Authorities use food stamps to track fugitives

May 4, 2010 4:55:03 AM PDT
Investigators say food stamps helped track dozens of fugitives in "Operation Talon," a joint effort between the Cook County Sheriff's Office and federal agents.

The alleged criminals' crimes ran the gamut from serious felonies like kidnapping and reckless homicide to misdemeanors like defacing the Bean. But what these 168 individuals have in common is that they all had outstanding warrants for their arrest while at the same time collecting federal aid. And now, thanks to a cooperative effort between Cook County, the Marshal Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they have all been tracked down.

"We were able to take data that we normally don't have when we're out looking for people who are wanted and quickly ascertain where they're at and go and arrest them," said Sheriff Tom Dart, Cook County.

The raids were conducted over a four week period during the month of April. Operation Talon consisted of comparing the names of everyone with an outstanding warrant in Cook County, some 41,000 people, with the names of those collecting food stamps. Some 700 people matched up.

"Given the people we have that we're trying to go after, the worst of the worst, so when you do that, you have this larger pool of smaller offenses that you really can't give as much time to. By doing something like this, they're literally giving us the address, just go knock on the door, they're right there, we're able to clean out some of these lesser offenses," said Dart.

This is not the first time that Operation Talon has been carried out. But because of incompatible computer systems, Sheriff Dart says that up to now it's only been an occasional thing.

"Our goal now is that on a much more regular, routine bases this will be ongoing all the time and not just be an annual event where we're utilizing the information," said Dart.

There are still more than 500 people on the county's list who have not been found. Sheriff Dart says they will continue to look for them. Additionally, some if not all of the arrested may face additional charges for defrauding the federal government. But that will be a decision made by the USDA.


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