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For Immediate Release

Contact:
November 01, 2011 James A. Cunfer, Supervisory Deputy United States Marshal
Middle District of Pennsylvania (570) 346-7727
"Operation Safe Streets" Rounds Up Fugitives from Hazleton Area

Scranton, PA – Deputy United States Marshals teamed up with fellow county and local law enforcement agencies to conduct a lower Luzerne County-based round up of fugitives. Dubbed “Operation Safe Streets”, Deputy Marshals and their task force officers arrested 14 fugitives.

During the five-day operation that ran from October 23-27, there were a total of 15 fugitive warrants that were closed. Of this number, 14 were closed through arrests and 1 was closed when the individual was located in prison.

Honing in on Hazleton-area’s warrants, Operation Safe Streets was a success. The United States Marshals Service and agency heads from within Luzerne County consider Operation Safe Streets to be a significant event in creating safer streets for the citizens of Hazleton.

Martin J. Pane, United States Marshal for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, praised the success of the operation. “Without question, the combined criminal investigative resources of the U.S. Marshals Service and our partners in Luzerne County made a huge contribution to this important crime initiative,” he said.

Several significant arrests took place during Operation Safe Streets. One of those was William Gogel who was being sought since February 2011 by the Hazleton Police Department. Gogel was wanted on multiple counts of aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, possessing instruments of crime and a prohibited offensive weapon, harassment and disorderly conduct. The charges stem from a January 2010 incident in which two brothers were beaten with a baseball bat. On October 23, Deputy U.S. Marshals arrested Gogel in West Hazleton.

Walter Buff was being sought by the Hazleton Police Department on charges of arson, criminal mischief and resisting arrest. An arrest warrant was issued in mid August 2011. On October 23, Deputy U.S. Marshals located and arrested Buff in McAdoo.

On October 23, officers came in contact with an individual who purported to be Jovanny Cotto. He could not provide any identification. Through cooperation with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it was confirmed Cotto had twice been previously deported as an illegal alien to El Salvador. Cotto was taken into custody while ICE continues to investigate his immigration status.

“This Hazleton-specific operation is indicative of what law enforcement agencies can accomplish when there is cooperation on all levels - federal, state, county and local,” said United States Marshal Pane. “With past national operations like Operation Falcon, plus district initiatives like Operation First Light in York County, Lebanon County and Monroe County from 2007-2010, this localized pooling of resources, sharing information, and combining a wide range of investigative skills and abilities led to some substantial results.”

Robert Ferdinand, Chief of Police, Hazleton Police Department, lauded the efforts of the roundup. "I am pleased that we at the Hazleton Police Department were able to work in conjunction with our counterparts at the local, state and federal level to dissolve jurisdictional boundaries and work as a team to bring dangerous criminals and other wanted persons to justice. This kind of inter-agency cooperation sends an important message to criminals that they cannot escape justice by hiding behind those boundaries. We are grateful to the US Marshals Service for their efforts in this operation, and happy to be able to provide assistance knowing that we were collectively able to make city streets safer."

“I was very pleased that our office was able to work alongside the United States Marshals Service and the Hazleton City Police in the capture of numerous fugitives. Thanks to this successful operation, those individuals are now removed from Luzerne County streets,” said Luzerne County District Attorney Jackie Musto Carroll.

Fugitives whose cases were adopted by Operation Safe Streets were sought by state, county and local law enforcement agencies based in and around Hazleton. The following agencies provided personnel and resources to the operation:

  • Hazleton City Police Department
  • Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office – Detective Division
  • Luzerne County Sheriff’s Office
  • Lackawanna County Sheriff’s Office
  • PA State Probation and Parole

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

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