FUGITIVES TRACKED DOWN AFTER SIGNING UP FOR FOOD STAMPS
Monday, May 3, 2010 — A joint operation between the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, the United States Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Marshals Service’s Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force has resulted in the capture of more than 100 fugitives who have been receiving food stamps while on the run, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced Monday.
“Operation Talon” is a federal effort combining local databases of outstanding warrants with federal databases on those receiving food stamps. Matching identifiers, including the address where the fugitive is receiving federal aid, are then further investigated for capture. The U.S. Marshals Service’s Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force coordinated efforts during the week of April 19.
During that week, 126 fugitives were captured by task force members and sheriff’s fugitive and gang officers. They continued chasing leads for the rest of April and those efforts drove the total number of Cook County fugitives captured to 168.
“As these fugitives purposely evaded justice, they were also ripping off taxpayers by illegally collecting food stamps,” Dart said. “We are incredibly thankful for the work the U.S. Department of Agriculture puts into ‘Operation Talon’ to help get these people off our streets.”
In addition to capturing fugitives, investigators also seized four guns, cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy while searching the homes where they were arrested.
As part of “Operation Talon,” 11 teams of U.S. Marshals Service task force investigators and police officers hit the city and suburbs in search of those wanted for crimes ranging from reckless homicide to delinquency in child support.
Among those captured were:
Jacob Sabu, 42, of Mt. Prospect. Wanted for filing fraudulent state income tax returns. Owes the State of Illinois $103,000 in back taxes. He was arrested at O’Hare International Airport after returning to the U.S. on a flight from Abu Dhabi.
Sara Motato, 37, of Chicago. Wanted for criminal damage to property. In January 2010, she was arrested for etching “Rody and Sara” into “Cloudgate” in Chicago’s Millennium Park.
Robert Vasquez, 61, of Chicago Heights. Wanted for possession of marijuana. In February 2009, he was observed retrieving a package - mailed to him at his home – with more than 7,000 grams of marijuana inside.
Christine Williams, 23, of Chicago. Wanted for aggravated kidnapping. In September 2008, she was arrested for kidnapping a woman and locking her in a room, then stripping off her clothes, wrapping a belt around her neck and forcing her to crawl like a dog. Williams held the woman hostage until she could produce $300 cash.
Elaine Sharpe, 55, of Chicago. Wanted for theft. From May 2003 until April 2009, she had been receiving federal housing subsidies from the Chicago Housing Authority and instead of living in her subsidized unit, she was collecting even more money by renting it out.
Leeric Collins, 21, of Chicago. Wanted for arson. In October 2008, he was arrested for throwing a lit bag into the rear of a business and then fleeing on foot. He told investigators he was paid to commit the act and that investigation remains ongoing.
Michael Johnson, 22, of Chicago Heights. Wanted for unlawful use of a weapon. When investigators arrived at his Chicago home, he was found with marijuana and charged with drug possession. Additionally, two others in the house were found to be in possession of guns and drugs and they were also arrested.
Cornel Safta, 29, of Chicago. Wanted for aggravated battery. He was arrested in October 2009 for beating a man with his shoe so violently the man suffered blunt force trauma to his head and was hospitalized. The assault came after the victim made what Safta considered to be inappropriate comments toward Safta’s girlfriend.
All of those arrested are now in Cook County Jail awaiting trial.
In addition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Marshals Service and its Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, Dart thanked the Illinois State Police and Chicago Police Department for their assistance in the apprehensions, as well as the departments whose investigators and officers make up the task force - the U.S. Marshal’s Office, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, State Department, Illinois Department of Corrections, Illinois Attorney General’s Office, Cook County, DuPage and McHenry County Sheriff’s Offices and the Chicago and Berwyn Police Departments - for their roles in this investigation.