It is the kind of sting that Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says saves the county a lot of money. Because there are thousands of fugitives, Operation: C.W. Marketing was a way to arrest many at once. It was the brainchild of some creative investigators with the sheriff's central warrants unit.
For one week in September a Cook County warehouse became C.W. Marketing. It was a place where over a 100 people came to fill out surveys for $75 and a big screen TV. At least that is what the invitation promised.
"I'd sit them down and get them excited about it," said Cook County Sherriff's Investigator Neal Gaynor. "They would ask about the TV, I'd come up with something. I know nothing about the TVs."
Gaynor doesn't know anything about TVs because he is actually a Cook County Sheriff's investigator who played the role of "Mr. Ward" in a creative ruse that lured fugitives to the warehouse.
"We had numerous cases, from misdemeanors to felonies," said Dart. "Some people we have been looking for a long time that we have cleared off the books."
In all, 10,000 mailers were sent to offenders who have outstanding arrest warrants. One-hundred took the bait.
After the sales pitch from Mr. Ward, the fugitives filled out surveys, which actually was a way to confirm their identity. One person even used an old booking photo as a form of ID. The fugitives were then brought to a second room only to be arrested.
"Even after the arrests, when persons got the cuffs on them, looking up to us if they can still keep the TV," said Dart.
Dart says there are 45,000 fugitives wanted in Cook County. Arresting one is very expensive, which is why Dart says stings like Operation: C.W. Marketing save the county a lot of money.
"An actual attempt to go out and arrest somebody in a warrant is such a complicated and laborious process," said Dart.
Sheriff Dart says the county even made some money on the arrests. More than $5,000 was collected in fees from towing the fugitives' vehicles.
While only 1 percent of the offenders responded in Operation: C.W. Marketing, Dart says his office will continue to work on creative stings to help clear the books.