TAMPA — The Robles Park enterprise was an organization that committed what government lawyers described as a “shocking range” of crimes, among them unemployment fraud, identity theft and drug trafficking. Their illicit activities seemed to peak in the summer of 2020 amid a beef with a rival gang known as West Tampa, manifesting in a series of brazen shootings, including one outside International Plaza.
This week, two people the government said were central figures in the organization received hefty federal prison sentences.
In back-to-back sentencing hearings Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven sentenced Keaujay Hornsby and Kareem Spann to more than 16 years and 10 years, respectively.
Hornsby, 27, and Spann, 28, each pleaded guilty last year to racketeering conspiracy, among other charges.
The judge, noting their young ages and the seriousness of their crimes, warned the men that if they get in trouble again, they likely will spend the rest of their lives in prison.
“This is sort of the end of the road if you intend to have a life,” she told Spann, echoing similar words she gave to Hornsby.
The string of violent crimes that became a centerpiece of the federal case against the group began in June 2020 with a confrontation inside the Milano Exchange, a clothing store in International Plaza.
Hornsby and three other people were said to have engaged in a fight there with a rival gang member and another person, according court documents. The gang member, who was not named in court records, was injured so badly he later needed surgery.
Not long after the melee, Hornsby and Spann made social media posts indicating their “readiness to physically confront their rivals,” according to a government sentencing memo. In one Instagram post, Hornsby had a gun in his lap.
The beef continued one early morning a month later outside Truth Lounge, a strip club in the Drew Park neighborhood, northwest of Raymond James Stadium.
Spann drove a black Infiniti through the crowded club parking lot while Hornsby, sitting backward in the front passenger seat, exchanged words with rival gang members who were standing on the sidewalk, according to court records. Guns were drawn. Then came a barrage of gunfire. Seven people were wounded, some of them minors.
Six days later, on July 25, 2020, the rival gang sought retaliation. People in three cars ambushed Spann and Hornsby as they strolled into the parking lot outside Dillard’s at International Plaza. Three gunmen emerged and shot at the pair. Panicked mall patrons dashed to their cars.
Hornsby shot back at their assailants, court records state. Both men escaped uninjured.
Two days after that, they were driving along Walnut Street in West Tampa when they spotted a rival gang member in another car. Spann, who was driving, circled the area while Hornsby, in the back seat, lowered a window and fired several shots at the man.
Amid a Tampa police investigation of the violent incidents, federal authorities probed the Robles Park group’s involvement in economic crimes. Investigators executed search warrants at multiple locations, including a home in the 800 block of East Lake Avenue in Tampa.
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No one lived there. In court, it was referred to as a “trap house,” and was described in court as being used to facilitate drug sales and other illegal activity. Inside, investigators found evidence of numerous fraudulent unemployment claims made in multiple states, along with cocaine, marijuana and synthetic cannabis.
Investigators obtained video from automated teller machines at banks in Tampa and Hollywood, Florida, that appeared to show Hornsby and Tywon Spann, a brother to Kareem Spann, making dozens of withdrawals of $1,000 each from accounts associated with various unemployment claims.
All of it, the government argued, was evidence of a complicated fraud scheme that netted a loss to the government that totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Hornsby, the Spann brothers and Tywon Spann’s girlfriend, Eriaius Bentley, became the subjects of a federal indictment in 2021 that accused them of a racketeering conspiracy. All negotiated plea agreements with the government.
Tywon Spann was sentenced last year to a little less than seven years in prison. Bentley received a year.
As Hornsby and Kareem Spann faced sentencing Tuesday, lawyers for both men made lengthy arguments about how much of the fraud and various violent acts were attributable to them, a complicated calculus that factored into how much prison time federal guidelines would suggest.
Spann’s attorney, Jeffrey Brown, argued that he was less culpable in the shootings, as Hornsby was the gunman.
Spann previously served a seven-year federal prison sentence for a tax fraud case.
Families members of both men packed the courtroom benches behind them. Amid pleas for mercy emerged a portrait of two men raised in troubled circumstances. There were also words of regret.
“I want to apologize to my family,” Spann said. “And I accept responsibility for what I did.”
“I’m ready to leave that lifestyle behind me,” Hornsby said. “It leads to nothing but trouble.”