GULFPORT -- An indictment unsealed in federal court alleges a man used a gun to force employees of five dollar stores in Harrison County to open their safes in robberies reported within three months.
Joseph Towner Jr., 31, faces five counts each of extortion and using a firearm in a crime of violence.
Two Dollar General stores and three Family Dollar stores were held up in 2014. Money was taken in each robbery and two employees at each store were threatened and in fear of their lives, the indictment said.
The robberies in 2014:
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Aug. 30, a Dollar General
Oct. 6, a Family Dollar
Nov. 19, a Family Dollar
Nov. 25, a Dollar General
Nov. 28, a Family Dollar
Towner also is accused in the theft of cigarettes in the Oct. 6 and Nov. 25 holdups in 2014.
Previous news reports
Gulfport police had asked for help to solve the Oct. 6, 2014, holdup of the Family Dollar on West Railroad.
They had said two employees were leaving the store about 10:40 p.m. when two armed men wearing MorphSuit-style masks forced them back inside and demanded they open the safe.
D'Iberville police had arrested Towner about a week after the armed robbery of the Dollar General on Lemoyne Boulevard on Nov. 25, 2014.
They have said they were responding to a silent alarm at the store. As officers arrived at the front of the store, Towner and another person ran out through the storeroom exit, police said.
D'Iberville police reported the two had held out guns and ordered one employee to get on the floor and another to open the safe.
Details were not immediately available about alleged accomplices.
Now serving time
Towner's arraignment in federal court is set for May 24.
He's in custody of the state Department of Corrections, serving a 20-year prison term for violating parole on three drug convictions, two of them for drug distribution. He had been arrested on those charges in 2006 and 2010.
His parole was revoked after D'Iberville police arrested him.
Towner was arrested on a different armed robbery charge in 2012. He and two other men were accused in the robbery of a man during a drug sale in an apartment complex parking lot on West Birch Drive in Gulfport. Police at the time said the man robbed was a confidential information who had marked money in his pocket and was wearing a wire.
Towner had been free on bond on the 2012 charge when D'Iberville police arrested him in 2014, the Harrison County jail docket shows.