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2 men caught after 3-county pursuit

Police took two men into custody early Thursday in northeast Charlotte after a three-county chase on Interstate 85, and there are reports might have given police a boost in solving a rash of recent burglaries across the region.

The two men, whose names have not been released, were arrested after jumping from a vehicle off Sugar Creek Road near I-85. They had been pursued by police from Salisbury.

The series of events started in Concord, police say, where officers were watching a convenience store as part of an undercover burglary operation.

Police in Concord say two men were spotted breaking into a store about 2:15 a.m., and officers pursued them northward on I-85. The suspects got away, but Salisbury police spotted the car about an hour later, and police began another pursuit, this time southbound on I-85. The chase continued for more than 40 miles through Rowan, Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties.

According to investigators, the suspects' car ran out of gas at Sugar Creek Road, and the two men jumped and ran a short distance before being caught.

WSOC-TV is reporting that police are looking into possible links between the men and a series of convenience store burglaries across the region in recent months. Tens of thousands of dollars' worth of cigarettes have been taken from stores in Anson, Union, Stanly, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and other counties.

In most cases, the burglars smashed the front door or window and loaded their vehicle with cigarettes.

Police say the two men are being questioned as the investigation continues. No arrests had been made in the case, as of mid-afternoon Thursday.

Cigarette smuggling has been going on for generations and already costs states untold billions in lost tax revenue, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Criminal gangs stock up in low-tax states like Virginia, Missouri and North Carolina, truck the cigarettes north and illegally resell them in high-tax states like Michigan and New Jersey.