Brazen robbers foiled by rental car’s license plates, documents show

Two people held up a Puyallup cellphone store at gunpoint Tuesday morning and took nearly $40,000 in merchandise, Pierce County prosecutors say.

Martavis Simpson, 33, and Cherise Mitchell, 37, were arraigned Thursday in Pierce County Superior Court.

Each faces three counts of first-degree kidnapping, three counts of first-degree robbery, three counts of second-degree assault, one count of first-degree burglary and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm.

According to court documents:

Simpson and Mitchell entered the cellphone store in the 4500 block of South Meridian about 10 a.m. and started browsing the store’s merchandise.

Simpson pulled a gun on one of the store’s two employees working at the front of the store, and Mitchell pulled a gun on the other.

The pair walked the employees at gunpoint to the store’s inventory room, where the store’s third employee was working.

Simpson pulled out a duffel bag and told the employees to fill it with cellphones and smart watches while he kept his gun trained on them.

Once the bag was full, he told the employees to “not do anything stupid.” Mitchell pulled the landline phone out of the wall and took it from the room with her.

With 64 devices with an average value of $600 each, the pair fled the store.

The employees came out of the inventory room in time to see the pair leaving in a car. One employee got the car’s license plate number and called police.

The number came back to a car rental company’s Burien lot, where the car was due back later in the day.

Officers waited for the car to arrive, then watched as Simpson and Mitchell unloaded bags to a waiting Uber. The pair were arrested.

Police obtained search warrants and went through the pair’s cellphones.

One phone had photos of the store from before the robbery, as well as text messages planning the heist, an inventory of what was stolen and an agreement to sell the devices for $19,000.

Simpson and Mitchell each had about $9,400 with them when they were arrested.

Michell’s phone matched the description of the one used during the robbery and had a banner from the Uber app. In her bra, she had a smart watch and a credit card in another woman’s name that had been used to rent the car.

Two guns were found during the search of their bags, as well as methamphetamine.

Kenny Ocker: 253-597-8627, @KennyOcker