CLINTON, N.C. — Investigators in Sampson County have cracked a case that spanned nine counties, including Wake.
They arrested four Honduran men and charged them with a series of violent home invasions.
Investigators say Carlos Velasques, Edgardo Zuniga, Leonel Rivara, and Roger Bonill have been terrorizing a community.
"These men are good at what they do, they are very organized," Sheriff Jimmy Thornton said.
The men are accused of participating in nearly 60 home invasions in Bladen, Duplin, Harnett, Johnston, Pender, Sampson, Wake, Wayne and Wilson counties.
Most of the victims were Hispanic business owners who were tied up and held at gunpoint.
"Whenever they are pointing guns at 8- and 9-year-old kids, it's serious business," Thornton said.
Authorities say a combination of hard work and luck led to the arrests.
They received a 911 call from a woman who was being robbed. Before she could tell them anything, she hung up out of fear. A deputy happened to be in the area and spotted the suspect.
"He pursued the individual and arrested him and came to find out that he was one of the four who was involved in a home invasion," Thornton said,
From there, authorities were able to track down three more men. Investigators say more arrests are out there.
"We are somewhat relieved, but we don't think we have them all," said Capt. R.R. Mattocks of the Sampson County Sheriff's Office. "We think there are more out there."
Sheriff's investigators believe the men are gang members from Honduras who may have had military training. Detectives say one man was a former Honduran police officer.
"We feel like these guys are coming here to maybe start their gangs or maybe keep them going in this area," Mattocks said.
The sheriff says the men are illegal immigrants and once they go through the courts, they will be deported.
String Of Violent Home Invasions Spans Several Counties