PLANT CITY — They set the trap on Facebook, and one day in early June, a victim took the bait.
The man who showed up at the ranch-style home at 902 W Risk St. came to meet a dark-haired, dark-eyed woman named Carina who’d sent a Facebook message inviting him to hang out, court documents say. She was waiting in the driveway and invited the man inside.
Over the next several hours, the man would be beaten, burned with cigarettes and forced to hand over hundreds of dollars in cash, the documents say.
Plant City Police on Thursday announced the recent arrests of four suspects who investigators say are responsible for luring and then beating and robbing at least four men between March and June. Arrest reports and other court documents offer more details about what investigators say the men endured.
In the June incident, when the man followed the woman later identified as 19-year-old Carina Bailon into the house, at least two men —Joshua “Dolo” Rodriguez and Thomas “Chino” Nolasco — attacked him, arrest reports say.
They punched the man in the face, hit him in the back of the head with a handgun and told him if he tried to leave, he’d be killed, arrest reports say. They took his keys, wallet and $300 in cash and drove him to a number of stores before returning to the house.
As they held the man captive overnight, the kidnappers put out cigarettes on his head and legs, causing burns.
“He was constantly terrorized, battered and had his head and eyebrows shaved,” lead case Detective Mark Dunnam wrote in arrest reports.
The next day, Rodriguez and Nolasco drove the man in his truck to his apartment complex on Alabama Street so he could retrieve his identification, cash a check and hand over the money. When the victim didn’t return, Rodriguez and Nolasco drove off in his truck.
In another incident March 31, another man who came to the home at Bailon’s invitation was told to sit down in the living room, then three men came in from the garage and began to beat him, an arrest report says.
The suspects took the man’s iPhone and $400 in cash, put out cigarettes on his face and held him captive in a bathroom for about 90 minutes before beating him again and then letting him go, an arrest report says.
Police so far have identified a total of four victims, said Sgt. Alfred Van Duyne, spokesman for the Plant City Police Department. One of the men declined to cooperate with prosecutors — in part because he feared for the safety of his family, Van Duyne said.
“One of the tactics these bad guys used was to keep the victims’ IDs or take pictures of the IDs and say, 'If you call police, we’ll kill you and your family,” Van Duyne said.
Investigators also suspect at least some of the victims were targeted because of their immigration status, Van Duyne said. Criminals are known to target victims who are not in the country legally because they are less likely to call police, he said.
Nolasco, 23, and Rodriguez, 21, were arrested in June after police executed a search warrant at the Risk Street house. In a call Nolasco made from jail to 28-year-old Melissa Long, who lived in the home, Long tells him that police “left numerous items of evidence behind and she disposed of it already,” court records show.
Nolasco and Rodriguez are members of the gang Sur 13, according to police. Both were being held Thursday without bail in the Hillsborough County jail.
Police arrested Bailon on July 17 and she was also being held without bail. Long was arrested July 30 and was released 11 days later after posting $37,500 bail, records show.
All four face charges of armed kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated battery and grand theft motor vehicle.
Detectives were still looking Friday for a fifth person who faces charges in this case, 19-year-old James Smith.
Police ask anyone who believes they were also victims of this group to call Detective Mark Dunnam at (813) 757-9200.