Memphis, TN – Cortez Young, 24, has been sentenced to 624 months in federal prison for committing nine (9) armed business robberies across Memphis. D. Michael Dunavant, United States Attorney announced the sentence today.
According to information presented in court, on October 17, 2017, at approximately 10:50pm, three male individuals armed with handguns entered the Sonic Drive-In on South Perkins Road, waving the firearms and demanding money. The suspects pointed the guns at the employees and forced them to open the cash drawer. One of the suspects put the cash into a bag and all suspects fled towards the Cottonwood Apartments. This incident was captured on surveillance video.
It was determined that Young had the following history:
• On December 11, 2017, at approximately 10:30am, a male entered the Dollar Tree on Park Avenue, pointed a black handgun at a store employee and said, “you know what this is, hurry up and give me the money.” After getting money from the register, the victim grabbed the drawer of the register and gave it to the suspect. The incident was captured on surveillance video.
• On December 16, 2017, at approximately 7:15pm, two armed male suspects entered the Dollar Tree on East Parkway demanding money from the employees. When the employees could not open the register, one of the men “cocked” his weapon and began breaking apart the register. They were unable to obtain anything from the store and fled the scene.
• On December 16, 2017, at approximately 9:00pm, two armed males entered the Family Dollar Store on South Perkins Road, threatening the employees and demanding money. One suspect pointed a gun at an employee’s face, and said, “I know you love your life, give it to us” and knocked items over near the counter. The suspects took the entire drawer and fled the scene.
• On December 21, 2017, at approximately 9:00pm, two armed males entered the Family Dollar on Summer Avenue, shouting and demanding money. The suspects ordered the employees to open the cash registers and the safe. One of the suspects shouted, “I know you love your life, I will blow your face off!” The suspects fled the scene with several hundred dollars in cash.
• On January 3, 2018, at approximately 8:15pm, two armed males entered the Circle K on Mt. Moriah Extended, demanding money. Before the employee could open the cash register, a customer in the store began firing shots at the suspects. The suspects fled the scene and the customer followed. As shots continued, one of the suspects, Devonte Gary, 21, was shot. Gary and Cortez Young got into a red vehicle driven by Cortez Young’s uncle, Arkiest Young, 38, who drove Gary to Delta Medical Hospital. The description of the vehicle at the hospital matched the description of the vehicle fleeing the Circle K.
• On January 22, 2018, at approximately 9:30pm, two male suspects entered the Family Dollar on Summer Avenue. The males approached an employee as he was restocking items in the store; one pointed a handgun and demanded money from the register. The suspects fled with an unknown amount of money. Upon reviewing the surveillance video, officers determined the suspect with the gun was Cortez Young.
• On January 22, 2018, at approximately 8:30pm, two armed male suspects entered the Dollar Tree on East Parkway and demanded money from the employees. An employee ran to a back office and called 911. The suspects fled without obtaining anything, and a witness described a red vehicle fleeing the scene.
• On January 24, 2018, at approximately 8:40am, one suspect entered the Subway on Lamar Ave, armed with a handgun. The suspect forced the employee to give him money from the register, followed her into the rear of the store, demanding to open the safe. The suspect left scene. The victim positively identified Cortez Young as the person responsible for the robbery.
• On January 25, 2018, officers with the Memphis Police Department and the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force executed an arrest warrant for Cortez Young at his residence on Yale Avenue. Young was found hiding between a mattress and the wall in a back bedroom. As officers were executing the warrant, Arkeist Young arrived on the scene driving a stolen red Chevrolet HHR, which was similar in description as having been on the scene of several of the robberies. Inside the vehicle was a .380 caliber handgun, and a box of blue latex gloves. Victims of several of the robberies indicated the suspects were wearing blue latex gloves. Inside the residence were several boxes of .380 caliber ammunition, which matched some of the shell casings recovered from the shootout at the Circle K. Police investigators showed surveillance photos to Cortez Young, and he identified himself in at least one of the photos.
On June 19, 2018, a federal grand jury for the Western District of Tennessee returned a 16-count indictment charging Arkeist Young, Cortez Young, and Davonte Gary with the crimes of Hobbs Act robbery affecting interstate commerce; attempted robbery affecting interstate commerce; using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
On August 14, 2019, Cortez Young entered a guilty plea to all 16 counts of the indictment as charged. On February 7, 2020, Arkeist Young pled guilty to attempted Hobbs Act robbery and was sentenced to 60 months imprisonment for his role in these crimes. https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/pr/getaway-driver-sentenced-5-years-role-armed-business-robbery Charges against Davonte Gary are still pending.
On October 28, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker sentenced Cortez Young to 624 months and 1 day in federal prison followed by three years supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.
U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said: “Business owners and employees have a fundamental right to be safe from armed robbers who terrorize our communities with their lawlessness. The senselessness of gun violence has a long lasting effect on victims of armed robbery, and we will no longer allow gun crime to rule our streets. Young’s violent crime spree is over, for good. This 52-year sentence for a 24 year-old offender sends a clear message that there will always be a reckoning, a real and significant consequence, for the commission of violent crimes.”
The Memphis Police Department and the FBI – Safe Streets Task Force investigated this case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Whitmore and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel D. Winnig prosecuted this case on behalf of the government. SAUSA Winnig is currently assigned from the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office to prosecute violent crimes and firearms offenses in federal court.