ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Authorities have confirmed three men who were arrested as they were about to break into an upscale Dr Phillips home Monday night are also connected to burglaries in upscale homes in Windermere and southern Florida.
Investigators said they believe the three men are also responsible for a half-dozen similar crimes that stretch from Naples to Windermere.
"Our task force, in conjunction with the Orange County Sheriff's Office, the Windermere Police Department and the Office of Statewide Prosecution, has identified links between the suspects arrested in Orange County and the crimes committed in Collier County and in the City of Naples," a spokesperson with the Collier County Sheriff's Office said.
Frank Bower Jr., 54, of Oviedo, Andres Perez, 44, and Johnathan Contreras, 27, both of Collier County, were arrested Monday night in the backyard of a home on Kilgore Road that was once owned by NSync singer Joey Fatone, according to records.
Deputies said they were doing surveillance on the trio based on "criminal intelligence information," and waited until the men cut a hole in the fence of the home before they moved in to make the arrests.
Authorities said the men were wearing black masks, black gloves, and each of them had backpacks containing a gun, zip ties and duct tape. The men and their tools share a close resemblance to three men in a Windermere robbery, police said.
In that robbery, three men dressed as ninjas tied up the homeowner in his mansion while stealing cash and valuables.
The suspects and tools also match the description of similar cases in Collier County in southwest Florida.
A representative of the Collier County Sheriff's Office confirmed that agency had investigators present when Bower, Perez and Contreras were arrested in Orange County.
Authorities believe the three are responsible for five similar home invasion robberies in Naples.
The suspects have been charged with conspiracy to commit armed home-invasion robbery. They're being held at the Orange County Jail.
The suspects may not be getting out anytime soon, as the judge first wants to determine if the money they would use to post bond would be coming from a legitimate source or an illegal one
Channel 9 discovered Bower runs a thrift shop and claims to be a pastor. He has a book written about him and his ministry aimed at helping people move on from a life of crime.
In the book, he claims to have ties to the mafia in New York and said he served prison time after serving as the famous gangster John Gotti's bodyguard.