18 arrested in string of Fresno County home invasions

FRESNO, Calif.

These robberies were organized and well thought out. Investigators say the suspects used surveillance to watch the victim's home and habits before making their move.

Sheriff's investigators believe the group of 11 men all worked together to terrorize innocent families.

After serving dozens of search warrants, investigators recovered thousands in cash they believe was taken during the home invasions.

They also found several guns they believe were used during the attacks that brought fear to families all over the Central Valley.

The most unsettling part about the violent robberies is how the suspects approached their youngest victims. Investigators say they threatened to hurt children if the adults did not cooperate.

Fresno County Sheriff, Margaret Mims said, "In one case, they actually took a photograph of the child in the house and threatened if they did call police, they had a picture of the child, knew what they looked like and would harm them."

This group is being tied to a spree of home invasion robberies that began in Reedley on June 23rd of last year. Several days later a home on North Channing and Fresno was hit. And then the first two days in July homes in Fresno and Selma were ransacked at gunpoint. In September another Reedley home was targeted and in December a family in Sanger became victims.

Investigators say the suspects selected which homes to target and then staked out the homes for several days to figure out the resident's habits. Each home invasion began almost the same way.

Sheriff Mims said, "They would knock on the door and under the rouse of being a census worker looking for work or having a card with a business such as a yard company or tree service and get the occupant to open the door."

After the robberies investigators say the suspects met at a planned location to split what they had just stolen. Deputies say the suspects got rid of the jewelry first by selling it.

The home invasion task force has made 18 arrests to date. They say the number of these robberies has dropped off dramatically since the stepped up efforts. The DA also promised to prosecute these crimes to the fullest.

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