U.S. Marshals Service Release:
For the second consecutive year, the U.S. Marshals Service has conducted a high-impact national fugitive apprehension initiative focusing on the country’s most violent offenders. This six-week initiative, called Operation Violence Reduction12 (Operation VR12), resulted in the arrest of more than 153 fugitives, gang members, sex offenders and violent criminals in the Eastern District of Texas.
“We applied a strategically focused approach to locate and apprehend the nation’s most dangerous fugitives. By removing these violent offenders from the streets, the communities they preyed upon can immediately feel more secure.” said U.S. Marshals Service Deputy Director David Harlow. “Operation VR12 was about using our expertise and law enforcement partnerships to significantly impact our communities by focusing on the worst of the worst violent criminals.”
“Throughout the 43 county Eastern District of Texas, the United States Marshals Service has partnered with state and local law enforcement agencies to form the Joint East Texas Fugitive Task Force (JETFTF). This partnership facilitates intelligence sharing and helps our state and local colleagues more easily pursue the fugitives who flee their jurisdiction” said U.S. Marshal Robert L. Hobbs.
In order to have the greatest impact on violent crime, Operation VR12 focused on fugitives who had three or more prior felony arrests for crimes such as murder, attempted murder, robbery, aggravated assault, arson, abduction/kidnapping, weapon offenses, sexual assault, child molestation and narcotics. Operation VR12 investigators increased their focus on fugitives accused of sex crimes and on the recovery of missing children.
Between February 1 and March 11, the U.S. Marshals Service used its multi-jurisdictional investigative authority and fugitive task force network to arrest 648 gang members and others wanted on charges including 559 for homicide; and 946 for sexual offenses. In addition, investigators seized 463 firearms, $390,360 in currency, and more than 71 kilograms of illegal narcotics. Also during the operation, investigators recovered 17 children who had been abducted and reported missing.
Three notable arrests in East Texas include, Lance Alvin Courby, a West Coast Crips Gang member from Los Angeles who had an Aggravated Robbery warrant out of Grayson County for a string of home invasion type robberies in 2014.
Courby and one or two associates would forcefully enter homes and rob the occupants at gunpoint. Courby is known to carry a number of firearms and has a criminal history that includes arrests for battery on custodial officer, battery of person on school property, vandalism, grand theft, burglary, possess/sell dangerous weapon, and receiving stolen property.
He was arrested February 2nd on a construction site in The Colony, TX where ironically, he was the on-site security guard.
Aaron Ray Lewis, an Aryan Brotherhood of Texas member living in Silsbee, Texas. Lewis and two other individuals allegedly robbed and kidnapped a 20 year old male on February 16, 2016. A positive identification was made on Lewis and two arrest warrants were issued for Lewis’ arrest, charging him with Aggravated Kidnapping and Aggravated Robbery.
On March 11, 2016, the USMS obtained credible information that Lewis was residing in Colmesneil, TX. On this same date, personnel from the JETFTF, Hardin County Sheriff’s Office, Silsbee Police Department and Tyler County Sheriff’s office located the mobile home in which Lewis was believed to be hiding. Lewis was arrested without an incident and booked in the Hardin County Jail.
Todd Okeith Smith, wanted in Jefferson, Texas for manufacturing and delivery of a controlled substance. Information developed indicating that Smith had previously stated that he would not be arrested alive and planned to kill any police officers that attempted to arrest him.
The USMS task force obtained information indicating that Smith was in the area of High Street in Longview, Texas. In the early morning hours of March 3rd, Smith was located by Longview Police Department and was stopped and arrested after a brief vehicle pursuit. Smith was arrested on the outstanding drug trafficking warrants, and was additionally charged with possession of marijuana and evading arrest by authorities in Longview, Texas.
“Time and again, it has been proven that a small number of criminal fugitives commit a high percentage of crimes, posing danger to communities and plaguing neighborhoods where we live and work.” said Hobbs. “Working with our federal, state, and local partners, enforcement initiatives like Operation VR12 severely cripple these criminal activities. “
The concept behind interagency law enforcement operations such as Operation VR12 evolved largely from regional and district task forces. Since the 1980s, the Marshals Service has combined their resources and expertise with local, state and federal agencies to find and apprehend dangerous fugitives. Operation VR12 continued this tradition.
For more information about Operation VR12, including photographs and B-roll footage, visit www.usmarshals.gov.