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100 fugitives captured with promise of free TVs, electronics

Robert Longstreet / phofrom  Cook County Sheriff's office

Robert Longstreet / photo from Cook County Sheriff's office

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Updated: October 4, 2011 12:35PM



Lured by the promise of TVs and other electronics, more than 100 wanted fugitives — whose crimes included violent felonies — were arrested by Cook County Sheriff’s police in a undercover ruse operation last month.

The fugitives thought they were going to a Southwest Side warehouse to test new home electronics, but soon realized they were targets in an operation that led them right to waiting officers, a release from the sheriff’s office said.

“Operation C.W. Marketing” was a two-week effort that resulted in 102 arrests and the clearing of 106 warrants — 15 felonies, 72 misdemeanors and 15 from civil courts. The county also collected more than $5,000 in fees from towing vehicles as part of the operation.

In early September, investigators with the sheriff’s Central Warrants Unit sent invitations to 10,000 offenders wanted in warrants. Sent to the fugitives’ last known addresses, they welcomed that person to make an appointment with C.W. Marketing, which was conducting surveys on home electronics. In exchange for feedback, participants would get $75 in cash and get to keep the electronic device they tested, according to the release.

Thousands of letters came back undeliverable, but more than 50 fugitives — ranging in age from 19 to 66 — made appointments to come to a county government warehouse. Undercover officers kept up the ruse by carrying empty boxes for plasma TVs and video game systems, and welcoming fugitives in bright T-shirts to the warehouse which was surrounded by signs and balloons.

Once the offenders’ identity was confirmed and pictures taken, officers moved in for the arrest.

Among those arrested from Sept. 17-24 were:

— Robert L. Longstreet, 53, of Kenosha, Wis., who has previous arrests for assault and drug possession, and was wanted for domestic battery. He took a bus to Chicago to keep his appointment.

— Christopher Melnyk, 47, of Chicago, who has 22 previous arrests for battery, possession of a stolen vehicle and criminal trespassing, was wanted for driving on a suspended license. Suspecting the letter was a ploy, he sent a relative, but when confronted by officers, the relative told investigators Melnyk’s location and he was later arrested without incident.

— Tayrone Davis, 34, of Chicago, arrested 32 times on charges ranging from burglary to domestic battery causing bodily harm. was 90 minutes late for his appointment and was breathlessly calling investigators as he sprinted the final blocks to make his appointment. He was wanted for DUI.

After accepting appointments for five days, investigators pursued leads in search of other fugitives and made about 50 more arrests last week.

The operation is the latest ruse Sheriff Tom Dart has authorized to apprehend some of the 45,000 fugitives wanted in Cook County. Other recent efforts included promising holiday shopping certificates to wanted criminals, and another that claimed fugitives were owed federal stimulus dollars.



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