RALEIGH -- A Kinston man was sentenced in federal court this week to 108 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for pleading guilty to armed robberies in eastern North Carolina.

James Earl Sutton, 55, of Kinston, was named in an indictment filed Feb. 28, along with two other people, alleging conspiracy to commit robbery and other offenses.

Sutton pleaded guilty to two counts in the indictment -- Hobbs Act robbery and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

An investigation began in August 2015 after there was a robbery at the U.S. Cellular Store in Beulaville.

There were additional robberies that followed in Kinston, Pink Hill, Faison, Kenansville and Snow Hill.

Authorities identified Sutton, Keenan Drake, Charles Nobles and Kindra Arnold as suspects in these robberies.

It is unclear if Drake, Nobles and Arnold have been convicted or sentenced for their alleged part in the crimes.

This case was part of an initiative called Project Safe Neighborhoods, which focuses on uniting federal, state and local agencies against gun crimes and targets repeat offenders.

The Duplin County Sheriff's Office, the Kenansville Police Department, the Lenoir County Sheriff's Office, the Kinston Police Department, the Snow Hill Police Department, the New Bern Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearm and Explosives conducted the investigation of this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney S. Katherine Burnette handled the prosecution of the case.