Teens plead in Cuyahoga Falls and Solon carjackings, attempted Streetsboro carjacking

An Akron teen and two others have pleaded guilty to federal charges related to carjackings in Cuyahoga Falls and Solon and an attempted carjacking in Streetsboro on the same day last August.

Kenneth Franklin, 19, and Maple Heights residents Donteze Congress and Thomas J.D. Williams, both 18, pleaded guilty to three counts of carjacking Friday in U.S. 6th District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland, according to court records. Congress and Williams also pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and Franklin pleaded guilty to two counts of aiding and abetting possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

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As part of a plea deal, other charges were dismissed. All three are scheduled for sentencing in May.

According to court records, Cuyahoga Falls police responded after a 22-year-old woman reported two males, one holding a handgun, stole her 2014 Jeep at Third Street and Bailey Road at about 11:30 a.m. Aug. 9. The woman said the theft took place after the men's vehicle bumped into the Jeep's rear and she got out to check the damage.

Both men got into the Jeep and left in it, followed by a third person driving the vehicle the men had been in, according to the records.

At about 1 p.m. that same day, Streetsboro police said an attempted carjacking occurred in the parking lot outside Planet Fitness on state Route 303. A woman reported that after she parked her 2020 Jeep Cherokee and got out, three males parked near her in an SUV, believed to be a Toyota RAV4, exited with guns. After they got her keys, the woman fought with them for a short while until the males returned to the SUV and left.

At about 1:45 p.m., a man reported his 2022 Volvo S90 was stolen at gunpoint in Solon. Using a tracking system in the Volvo, Solon police traced it to Garfield Heights. Garfield Heights police were contacted, and they found the Volvo backing into a parking space outside a barber shop.

The driver, the vehicle's only reported occupant, ran away, but was eventually found hiding under boxes in a home and identified by police as Williams. A loaded 9 mm handgun was found in the Volvo, and a credit card belonging to the Cuyahoga Falls victim was found in Williams' pocket, police said. Video on Williams' phone showed him and another person, both holding guns — Williams an assault-type rifle — in a vehicle a few minutes after the Cuyahoga Falls carjacking, according to court records. The victim in that incident identified the vehicle in the video as hers.

Also found on Williams phone were social media chats between Williams and Congress indicating that Congress was involved in the Solon carjacking, records show. A search warrant was executed at Congress' home on Aug. 15, where police said they found multiple firearms.

Williams and Congress both admitted to taking part in the carjackings and the attempted carjacking in Streetsboro and were arrested, according to court records.

Court records do not indicate how Franklin was identified as a suspect, but he is included in a federal grand jury indictment with Congress and Williams.

The case was investigated by Cleveland FBI and the Solon, Cuyahoga Falls, Streetsboro and Garfield Heights police departments.

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at jsaunders@recordpub.com.

This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Teens plead guilty in carjackings, attempted carjacking