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Falcon fugitive sweep nets 65 arrests in Jefferson, Berkeley

November 03, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Federal, state, county and municipal law enforcement agents in Berkeley and Jefferson counties combined forces last week to arrest 65 fugitives as part of a 24-state roundup orchestrated by the U.S. Marshals Service, officials announced Thursday.

"We didn't have the manpower to extend this operation into Morgan and Hampshire counties," said Deputy U.S. Marshal Michael Ulrich, who held a press conference with assistant U.S. Attorney Paul T. Camilletti at the U.S. Courthouse in Martinsburg.

In addition to those arrested, Ulrich and Camilletti said 111 warrants were "cleared" as a result of the U.S. Marshals Operation Falcon III, which specifically targeted violent sex offenders and gang members.

For seven days beginning Oct. 22, about 30 law enforcement agents in the Clarksburg and Eastern Panhandle regions of the federally designated Northern District of West Virginia arrested fugitives wanted on a variety of outstanding warrants. The Eastern Panhandle region is comprised of the tri-county area and Hampshire County, which is west of Morgan County.

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Of the 65 fugitives arrested in Berkeley and Jefferson counties, 22 were arraigned in fraud and/or financial scheme cases, according to Ulrich. Nine other individuals were arrested for their alleged involvement in burglary or larceny incidents. Police arrested seven people for narcotics and another seven for assault cases, Ulrich said. At least two cases involved child abuse or neglect and two more arrests were made for sexual assaults.

Most of the outstanding warrants had been issued earlier this year, said Camilletti, who said the arrests were a reflection of population growth in the area.

Camilletti acknowledged the region's need for additional law enforcement officers, who he said are facing a "continuing and evolving struggle" to combat crime.

"The bottom line is we're all fighting a forest fire with a garden hose," said Berkeley County Sheriff W. Randy Smith, who attended the press conference with his chief deputy Kenneth Lemaster. Shepherdstown (W.Va.) Police Chief Curtis Keller also attended.

Camilletti downplayed any role he might have had in the operation.

"It's the local officers that are doing the work," Camilletti said.

The Eastern Panhandle ad hoc fugitive task force was comprised of representatives from Berkeley and Jefferson County's sheriff's departments, Charles Town, Harpers Ferry, Martinsburg, Ranson and Shepherdstown municipal police departments, the West Virginia State Police, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service and the U.S. Marshals Service.

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