Police: 3 teens charged in string of robberies

Authorities arrest 2 suspects, look for 3rd

Published On: Jan 23 2013 05:09:51 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 23 2013 05:28:12 PM CST
Austin-Jean-Caleb-Refuge
LA PORTE, Texas -

Police in La Porte said they were alarmed by a string of robberies in a city that typically enjoys a low crime rate.

Caleb Refuge, 18, and Austin Jean, 17, of La Porte were arrested within 12 hours of the last robbery incident. A warrant for aggravated robbery was also obtained for a third suspect, 17-year-old George Merritt, Jr., also from La Porte. Police said Merritt is still at large.

According to authorities, two armed robberies, and an attempted third, were reported within a three-day period. The three incidents also occurred within one mile of each other and shared similarities, leading police to believe all three crimes may have been the work of the same people.

Police said two of La Porte's east-side Valero service stations, one on Spencer Highway and one on Fairmont, and a Whataburger restaurant along state Highway 146 were the targets.

During two of the robberies, police said one of the robbers was cloaked in a black sweatshirt and had his face covered when he approached the front counter. According to authorities, the robber immediately displayed a small handgun while demanding cash. 

Investigators said the other suspects acted as lookouts immediately outside of the business. 

Police said the suspects weren't successful in their third attempt. Investigators said an employee at Whataburger spotted the pair on surveillance camera before they entered the restaurant. The employee quickly triggered a panic mechanism, which locked down the entire counter area, leaving the suspects empty-handed, police said.

Investigators said the similarity of the robberies led police to make a swift connection when an attempted car theft was soon after reported in the same area. According to authorities, the suspect descriptions matched.

Detectives said they identified one of the three involved suspects. Further investigation led to the remaining two suspects and recovery of the handgun and masks, authorities said.

Both Refuge and Jean were charged with aggravated robbery, a crime which carries a prison sentence ranging from five to 99 years and potential fine of up to $10,000. Police asked area residents to remain on the lookout for Merritt, but they think he probably left the area. 

Anyone aware of his location is asked to contact La Porte officials immediately at 281-471-3810.