen, and ransacked the house. They stole jewelry, cash, cell phones, a truck and a motorcycle, according to the incident report from the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office.

A couple of years later, in October 2011, four men, including Allen, were accused of murdering Robert Andrew “Drew” Nichols, 38, and dumping his body at a location on the outskirts of Social Circle. Prosecutors believed that Allen and the others wrongly believed that Nichols was involved in the home invasion, said Layla Zon, district attorney for the Alcovy Judicial Circuit.

She said Allen was initially indicted in Newton County because it was originally believed the murder occurred there.

“Further investigation revealed that the murder may not have occurred in Newton County but rather in Rockdale, and that the only sure thing we knew was that the body was dumped in Walton,” Zon said in an emailed response to questions Thursday. “For that reason, I presented the case to the grand jury in Walton County for indictment and he was tried on June 24, 2013, and found guilty of all counts.”

Allen was sentenced to life without parole.

Another robbery with a connection to Rockdale County committed by Pratt and other members of his crew occurred on the evening of Jan. 14, 2010, when Pratt and nine other robbers targeted a residence in DeKalb County. Dressed as police, the robbers approached the house just as the victim was walking out the front door.

The robbers rushed the victim, and had him in handcuffs on the front lawn when the victim’s friend drove up, the release states. They shot at the victim’s friend, and a gunfight between the friend and the robbers took place in the front yard. The robbers then kidnapped the victim in an attempt to get him to tell them where the drugs were located.

They drove the victim around for several hours, all the time keeping him handcuffed in the back of the vehicle. The victim told authorities he was certain he would be killed.

The ordeal ended only when the robbers drove the victim to his residence in Conyers, and his girlfriend recognized that something was wrong and called police, the release states.

Besides this robbery, Pratt and his crew also committed robberies in Fulton, Bartow and Cobb counties, the Justice Department stated.

Pratt pleaded guilty on Nov. 10, 2011, and his sentencing was delayed until after the trial of his co-defendants.

“By impersonating police and invading houses in residential areas, this robbery crew undermined the public’s trust in real law enforcement officers,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Citizens must be able to trust that those who look like police are, in fact, really police. Although it may be tempting to characterize this as merely drug dealer on drug dealer crime, the fact that this robbery crew also used SWAT-like tactics, kidnapped victims, and exchanged gunfire on residential streets to steal drugs and cash demonstrates a lack of respect for people’s lives.Their arrest and prosecution is an important way to maintain public trust.”

The crew included three men from Baltimore, Md., who travelled here for the purpose of committing these robberies: Torrez Seymore, who was sentenced on March 7, 2013, to 13 years, eight months in prison; Kenneth Patterson, who was sentenced on Nov. 8, 2013, to 10 years and one month in prison; and Rashaad Wilson, who is scheduled to be sentenced on April 15.

Two members of the crew are from Atlanta.; Charles Hutcheson, aka Charlie Boy, who was sentenced July 12, 2013, to 19 years, six months; and Taylor Richardson, who is scheduled to be sentenced on April 15.

One other member of the crew, Ryan Whitt, of Decatur, was sentenced on Jan. 6, 2013, to 16 years in prison.