Seller beware: Proposed sale allegedly ends in armed robbery
By Jana Peterson Today at 7:29 p.m.
An alleged armed robbery late Sunday in Cromwell came during a meeting that was arranged over the internet to sell either a mobile phone or marijuana — depending on which side is doing the explaining.
Skyler Roy Hakala, 19, of Cromwell was charged in State District Court in Carlton on Wednesday with three counts of first-degree aggravated robbery and for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Matthew Maurice Benson, 20, of Duluth was charged with three counts of aiding and abetting first-degree aggravated robbery — one charge for each of the alleged victims in the case.
The suspects were arrested by Duluth police officers later that night based on a vehicle description given by the victims.
According to the criminal complaint:
Carlton County Sheriff’s Office deputies were dispatched to the Cromwell Pavilion just after 9 p.m. Sunday on a report of an individual being held up at gunpoint.
When Deputy Louis Dahlen arrived at the pavilion, the person who called in the robbery said he came to Cromwell with two acquaintances in order to sell his phone.
When he met the individuals, they held him up at gunpoint, with what he identified as a black and gold .44-caliber revolver, and took from him about $350 in cash and a wallet containing a bank card, military ID card and a social security card. A $200 vaping device was taken from another victim, along with $9 and a phone from a third victim.
The reporting victim described the clothing worn by the individuals, and he was able to identify them by name — because he had looked them up on Facebook before meeting them — adding that Hakala was the one who pointed the gun. The alleged assault occurred inside the reporting victim’s vehicle.
The victim said the two robbers left in a red Dodge pickup truck.
A computerized record check by law enforcement showed that Hakala’s father owned a red Dodge pickup truck, and Hakala’s phone location was “pinged” to a location in Cloquet. Officers were unable to find the vehicle in Cloquet, but a short time later the phone pinged again in Duluth.
A Duluth officer located the truck, identifying the occupants as Hakala and Benson, and placed both men under arrest. Both defendants were taken to the Carlton County Law Enforcement Center, where they both agreed to provide statements.
Authorities said Hakala admitted to committing the robbery but denied having a gun. Benson allegedly admitted to being at the scene but said he did not know there was going to be a robbery. He did allegedly confirm that Hakala had a gun. Both defendants stated they had gone to Cromwell for a marijuana transaction with the alleged victims.
Judge Leslie Beiers set bail Wednesday at $100,000 for Hakala and $40,000 for Benson.
A check of court records indicates that both men have had numerous run-ins with the criminal justice system, dating back to when they were juveniles.
Hakala’s adult record includes two convictions for second-degree assault and one for felony domestic assault. Benson’s history includes a convictions for third-degree riot, drug possession, trespassing, misdemeanor theft and obstruction of the legal process.
Both defendants are due back in court next Wednesday.
News Tribune reporter Tom Olsen contributed to this report.