Judges Gavel

A Norfolk man who robbed a Colonial Heights Sprint store of $25,000 worth of merchandise, forcing two employees to lay on the floor at gunpoint, was sentenced Thursday to 28 years in federal prison.

In pleading guilty, Tajh Rodgers, 30, admitted that last January, he was one of two men who entered the business in the 1100 block of Temple Avenue and pulled guns on two employees, threatening to kill them in a takeover-style robbery that netted roughly 70 items, including cellphones, SIM cards and an Apple Watch.

Rodgers, who has a long criminal record and who authorities said is intellectually disabled with an IQ score of 71, was caught soon after the Jan. 7, 2018, robbery when he tried to pawn two stolen cellphones at a business just a block away from his home using his own identification.

Shortly before he was sentenced Thursday, Rodgers apologized to the court and the two store employees he robbed.

“I was just trying to get fast money,” he said.

U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne told Rodgers that he had considered imposing a life term in the case and warned him that if he ever broke the law again, he would die in prison.

“Mr. Rodgers, there’s no such thing as fast money,” Payne said.

In pleading guilty to five charges last October, Rodgers admitted to robbing the Sprint store and dealing drugs — including fentanyl — and selling firearms to undercover cooperating police sources in Norfolk.

The U.S. attorney’s office and Rodgers’ lawyer agreed to recommend Payne impose the 28-year term. Rodgers faced maximum terms of multiple life sentences.

During the Sprint robbery, Rodgers and the other unidentified robber held two employees hostage in the back of the store at gunpoint, attempted to tie them up and threatened to kill them if they notified police.

Because of a time-delay lock on the store’s safe, the robbers had to wait several minutes for the safe to open and a customer entered the store.

The robbers let one of the employees wait on the customer, warning that the employee would be killed for alerting the customer about the crime.

After Rodgers was identified as a suspect in the robbery, investigators obtained a search warrant for his residence in Norfolk.

The search turned up a .40-caliber pistol, a loaded semiautomatic pistol, items connected to the Sprint store robbery, fentanyl, marijuana, crack cocaine and a plastic safe containing a digital scale with suspected narcotics residue and packaging material.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Rodgers had 20 prior criminal convictions, including grand larceny, burglary and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.

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