Decatur man in robbing crew gets 17 years in prison

A Decatur man has been sentenced to 17 years in federal prison for his role in a robbing crew that impersonated police, kidnapped people and stormed the houses of victims.

Larry Pratt, 40, pleaded guilty in November 2011, but his sentencing was delayed until after the trials of his six co-defendants, according to a news release Tuesday from the office of U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. Pratt's sentence will include five years of supervised release once his prison sentence is complete, the release said.

The crew targeted suspected drug dealers and planted tracking devices on the cars of their intended targets, according to prosecutors. Authorities said the crew dressed like police officers, wearing bullet-proof vests, raid jackets, and hats with "police" printed on them, before forcibly entering victims' houses "in a 'SWAT'-like tactic – yelling, 'Police, get down.' " The crew handcuffed or tied up their victims and beat them until the locations of drugs and money were revealed.

"By impersonating police and invading houses in residential areas, this robbery crew undermined the public's trust in real law enforcement officers," Yates said. "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."

The crew committed robberies in Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Rockdale and Bartow counties, authorities said.

There were three men in the group who traveled from Baltimore for "the sole purpose of committing these robberies," according to the news release. The men from Baltimore are: Torrez Seymore, who was sentenced March 7, 2013 to 13 years, eight months in prison; Kenneth Patterson, who was sentenced Nov. 8 to 10 years, one month; and Rashaad Wilson, who is scheduled to be sentenced April 15.

There were two men from Atlanta: Charles Hutcheson, known as "Charlie Boy," who was sentenced July 12, 2013 to 19 years, six months; and Taylor Richardson, who is scheduled to be sentenced April 15. Another man from Decatur, Ryan Whitt, was sentenced Jan. 6, 2013 to 16 years in prison.