Pubdate: Fri, 04 Aug 2000
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 2000 Associated Press
Author: Vickie Chachere, Associated Press Writer


TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- A four-month effort to round up the most elusive 
indicted drug traffickers netted 1,015 arrests and $1 million in seized 
property, federal authorities said Friday.

Among those who had evaded capture despite being indicted were a drug 
trafficker who is suspected in the deaths of two government informants; an 
alleged marijuana supplier accused of setting up an elaborate indoor farm 
and a man charged with using drug money to provide automatic weapons to 
Colombian dealers.

"These are not your low-level street dealers," said U.S. Attorney Donna 
Bucella. "These are the distributors"

Among those targeted were high-level drug dealers from Florida and the 
Caribbean who had been indicted but were never arrested, and ones who had 
jumped bail.

Officials said 119 fugitives from Florida, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic 
and other parts of the Caribbean are now in custody.

The U.S. Marshals Services, working with state and federal agencies, began 
by compiling a list of fugitives. They then freed agents from some of their 
varied duties and set them out on a search.

Agents said they cleared about 85 percent of their list and proudly 
proclaimed their operation cost-effective, too. It cost $623 to bring each 
fugitive into custody even though many had fled the area and were living 
under assumed names.

Capt. Katharine Armentrout, director of the U.S. Justice Department's 
Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, said many of the fugitives 
continued to commit crimes after they fled. One fugitive had been on the 
run since 1985.

Armentrout said agents had to track the fugitives using informants, 
developing witnesses against them and sorting through false aliases before 
they could make arrests.

"They were lost for a long as they were because they are good at it,'' said 
U.S. Marshals Service Director John Marshall.

Among the first taken into custody was Edner St. Louis of Ft. Pierce, a 
suspected lieutenant in a Haitian crack cocaine ring who is a suspect in 
the slaying of two government witnesses. He has not yet been charged with 
the killings.

Agents said St. Louis made it appear that he had fled Ft. Pierce after his 
1998 indictment on drug conspiracy charges by shutting off the power and 
water to his home. He snuck in and out of the house at night, living 
without running water or electricity.

St. Louis' attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday.

Another arrest came in San Diego County, Calif., where agents found Peter 
George Elias of Boca Raton, who was indicted in 1997 for operating indoor 
marijuana farms in Boca Raton. After three years on the run, agents found 
Elias in La Jolla, living in a $3,500-a-month rented home under an assumed 

His arrest led them to another home where agents and the San Diego County 
sheriff's office found a sophisticated indoor marijuana grow house powered 
by a generator so big it could power 10 homes. The building had double-air 
conditioned walls to prevent heat censors on drug surveillance planes from 
detecting the specialized lights.

West Palm Beach attorney Michael Salnick, who is defending Elias, said the 
government is overstating their effort.

"They happened to stumble upon Mr. Elias," Salnick said. "Law enforcement 
has made it much larger than it is."

Salnick said Elias left Boca Raton before he was indicted and wasn't trying 
to evade authorities. He also denied that Elias is a high-level drug 
trafficker; a trial date is pending.
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