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For Immediate Release

Contact:
April 01, 2017 Amelia Swenhaugen, Deputy U.S. Marshal
District of Arizona – Phoenix (602) 828-8349
U.S. Marshals Honor Victims of Crime With the Arrest of 148 Fugitives
Phoenix, AZ - From March 28th to March 30th, the U.S. Marshals Service conducted “Operation Justice 2017,” a metro wide fugitive round-up involving 24 law enforcement agencies from Maricopa and Pinal counties. The operation targeted violent fugitives wanted for higher level felony crimes including robbery, sexual assault, dangerous drugs, and aggravated assault.

"Operation Justice's primary focus is to remove individuals with felony warrants who continue to commit crimes from our communities,” said David P. Gonzales, U.S. Marshal for the District of Arizona. “It is more productive for federal, state, and local agencies to work together in a coordinated and efficient effort to keep our neighborhood’s safe."

Since 1981, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime has observed an annual week of remembrance entitled National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. In 2008, the U.S. Marshals Service in Arizona initiated “Operation Justice” as a weeklong law enforcement partnership to seek out and arrest fugitives, thereby ensuring the justice process continues unabated in an effort to assist in the healing and recovery for the victims of crime. This year, National Crime Victims’ Rights Week will be observed from April 2 to April 8, 2017.

During this time period, Task Force members made a concentrated effort to go after the most violent career criminals and gang members across the Phoenix metro area. While the U.S. Marshals Service targets and prioritizes the worst of the worst fugitives every day, Operation Justice allows valley law enforcement agencies to pool their resources in a focused initiative resulting in hundreds of arrests over a three day intensive operation.

Once again, Operation Justice proved to be an effective initiative with arrests totaling 148 throughout Maricopa and Pinal Counties. Of the 148 fugitives taken into custody, arrests included 22 for Homicide/Aggravated Assault, 17 for Sex Offenses/Sex Assaults, and 16 for Robbery/Firearms related offenses. This was a strategically focused approach through the use of the U.S. Marshals multi-jurisdictional investigative authority and its fugitive task force networks at the local level. As part of this operation, investigative leads were also distributed nationwide. To date, two individuals wanted for Sexual Assault were arrested in Nevada and Texas and one was arrested for Child Abuse in Connecticut.

The following arrests are examples of the type of career criminals and predators focused on during this operation:
  • Nicholas Robert Elkins, 37, was wanted on six counts of Aggravated Assault, two counts of Stalking, two counts of Aggravated Harassment, Robbery, Theft of Means, Theft of a Credit Card and Threatening and Intimidating. It is alleged that Elkins demanded money and pills from his two victims. After they refused, Elkins draped a towel over their heads and beat them with an unknown weapon. It is further alleged that Elkins then went through their purses and took their keys, threatening to kill them if they attempted to call for help. Elkins was arrested during Operation Justice 2017 on March 30th in Tempe, AZ.
  • Oscar Villanueva, 44, Carlos Torres, 31, and Ricardo Estrada, 22, were arrested during Operation Justice 2017 in Chandler, AZ. On March 28th, Operation Justice team members received information of a drug transaction set to take place. Team members set up surveillance that resulted in the arrests of Villanueva, Torres and Estrada and 1.2 pounds of Heroin being removed from the street.
  • Christopher Ralston, 48, was wanted on a Failure to Appear warrant for Kidnapping, as well as charges for Domestic Violence by the Surprise Police Department. On March 29th, Operation Justice team members attempted to contact Ralston at a residence in Surprise where he refused to surrender and barricaded himself beneath the floor of the residence for approximately eight hours. Ralston stated several times that he was armed with a knife and a .45 caliber handgun, and that he wanted police officers to kill him. Ralston was ultimately extracted from the residence and arrested during Operation Justice 2017.

"Our communities and our crime victims expect and deserve law enforcement agencies to work together to ensure criminals are held accountable for their actions and there is justice for our victims,” said Chief Jeri Williams of the Phoenix Police Department. “The United States Marshal's Office in Arizona has a strong history of helping local agencies track down and arrest suspects trying to avoid prosecution. Partnerships like this strengthen our communities and ensure we all enjoy safer neighborhoods."

"The Mesa Police Department is proud to have been a part of Operation Justice 2017,” said Interim Chief Michael Dvorak. “Victimization has no boundaries and this collaboration of justice agencies is another example of how we will go beyond expectations to seek those responsible for causing trauma to our most vulnerable."

“While those who have perpetrated a crime may not want to be held accountable for their actions, it’s the responsibly of our justice system to make sure the rights of crime victims in Arizona are upheld, including the right to a speedy trial or disposition,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “It is fitting that as we gather as a nation to honor the rights of crime victims, locally we are one step closer to providing these victim’s with justice.”

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 http://www.usmarshals.gov.

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America’s Oldest Federal Law Enforcement Agency