PHOENIX — A 51-year-old woman used guilt about her family's difficult finances to get her young sons and their friends to help her pay bills by committing at least 20 armed robberies in the Phoenix area, authorities said.
Cynthia Roberson, her two sons, ages 12 and 14, and five others face charges of armed robbery and aggravated assault, investigators said Monday.
"All of us should be disgusted by this," Phoenix police Sgt. Phil Roberts said. "This is absolutely not how to raise your children."
Guilted her sons
Roberson, who recently became unemployed, guilted her sons, their friends and three men into committing robberies to pay for rent and a car loan, police said.
In all of the 20 cases, Roberson drove the getaway car and once coached a 14-year-old during a robbery because he was having trouble stealing a cell phone from a victim, police said. One victim reported that Roberson was holding a sawed-off shotgun during a robbery.
All the robbery victims were physically assaulted, police said. One 13-year-old was beaten and forced to empty his pockets — which contained only an orange lollipop.
Roberson's 12-year-old was in the custody of Child Protective Services but still faces charges; her 14-year-old was being held in a juvenile jail. Two others, a 14- and 16-year-old, also were being held in a juvenile jail.
Three men arrested were identified as: Jorge Elias, 18, Tony Vaughn, 20, and Jason Moore, 20. They were being held in a Maricopa County jail.
Police do not know how much money the group made, but said the figure couldn't be very high, considering they usually made away with a cell phone or a bit of cash.
Most of the robbery victims were between 13 and 20 years old, though some were older. They were robbed in parks and along neighborhood streets on weekends.
A request with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to interview Roberson and the other adult suspects was not immediately returned Monday evening; it was unclear whether they had lawyers.
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