Man sentenced to 21 years in prison for robbing marijuana dealers at Pelican Hill resort

An Anaheim man was sentenced Friday to 21 years in state prison for robbing marijuana dealers at gunpoint during two large drug deals at the Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast in February and March.

An Orange County Superior Court jury in October found Thomas Lamarr Prince, 41, guilty of four counts of robbery.

One dealer told Newport Beach police that he met with a man named Jonathan — whom police later identified as Prince — in the parking lot of the Newport Coast Shopping Center on Feb. 18.

The dealer brought 30 pounds of marijuana to the center to sell to Prince, but Prince refused to move forward with the transaction until 60 pounds had been delivered, police Det. Joshua Vincelet testified during a preliminary hearing in May.

Later that day, the dealer and a middleman to his supplier met Prince at the shopping center and Prince instructed them to follow him to Pelican Hill to complete the sale.

When they arrived, Vincelet testified, the sellers put 60 pounds of marijuana valued at about $130,000 in Prince’s Range Rover. Prince directed them to a suite where he said he had cash, but when they entered the room, several men with guns jumped out and ordered them to the floor, Vincelet said.

The armed men said they were police officers and searched the sellers’ pockets, taking cellphones, wallets and cash. Eventually the gunmen left.

When the sellers left the room, Prince was gone.

Two men alleged to be the dealer’s associates — Steele Burnside, 29, and Nicholas Hernandez, 30 — are accused of later holding the dealer hostage in exchange for $130,000, the estimated value of the marijuana lost in the robbery.

Police said Burnside and Hernandez took the man to an apartment in Anaheim and told him to call his father and request money for his ransom.

Newport Beach detectives launched an investigation after the man’s father called police to report him missing.

Police arrested Burnside and Hernandez shortly after midnight Feb. 20 near the apartment where the dealer was being held.

Burnside and Hernandez are facing felony charges of kidnapping for ransom and attempting or threatening to extort. Both pleaded not guilty in June. They are expected to appear in court Jan. 17 for a pretrial hearing.

Prosecutors said police identified Prince as a suspect in the robbery as part of the kidnapping investigation.

Authorities said Prince robbed another dealer of 90 pounds of marijuana under similar circumstances March 21. He was arrested March 29.

hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

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