Duplin arrests gang suspects in local sweep
By Turner Walston
Published in News on July 12, 2006 1:55 PM
Duplin County authorities arrested nine people late last week they say are connected to organizing an Hispanic gang in the area and who might already be part of several incidents of robbery and murder.
The nine men -- all from out of state -- have been charged with crimes from concealed weapons, altering serial numbers and armed robbery.
Duplin County Sheriff Blake Wallace said the investigation will continue.
Those arrested and their charges included:
-- Geovanny Franisco Sauceda, 23, Teachey, altering serial numbers, carrying concealed weapon, $50,000 bond.
-- Wilmer Alonso Maradiage, no address given, altering serial numbers, carrying concealed weapon, $10,000 bond.
-- Erick Carbaja Cruz, 20, New Jersey, altering serial numbers, carrying concealed weapon, $100,000 bond.
-- Jose Alfredo Hernandez, 24, Wallace, robbery with dangerous weapon, $100,000 bond.
-- Miguel Angel Paredes, 21, Teachey, altering serial numbers, carrying concealed weapon, $60,000 total bond.
-- Devis Cruz, 23, Wallace, robbery with dangerous weapon, $50,000 bond.
-- Wilmer Nolasco, 17, Albertson, robbery with dangerous weapon, $50,000 bond.
-- Fransico Moya Videz, 22, Smithfield, robbery with dangerous weapon, $50,000 bond.
-- Daniel Bertham, robbery with dangerous weapon, $200,000 bond.
Southeastern North Carolina is "ground zero" for MS-13 and other Hispanic gangs, Wallace said at a press conference Tuesday.
Wallace said law officers are going to fight the intrusion with every means at their disposal.
"We are going to try to do everything we can to combat the problem. It is a war, and we are going to act accordingly," he said.
Wallace said his office, along with the office of District Attorney Dewey Hudson, the FBI, SBI, and the state Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have formed a task force to combat gang activity in the county.
"I just want the folks in Duplin County to understand how serious this problem is, but also to know the drastic measures that we're taking to combat the problem, and we're asking for their help, also," Wallace said.
On Friday, deputies were called to investigate an armed robbery at the La Jarochita convenience store in Albertson. Wallace said four Hispanic men robbed the clerk and tied up several patrons before leaving the scene.
Shortly afterward, deputies responded to a second call. Two men had been left at the nearby Albertson Fire Department with gunshot wounds. There was then a 911 hang-up call from the Albertson Mobile Home Park. Deputies responded there as well.
Wallace said as the robbers were entering their vehicle to leave the store, a gun went off, injuring two suspects.
"The other two suspects then dumped the injured suspects off at the fire department, and then traveled to the Albertson Mobile Home Park to try to clean up any evidence and make a determination on how to flee the area," Wallace said.
Deputies detained the suspects at the mobile home park and the injured suspects at the fire department.
Wallace said a second vehicle pulled up at the mobile home park containing four individuals deputies determined were possible suspects in a gang-related homicide in the town of Wallace last month. Those four men were detained and charged with possession of concealed weapons and altering serial numbers on guns.
Hudson said the suspects came from out of state with a mission -- to conquer Duplin County. Hudson said he was hopeful that the arrests would send a message to gang leaders.
"Maybe the MS-13 will understand that as violent and vicious as they are, we are just as committed here in Duplin County and in eastern North Carolina in protecting the law abiding, decent citizens of our state from these gangs. Because the last thing that we need in Duplin County is gang warfare," he said.
"These are nine folks that we know are hardcore MS-13, most of them holding leadership positions in the gang in southeastern North Carolina, we've removed from the streets. So if that doesn't send a pretty clear message, I don't know what does," Wallace added
The sheriff said that it is not yet clear where the suspects came from. Information links several of them to California, New Jersey and Arkansas, he said.
"I think this whole thing illustrates a bigger point in that every one of these folks are illegal aliens," Wallace said. "We're going to continue to see these problems on a much larger scale if we don't secure our borders."
Wallace said there are "safehouses" for gang members throughout the region.
"Our investigation has revealed that they have ties to Johnston County, Wayne County, we have some information about Pender County, possibly Sampson County. These folks are all over southeastern North Carolina," he said. "These people are not here to work and be productive people in our community. They're here because of the gang activity."
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