Police and federal agents swept across the Charlotte area before daybreak Wednesday, arresting more than a dozen people in a crackdown aimed at drug and violent crime in the Interstate 85/Sugar Creek corridor.
Several of the 14 suspects arrested were found at the hotels that have become a center of criminal activity such as murder, robbery, drug-dealing and prostitution, authorities said.
It marked the second crackdown in a little more than a year by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and federal agents in the I-85/Sugar Creek hotel area, and U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins said Wednesday that hotel operators need to play a role in solving the problem.
We can do sweep after sweep, but the problem will continue if the hotels keep being used by criminals, she said.
Seven of those arrested Wednesday will face federal charges, authorities said. Another seven were arrested on state charges, and five people already jailed will face additional federal charges. All 19 of those men are from Charlotte, according to federal authorities.
By late afternoon, police said they were still looking for three men.
This sweep was the result of a four-month investigation, Tompkins said. It was an example of a coordinated effort by several agencies.
Tompkins said the initial crackdown in the area was successful, but police and federal agents began noticing increased criminal activity in the corridor by late spring. In June, she said, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms began a new investigation.
In some cases, according to Capt. Rob Dance, CMPD North Tryon Division commander, the drug dealing took on the appearance of an open-air market.
Federal complaint papers filed Wednesday pointed to some of that activity. According to prosecutors, one suspect, Donuell Johnson, 29, nicknamed The Rock, sold crack cocaine to an undercover agent twice in five days in a McDonalds parking lot on West Sugar Creek Road.
But some of it was happening behind closed doors, Dance said.
Prosecutors said that included a variety of crimes in which victims sometimes were out-of-town guests staying at the hotels while on business trips or traveling through town.
Tompkins said the investigation yielded 10 firearms, including two loaded assault rifles and several guns that had been stolen and brought into North Carolina from out of state.
CMPD Major Freda Lester said Wednesdays sweep wasnt aimed at a single crime ring. Rather, she said, authorities targeted a number of individuals who allegedly were using the same geographic area for criminal activities.
Tompkins said the effort hasnt ended.
We have our eyes on this I-85/Sugar Creek corridor, and we have our eyes on the hotels, she said. We are making a coordinated effort to eliminate the criminal activity in this area.
Dance said police already have secured injunctions against some of the hotels, requiring them to hire full-time security guards and cooperate with police in other ways. He said more injunctions might be needed.
Some of the hotels are doing a really good job of working with us, he said. But we might need to move against some of the others.
The seven suspects arrested Wednesday morning on federal charges were identified as Johnson, 29; Waycus Lucky Luckett, 31; Erecai Lynch, 26; David Ray McCullough, 37; Christopher Roseboro, 33; Brandon Tate, 26; and Terrence Tate, 21.
Listed late Wednesday afternoon as at-large were Rodney Reid, 37; Jimareo Sherrill, 21; and Quandarius Shine, 23.
Wayne Dixie, special agent in charge of the ATF division in Charlotte, asked for the publics help in finding those men.
I appeal to the community to help us in this effort against criminal activity, Dixie said.
The five suspects already arrested on state charges but now facing federal charges were identified as Jertry Lee Edwards, 27; Isiah Donte Ezechukwu, 26; Denis Joel Argueta Gonzalez, 20; Jamil Weaks, 19; and Darryl Whiteside Jr., 26.
Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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