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By Janelle Frost
The Sun News via Knight Ridder

More than 400 fugitives from the state were arrested, including 40 from Myrtle Beach and Georgetown County, during a recent two-week law-enforcement operation.

The U.S. Marshals Service and 31 state and local agencies apprehended 415 people in a joint initiative known as Operation SCARS, a news release said. The operation took place Sept. 12-23.

U.S. Marshals Service Deputy Tim Stec said more were arrested after the two-week period, but those numbers were not available Friday.

In Operation SCARS, deputies combined unconventional investigative techniques with more traditional methods by targeting fugitives through a letter-writing campaign, and they conducted interviews and checked out the addresses of fugitives, the release said.

"SCARS is a special program," Stec said. "It is something that is not done regularly. We wanted to come up with a method to locate people who are not trying to be found, and it worked."

After contacting state and local agencies to get fugitive's cases for the operation, deputy marshals mailed letters to addresses associated with fugitives across the state, indicating that a private company, S.C. Asset Recovery Services, located money that belonged to them, the release said.

They were provided with a toll-free number to call to claim their money.

Of the 250 people who called, 142 were arrested based on contact information deputies received from them, the release said, and another 16 cases were closed by other methods.

Deputy marshals, state agents and local officers also conducted interviews and checked addresses of fugitives who were not targeted by the letters, of which 273 were arrested, the release said.

Even after some people who were targeted with the letters were arrested, they continued to call the toll-free number from jail, the release said.

"We even had individuals give their letters to our deputies after their arrests and ask them to return the letters to family members so that their money could be claimed," U.S. Marshal Johnny Mack Brown said in the release.

Stec said some people figured it out, but very few.

"We will continue to develop ways to locate fugitives," he said.

Stec said this was the first time U.S. marshals have done the letter-writing method in South Carolina. He said a supervisor on their task force came up with the idea.

"A lot of times when we go to addresses for fugitives, people are hesitant to tell us where the person is," Stec said. "The idea was to get fugitives to call us without them suspecting it was law enforcement."
 
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