CATBALOGAN CITY – At least four more members of the notorious criminal syndicate implicated in killings and robberies in Eastern Visayas has been arrested, according to Chief Supt. Elmer Soria, the regional police director yesterday said.
The suspects were identified by the police as certain Vincent Lonzaga, Aldin Mago, Norman Tojong and Ritchie Bactol – all members of the Espinosa Group that operates in Leyte and adjacent provinces.
Soria said the suspects were nabbed in a daring daybreak operation on Tuesday at their hide-out in Sitio Tinago, Barangay Benulho in Leyte’s Albuera town.
The police official further said the raid was conducted by joint team from the PRO8 Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG8), PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Regional Public Safety Battalion 8 (RPSB8), Leyte Norte Highway Patrol Team and Albuera Municipal Police Station.
Aside from the arrests of the suspects, the operation also yielded several high-powered firearms, explosives and undocumented motorcycles used in the group’s criminal activities.
The police, armed with search warrants numbers 2013-06-49, 2013-06-52 and 2013-06-53 issued by Judge Alphinor Serrano of Regional Trial Court branch 6 in Tacloban City, raided the premises of the safe house owned by gang leader Kerwin Espinosa and houses of two other gang members.
It was learned that when policemen were about to enter the suspect’s hideout, a gunshot was heard and the suspects released five dogs but were shot by the police. Two of the dogs were killed and the four suspects who didn’t resist arrest were netted.
Also seized from the suspects includes one Winchester M14 rifle with serial number 1037985; one AK-47 7.62 mm caliber rifle model TSG-2 with serial number 57097; one Colt Elisco M16 rifle model M16A1 with defaced serial number; one Ingram 9mm sub-machine gun with serial number 372153; one SAS-12 Shooters shotgun with serial number 04060090; one model 20 12-gauge shotgun with serial number MV09195F; one Llama 9mm caliber Parabellum pistol; three M2K fragmentation grenades and several rounds of ammunitions for different calibers.
The police also confiscated 10 motorcycles of different brands and models without the necessary documents allegedly used by the group in their crime operations and now in the custody of Highway Patrol Group.
The suspects were brought to CIDG-8 office for booking as appropriate charges are being readied against them while the confiscated firearms and other items were brought to the Regional Crime Laboratory Office 8 for cross-matching examination.
Relatedly, three other members of the syndicate were arrested last March 25 namely Mauro Danas, Marcelo Adoco and Ricky Malinao in a checkpoint in Barangay Bantigue, Ormoc City on-board a black Toyota Vios.
The suspects yielded several high-powered firearms that includes a Larije Tactical M16 rifle; Colt M4 carbine; Ingram 9mm sub-machine pistol; two units .45 caliber pistols marked Colt IV and STI Edge; a Norinco 9mm pistol; and several magazines with live ammunitions of 5.56, .45 and 9mm calibers.
Earlier, the region’s top cop issued a directive for an intensive crackdown on all syndicates, gangs, private armies and other lawless elements operating in Eastern Visayas.