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For Immediate Release

March 15, 2014 Daniel Leyva, Deputy U.S. Marshal
District of Arizona - Tucson (520) 209-0935
Marshals’ Operation Southern Star III, Focused on Southeast Arizona, Nets 44 Arrests

Tucson, AZ – From March 10 through 14, the United States Marshals Service in Arizona led Operation Southern Star III, a law enforcement operation targeting violent fugitives with outstanding felony warrants issued out of Pima, Graham and Cochise Counties in Arizona. These warrants included offenses for violent crimes to include narcotic violations. Prior to the roundup, investigative leads were developed and if necessary were sent to other states by U.S. Marshals to ensure those who left the state were also targeted through U.S. Marshals’ led task forces around the country and in Mexico. Over fifteen federal, state, and municipal law enforcement agencies teamed up in an effort to locate these fugitives. Several arrest teams were dispersed within Graham and Cochise counties which also included a team operating within Pima County.

Operation Southern Star III netted 44 arrests throughout southern Arizona; with 17 arrests in Cochise County, 15 arrests in Graham County and 12 arrests in Pima County.

Individuals arrested included the following:

  1. 1. John B. Garcia, age 68, was arrested on March 12th in Safford, Arizona on a grand jury warrant out of Graham County Superior Court for fondling of a child. It is alleged Garcia fondled a mentally challenged twenty-four year old woman, who has the mental equivalency of a ten year old.
  2. 2. Anthony Matthew Vera, age 39, was arrested on March 13th in Tucson, Arizona on a warrant out of Nevada for grand larceny and burglary. It is alleged Vera along with another male entered the Wendover Casino in Elko, Nevada wearing masks and armed with weapons and stole $90,000 cash. Vera was the last of the suspects to be arrested for this alleged crime. After the arrest, two search warrants were conducted at separate residences in Tucson where approximately $20,000 cash, 12 grams of crack cocaine and a .25 caliber handgun were seized. At the time of Vera’s arrest, Deputy U.S. Marshals discovered an associate traveling with Vera was an unregistered sex offender; and was subsequently arrested for non-compliance with sex offender registration requirements.
  3. 3. Johnny Llamas Sr., age 47, was arrested on the morning of March 12th in Safford, Arizona on a warrant for probation violation with an underlying charge of aggravated driving under the influence of drugs. U.S. Marshals and task force officers attempted to make contact with Llamas. After gaining entry and searching his residence, he was found hiding in the bathtub. Further investigation revealed Llamas is ranked 3rd on the list of Arizona’s Most Deadbeat Dads and was sought after by authorities in Phoenix on a child support arrest warrant with a bond of $10,000.

Mark Dannels, Sheriff for the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department stated, “The number of offenders who have been captured in this operation confirms that a coordinated effort between local, state, and federal agencies is the most effective method of working for law enforcement and our citizens. We appreciate the dedicated efforts of the United States Marshal’s Office and the cooperation with other agencies to get these people off of the streets. When we see these types of operations being successful, we are encouraged and look forward to more strategic efforts to come.”

Tom Alinen, Chief of Police for the Sierra Vista Police Department stated, “If I was a fleeing felon, I would not want the U.S. Marshals Service hunting me down. Over the years, Deputy U.S. Marshals have demonstrated their exceptional skills in locating and capturing dangerous felons who have fled across state lines after committing heinous crimes in Sierra Vista. These deputies get the job done. This week’s U.S. Marshal led fugitive initiative, Operation Southern Star III, is just one example of these deputies partnering with local law enforcement to apprehend individuals with felony warrants hiding in our city. I truly appreciate and support the U.S. Marshals Service and their efforts to make our community safer.”

David P. Gonzales, U.S. Marshal for the District of Arizona stated, “Operation Southern Star is a fugitive initiative supporting our violent crime reduction initiative focusing on Southeastern Arizona in collaboration with critical partners. Many felons believe that by hiding out in rural areas - they can avoid the consequences of their criminal behavior. The U.S. Marshals Service takes great pride in working with our state and local partners in helping make our communities a safer place to live.”

Law enforcement agencies that participated in Operation Southern Star III included: Tucson Police Department, Pima County Adult Probation, U.S. Border Patrol, ICE ERO, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Arizona Department of Corrections, Cochise County Sheriff’s Department, Cochise County Adult Probation, Sierra Vista Police Department, Bisbee Police Department, Douglas Police Department, Graham County Sheriff’s Department, Graham County Adult Probation Department, and Pima County Sheriff’s Department, Safford Police Department, Thatcher Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Benson Police Department, Pima Police Department.

The United States Marshals Service is the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. Annually, U.S. Marshals arrest more than 50 percent of all federal fugitives and serve more federal warrants than all other federal agencies combined.

Additional information about the U.S. Marshals Service can be found at


America’s Oldest Federal Law Enforcement Agency