A 52-year-old Little Rock man, linked to 14 robberies and snatch-and-grab thefts across five counties in 2020, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for five Little Rock robberies, among other crimes, after throwing himself on the mercy of the court.
Mark Anthony Persley, who has served time in federal prison for bank robbery and human trafficking, had already been serving 10 years for robbery, theft and commercial burglary after pleading guilty to those crimes in Conway and Lonoke counties.
Sentencing papers filed earlier this month show Persley dropped his legal challenges to his 14 Pulaski County charges by pleading no contest.
In exchange for the plea, deputy prosecutor Corinne Kwapis and defense attorney Harrison Tome agreed that Persley's punishment for five counts each of robbery and theft, three counts of theft by receiving and a charge of evidence tampering would be left up to Circuit Judge Leon Johnson without a prosecution recommendation.
Court files show Persley told investigators that he had returned to crime after losing his job during the covid pandemic, which led to him resuming his drug habit. He still faces robbery charges in Faulkner and Jefferson counties.
According to police reports and court records, Persley's recent misconduct started with a March 31, 2020, arrest for theft by receiving when he was caught by Little Rock police driving a stolen white 2005 BMW on Wolfe Street about 4 p.m. He was booked and released on his own recognizance from the jail.
About 43 minutes after his arrest, a blue 2005 Nissan Maxima was reported stolen from the Cana 3 Sunoco Superstop at 3100 W. Roosevelt Road after the owner left her car running to go inside and pay for fuel. As the woman walked back to her vehicle, she saw a man in a yellow shirt and blue jeans get into her car and drive off. She said someone at the store told her the thief had just been released from the jail across the street. Police identified Persley as the thief from surveillance video.
Five days later, officers arrested Persley again for theft by receiving, after finding him standing next to the stolen Nissan with the vehicle's keys, while investigating a complaint about loud music at the Motel 6 at 3200 Bankhead Drive. He was charged with evidence tampering for trying to get rid of the keys and a drug pipe. He was again booked and released without bail that same day.
Persley was arrested about two weeks later on his third theft by receiving charge involving a stolen car on April 22 by police who spotted a black 2014 Toyota Camry at the Super 7 Motel, 9525 Interstate 30, recognized it as stolen, then saw him drive off the property. The Toyota had been reported stolen on the same day the Nissan was after the Toyota had been left running at a gas station at 2620 W. 65th St. Questioned about the car, Persley told police he had gotten the car from his son. He was again booked and released.
Two months later, on June 23, Persley was arrested for six robberies that had occurred over the previous two weeks, beginning on June 8 at the Cuisine of China restaurant, 7613 Geyer Springs Road. Police used surveillance video to match him to the restaurant robbery as well as to the hold-ups of the Shipley Do-Nuts at 8523 W. Markham St. on June 14, the Shipley Do-Nuts at 8211 Geyer Springs Road on June 15, the Family Dollar at 8824 Geyer Springs Road on June 18, the Walgreens at 5917 Baseline Road on June 21 and the Kwik Chek gas station at 7715 Geyer Springs Road on June 22. Prosecutors declined to file charges over the June 15 Shipley robbery.
In each case, the robber would approach the cash register holding a product and money and acting like he was going to make a purchase, but instead would grab for money once the till was open. He would then fight with the clerk and others who tried to stop him. Reports don't show how much money was taken. Persley spent the night in jail and was released the next day on $50,000 bond.
Persley's next arrest would come about two months later, on Aug. 19 in Conway, following a series of six thefts and robberies over about two weeks, each marked by what came to be known to police as his trademark: Pretending to buy a honey bun pastry to get clerks to open the cash register.
Persley is awaiting trial over the first honey-bun robbery attributed to him, which occurred Aug. 5 at the Shell gas station at 350 E. Oak St. in Conway. Surveillance video helped police identify him as the robber who they say threatened the store clerk as he grabbed money from the register. Police said he got her to open the register by pretending he was going to buy a honey bun, a pastry his wife would later tell police was his favorite snack.
Five days after that, Persley stole money out of the Road Runner gas station at 3185 Arkansas 367 in Cabot after pretending to buy a honey bun. He has since pleaded guilty to breaking or entering for the theft in Lonoke County Circuit Court.
Authorities say Persley struck next two days later, on Aug. 12, in White Hall where he swiped money from the register of the Food Mart at 8003 Sheridan Road after presenting the clerk with a dollar bill to pay for a honey bun.
Allegations that he jumped the counter, grabbed the clerk, and then took money from the till resulted in charges pending in Jefferson Circuit Court of robbery, breaking or entering and theft.
On Aug. 14, at a Valero convenience store and gas station at 1954 Arkansas 31 North in Lonoke, Persley, again using a honey bun, got the clerk to open the till, but when he lunged for her across the counter, demanding money and swiped some cash, she closed the register before running from the store. Witnesses told police the thief shouted "boom boom" as he ran towards the neighboring Days Inn, where he disappeared.
After police recognized Persley from security video, he pleaded guilty to commercial burglary, reduced from aggravated robbery, breaking or entering and theft in Lonoke County Circuit Court.
Charges of robbery and theft are still pending in Faulkner County over the next two robberies attributed to Persley. Authorities say he struck Aug. 15 at the Doublebee's Phillips 66 convenience story at 350 Arkansas 65 North in Conway, again while pretending to buy a honey bun. Three days later, Persley with a honey bun hit the Conway Mapco at 545 E. Dave Ward Drive, grabbing the cash from the register after the clerk opened it, police said.
Persley was arrested on Aug. 19 after his final robbery, the Highway 95 Gas and Go in Morrilton. Police responding to the store's panic alarm arrived to find the clerk hysterical after a man pretending to buy a honey bun pushed through the partition separating clerk from customers to grab the money out of the register.
By then, investigators in the area had been on alert for several days and had learned that Persley regularly used a white Chevrolet Tahoe, so police in several jurisdictions immediately began searching for the vehicle. Conway police caught up to it in Little Rock that same day. Persley was arrested along with his wife, 50-year-old Robin Richardson of Little Rock, the Tahoe driver. Police found a half-eaten honey bun in the vehicle.
Persley later pleaded guilty in Conway County Circuit Court to robbery. Richardson, identified as his getaway driver on four occasions, pleaded guilty to robbery and theft charges in Faulkner and Lonoke counties in exchange for a five-year sentence.
In October 2005, Persley, wearing a trench coat and wig, robbed the Delta Trust and Bank branch at 2924 Kavanaugh Blvd. in Little Rock. He and an accomplice were arrested within a few minutes of the holdup because witnesses were able to provide a description and license number for the red Ford Mustang they fled in.
His co-defendant, Deshon Rasul-Llah of North Little Rock, received two years for driving the getaway car while Persley was sentenced to 33 months, almost three years, in prison in June 2006.
Persley received a five-year state prison sentence that same year for a July 2006 robbery at a Little Rock convenience store. The holdup occurred after he was released from federal custody to enter a drug rehabilitation program.
In July 2015, Persley, driving a semi-trailer truck, was arrested by U.S Homeland Security agents on Interstate 35 north of Laredo, Texas, after he was found to be transporting undocumented immigrants at a Border Patrol checkpoint.
He claimed to be alone but agreed to a search, with investigators discovering 11 undocumented immigrants under the sheets on the bunk beds in the 18-wheeler's sleeping compartment. During questioning, Persley said he was paid $500 to transport them.
Persley pleaded guilty to attempted transport of undocumented aliens for financial gain in exchange for prosecutors dropping two other counts and was sentenced to 15 months in prison in December 2015.