A home invasion crew suspected of operating in California and Arizona and of being responsible for five armed takeovers in the central San Joaquin Valley is under arrest after a raid in Phoenix, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said Friday.
The eight men and two juveniles are accused of randomly targeting affluent homeowners in Fresno and Merced counties in "blitz-type attacks," Mims said.
She was joined at a news conference by Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin, who called the gang a "pack of jackals," and Fresno County District Attorney Elizabeth Egan.
The gang is accused of taking jewelry, gold and other valuables as they held residents in mostly rural areas at gunpoint.
The gang scouted the two counties looking for homes where they might find cash and valuables, then kicked in doors in violent attacks, Mims said.
A tip to Crime Stoppers led to the arrests. There appeared to be no connection between the victims and criminals, officials said.
The robberies, which took place in Clovis, Atwater, Kerman and Selma, began on Feb. 2 and continued through March 16. Mims said the ringleader was a 28-year-old Fresno man who hunted for homes to strike and then called for help from relatives and others in Phoenix.
"They are ruthless and they are cutthroat and we are very happy to get them off the street," Pazin said.
Egan and Mims both credited the Crime Stoppers program and a witness for helping to apprehend the gang.
"Recent events have proven the motto, 'see something, say something,' works," said Egan.
Mims said the arrests followed a home invasion on South McCall Avenue where the gang forced their way into a home and held a woman and a 6-year-old child at gunpoint while they looted the house. They then took the homeowners' cars before getting into a vehicle with Arizona license plants. A witness with information about the vehicle switch tipped off authorities. Local authorities then worked with other law enforcement agencies to make the arrests.
Mims said one unfortunate footnote to the incidents is that because of the ease through which gold can be sold via mail and the Internet, much of the stolen property may not be returned.