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USDA data help task force round up 34 fugitive felons

SHARE USDA data help task force round up 34 fugitive felons

A multiagency task force rounded up 34 fugitive felons in the Salt Lake metro area this week as part of a two-day effort called "Operation Talon."

While the roundups are not unique, this was the first time agents used information from the Department of Agriculture to find the wanted felons.

The U.S. Marshals Service, the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, along with several other local agencies, issued arrest warrants for 40 people. Many of the wanted fugitives were also receiving food stamps, said Deputy U.S. Marshal Michael Wingert.

Because they are receiving food stamps, the Agriculture Department was able to provide agents with their current addresses, he said.

The people arrested were wanted on a variety of charges ranging from rape of a child to burglary and forgery. Some of the fugitives were wanted for violent offenses and others for white collar crimes, Wingert said.

It is illegal for a fugitive with an outstanding felony arrest warrant to receive food stamps, Wingert said. Salt Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Peggy Faulkner said the food stamps will not be cut off to the families of the arrested people.

Investigators were still looking Thursday for six fugitives in the Salt Lake area. Information was also generated through the Agriculture Department of less than a dozen fugitives living in Weber, Cache and Tooele counties, Wingert said. Law enforcers in those areas were given information about where to find the felons, he said.

Wingert said the timing of the roundup had nothing to do with the Olympics. He also said the roundup was not similar to the one conducted at the Salt Lake City International Airport.

"These are all people charged with higher criminal violations," Wingert said. "These were people we'd be looking for normally."

Wingert said those arrested range from every walk of life. Race or sex had nothing to do with who was arrested, he said.

"Operation Talon" is a national program made possible by the Welfare Reform Act of 1996.


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com