For Immediate Release
|November 08, 2013||
Andrew Deserto, Assistant Chief Deputy
Northern District of Ohio (216) 522-3499
|Task Force Celebrates First Year of Operations in Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula Counties|
Cleveland, OH – The Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force was founded by United States Marshal Peter J. Elliott in 2003 in the aftermath of the death of Cleveland Police Officer Wayne Leon, who was shot and killed by a fugitive. On November 1st, 2012, the task force expanded its operations into Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula Counties, and the success is more than anyone ever anticipated. Prior to the expansion, the U.S. Marshals Service office in Cleveland was responsible for conducting fugitive investigations and responding to requests for assistance from local agencies in the three counties.
The Marshals Service dedicated a Deputy U.S. Marshal to coordinate the task force and he was joined by 29 task force officers representing 21 police agencies in Lake, Geauga, and Ashtabula Counties. These task force officers still perform their regular duties at their local departments in addition to serving on the fugitive task force.
The task force primarily focuses its efforts on those people who are wanted for crimes of violence and drug related offenses, but will assist agencies with other types of crimes as needed. During their first year the task force has been responsible for over 200 arrests. The task force has made 6 arrests for homicides, and numerous arrests for other crimes of violence such as robbery, assault, rape and domestic violence. Heroin and methamphetamine driven crimes such as thefts, burglaries and frauds are also a major focus of the task force. It is not uncommon for one fugitive to have multiple warrants in multiple jurisdictions as a result of them committing numerous crimes to support their drug habit. Although some of these are not violent crimes, these criminals are victimizing hard working citizens and business owners in order to feed their drug habits, and the more desperate they get, the more dangerous they become to the public. During the course of these arrests task force officers have recovered over $30,000 in cash, numerous items of stolen property, 3 firearms, 6 ounces of heroin, and 105 grams of cocaine. Some of the more notable cases are listed below:
U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott stated, “The dedication of the task force officers and the cooperation between the law enforcement agencies in the three counties is the driving force behind the success of the task force and I fully expect the successes to continue.”
Painesville Police Chief Troy Hager stated, “As President of the Lake County Association of Chiefs of Police, we want to thank Marshal Elliott for putting this great program together and then bringing it to Lake County departments. Criminals and fugitives move all around and most stand-alone police agencies do not have the resources to accomplish what this task force did. On this first anniversary of bringing the task force to Lake County law enforcement, and with over 200 local criminals arrested as a result of this task force, this confirms we can accomplish greater things when we work together.”
Willoughby Police Chief Jack Beckwith stated, “The Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force has proven to be a significant asset to law enforcement for our entire area. Not only are they placing hundreds of wanted fugitives into custody but uncovering and making arrests in new criminal activity. Our participation in the task force has proven to be invaluable. The way all the divisions coordinate is like having 300 more officers spread throughout the area and available when you really need them. I am proud that our Department is involved in this unified endeavor and will continue to support this effort in 2014.”
One of the first fugitives the task force began looking for was Juan Plass. Plass was, and still is, wanted on a cold case warrant for rape that was issued by the Mentor Police Department in 2003. During the investigation officers were told that Plass fled to Puerto Rico immediately after the warrant was issued and that he was murdered shortly after his arrival there. However, exhaustive investigation and searching turned up no evidence to support his family’s claim that he is dead. The task force is asking for the public’s help in trying to locate Plass. He is described as a 29 year old Puerto Rican male with black hair and brown eyes. At the time of the crime he was 5’07” and weighed 130 pounds. Plass has family in Lake County, New York City and Puerto Rico.
Anyone with information regarding the
whereabouts of Juan Plass or any other known fugitive is encouraged to
contact the U.S. Marshals Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force at
1-866-4WANTED or Text keyword
WANTED and tip to TIP411 (847411) Tipsters can
remain anonymous and reward money is available.
Additional information about the U.S. Marshals Service can be found at http://www.usmarshals.gov.
America’s Oldest Federal Law Enforcement Agency