Operation FALCON 2009 Nets More than 35,000 Fugitives

The U.S. Marshals Service, partnering with federal, state and local law enforcement, arrested 35,190 fugitives and cleared 47,418 warrants as part of Operation FALCON 2009 (Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally), U.S. Marshals Service Director John F. Clark announced today.

Ranging from coast to coast, Operation FALCON 2009 brought together the resources of 42 federal agencies, 209 state agencies and 1,973 local sheriffs’ and police departments, to again make the program a huge success.
Since its inception in 2005, Operation FALCON has made 91,086 arrests and cleared 117,874 warrants and is the single most successful initiative aimed at apprehending violent fugitives in U.S. law enforcement history.

In Operation FALCON 2009, as in prior operations, an emphasis was placed on the capture of violent offenders, gang members and sex offenders. Nationwide, the operation arrested 433 persons wanted for murder, 900 gang members and 2,356 sex offenders. Among those brought in:

Willie Conway, a convicted sexual predator and a member of the Vice Lords street gang, was wanted in Kankakee County, Ill., for criminal sexual child fondling. His victim was a nine-year-old girl. During the morning of June 18, FALCON team members from the Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, based in Chicago, joined by deputies from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, established surveillance at a residence in Chicago where they believed Conway was residing. Conway was arrested without incident and now may face additional charges for failure to register as a sex offender.

Joseph Christian Fontana was taken into custody June 5. Fontana was wanted in Santa Rosa County, Fla., for rape of a minor, 25 counts of sexual molestation, child pornography, and lewd and lascivious acts. A registered sex offender in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Fontana relocated to Santa Rosa County in 2001, assumed a new identity and allegedly continued to commit sex crimes against minors. He later fled and was believed to be in South America. Following an extensive investigation by the FALCON team members in the United States and deputies assigned to USMS Dominican Republic Foreign Field Office, Fontana was located in Cabrera, Dominican Republic. He was arrested by agents from the Dirección Nacional de Control de Drogas Fugitive Unit, and will be returned to the United States to face the charges pending against him.

U.S. Marshals Director John Clark has overseen five of the six FALCON operations since becoming head of the agency in March 2006. “I continue to be impressed with the remarkable results that can be achieved when all of law enforcement comes together,” Clark said. “What began five years ago as a promising concept has become the most effective fugitive apprehension effort in the long history of the U.S. Marshals.

“More importantly, by taking large numbers of violent fugitives off the street, we put an immediate end to their unlawful activities. This is significant, since many of these criminals have a long history of violence and abuse. Our actions have spared families, friends and entire communities the anguish of becoming victims at the hands of these repeat offenders,” Clark said.

In addition to the numerous murderers, gang members and sex offenders apprehended during Operation FALCON 2009, 1,677 persons were apprehended on weapons charges and 10,525 were arrested on narcotics charges. Authorities also seized more than $342,179 in U.S. currency, 582 firearms, 38 vehicles and nearly 2,400 kg of narcotics. The fugitives arrested during the operation have a collective history of almost 138,200 prior arrests.

The Commander for this year’s Operation FALCON, Chief Tommy Thompson, praised the results and said he believes the operation far exceeded expectations.

“Returning FALCON to its roots of a nationwide fugitive manhunt accomplished a feat never before done by the Marshals – 35,000 wanted felons, many of whom were impact players for crime in their communities, off the streets in a mere four weeks,” Thompson said. “FALCON 2009 shows us that when law enforcement from all levels joins forces, no fugitive can hide from justice for long.”

The concept behind broad, interagency law enforcement operations such as Operation FALCON evolved largely from smaller, local and regional task forces. Groups such as these have historically combined local, state and federal agencies to find and apprehend area fugitives. The U.S. Marshals adopted such interagency teamwork in the early 1980s, when they combined their resources and expertise in fugitive apprehension with the local knowledge and unique insight of officers on the street level. Operation FALCON brought this concept to an unprecedented, national scale in 2005.

In order to provide participating agencies with broader jurisdictional authority, 5,007 federal, state and local law enforcement officers were sworn in as Special Deputy U.S. Marshals immediately prior to the start of a FALCON operation. Throughout the course of the local operations, this special authority from the U.S. Marshals empowered all participating law enforcement officers to cross traditional lines of jurisdiction to track down and arrest targeted fugitives.

Clark credits this overwhelming support of law enforcement nationwide for the continued success of Operation FALCON. “The Marshals are oftentimes the public face of these operations, but we have hundreds of agencies and thousands of dedicated law enforcement officers behind this effort. It’s a lot of work with many long hours, but everyone is determined to make it happen,” he said. “We have cops onboard committed to tracking down and arresting these violent fugitives. I thank them for their continued assistance.”