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For Immediate Release

Contact:
October 30, 2009 Matt Hershey, Deputy U.S. Marshal
Public Affairs Officer (602) 920-4841
Six Fugitive Sex Offenders Arrested During Operation Safe Treat

Phoenix, AZ - From October 28-30, Federal, State, and Local law enforcement agencies collaborated on “Operation Safe Treat,” a three day fugitive operation targeting non-compliant sex offenders and those wanted for various other sex related offenses and crimes against children. Operation Safe Treat netted law enforcement 6 arrests.

“Sex Offenders, especially those who have committed crimes against children have a high recidivism rate. Halloween activities provide offenders an opportunity to prey on unsuspecting children.” said David Gonzales, U.S. Marshal for the District of Arizona. “Under Operation Safe Treat, Deputy U.S. Marshals along with state and local law enforcement officers are concentrating their efforts on arresting fugitive sex offenders and those who are not in compliance with sex offender registration laws.”

Francis Vigneri, 71, was arrested for violating the conditions of his probation on October 30, 2009 in Phoenix after returning from Las Vegas where he had been residing since absconding in 2006. He has been convicted of three separate sex offenses in Texas and Arizona for indecent exposure and public sexual indecency.

Melvin Taylor, 43, was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender. On October 29, 2009 Taylor was located at a residence in Mesa. Taylor was originally convicted of sexual assault in Ohio in which the victim was a 67 year old female. He had been residing in Apache Junction prior to absconding. Taylor also has a prior conviction for failure to register as a sex offender.

Samantha Abernathy, 21, was arrested on October 29, 2009 at a residence in North Phoenix where she was found hiding in a back bedroom. Original charges involved Abernathy leaving her two children, ages 1 and 3, alone in their apartment in Mesa overnight while she went out partying. At sunrise, the children left the apartment and wandered around the apartment complex until being found by neighbors and police.

The operation doesn’t stop here. Tomorrow night Deputies, Task Force Officers, and members of County and Federal Probation will be conducting compliance checks throughout the valley. These checks are intended to ensure that sex offenders who are on probation are complying with conditions of their probation and are not participating in any Halloween activities.

“Keeping children safe throughout our Arizona communities is a top priority of the U.S. Attorney’s Office along with our law enforcement and criminal justice partners. I commend the U.S. Marshal for his leadership on this initiative,” stated Dennis K. Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona. “We send this message to sex offenders: hiding or not following the rules are no longer options. Sex offenders who do not comply with the conditions of their sentences or supervised release, and those who attempt to evade law enforcement after committing sex offenses against children, will be brought to justice.”

“Statistics indicate that child sex offenders are likely to know their victims. Parents are encouraged to accompany or ensure a responsible adult accompanies their child as they participate in Halloween activities. Keep your guard up, stay in populated and well lit areas, and report any suspicious behavior to your local police,” added U.S. Marshal David Gonzales.

Operation Safe Treat involved numerous law enforcement officers from 8 contributing agencies throughout the valley. The agencies involved in the operation were: U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Probation Department, TSA-Federal Air Marshals, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Maricopa County Adult Probation, Buckeye Police Department, Mesa Police Department, and Scottsdale Police Department.

Additional information about the U.S. Marshals can be found at http://www.usmarshals.gov.

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