Mesa Police nab illegal alien in home invasions

Gary Grado

A felony conviction and subsequent deportation didn’t stop Manuel Enrique Morales from crossing the border to return to Mesa, where police allege he and others terrorized victims with an assault rifle in a series of home invasions.

Manuel Enrique Morales

Manuel Enrique Morales

 

This time, though, the 19-year-old illegal immigrant is going to stay awhile because police jailed him and five alleged accomplices in the spree of armed robberies that span from Nov. 16-29.

Home invasions were becoming so rampant in Mesa in recent months that police formed a special task force to address the problem, which they believed was the work of as many as four crews.

“This is the major one,” said Detective Chris Arvayo, Mesa police spokesman.

Court records show that even though police worked quickly in developing suspects, the crew pulled the heists off at a clip of nearly one every three days.

Mesa police had other suspects in custody and were on Morales’ trail. Police said he left his fingerprints on duct tape used to bind victims, and they picked him out of a lineup — sometimes as the one wielding an assault rifle.

Then he got deported to Mexico.

One of his partners sold the rifle to help Morales get back across the border, and Mesa police nabbed him at 1 a.m. on Dec. 21, a search warrant affidavit states.

Now, Morales and five others are indicted on 50 counts of armed robbery, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary and auto theft.

As of mid-December, officials said there had been 34 home invasions in the previous three months.

Police said that in some cases, illegal immigrants — or those perceived to be illegal immigrants — were targeted because they were more likely to keep cash in their homes because they often don’t use traditional banking.

Police said they got their first break on Morales’ group after a Nov. 16 home invasion of an apartment at 650 S. Country Club Drive. The two robbers tied up the four victims with zip ties and duct tape and took $1,500 in cash, cell phones, electronics and a Honda Accord.

Morales, who was placed on probation July 11 for three years for unlawfully discharging a handgun and possessing burglary tools, left his fingerprints on the duct tape.

Two days later, four men broke into an apartment at 509 N. Williams with adults and three small children inside.

The men brought handguns and an AK-47 assault rifle into the apartment, according to court documents.

Police said Juan Carlos Estrada Hernandez left his fingerprints behind, and the victims picked him and Morales out of a lineup.

Detectives were also able to develop Josue Alejandro Fuentes, 23, as a lead.

Through fingerprints, photo lineups and the suspects’ statements, detectives were able to link Morales, Hernandez, Fuentes, 25-year-old Luis Alberto Moreno Lopez, 21-year-old Rodolfo Ochoa Cazarez and Sergio Chinchillas Felix to three other similar robberies that ended Nov. 29.

 

Josue Alejandro Fuentes

Josue Alejandro Fuentes

 

Juan Carlos Estrada Hernandez

Juan Carlos Estrada Hernandez

 

Rodolfo Ochoa Cazarez

Rodolfo Ochoa Cazarez

 

Luis Alberto Moreno Lopez

Luis Alberto Moreno Lopez

 

Sergio Chinchillas Felix

Sergio Chinchillas Felix

Gary Grado

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