Sunday, April 13, 2003

Phony offer nabs 13 on warrants

They came for cells, ended up in one

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - Instead of making calls on a free cell phone, 13 people may be making a call from jail.

Lured by the promise of a new phone, they showed up Saturday at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, where they were greeted by the Kenton County Sheriff's Office.

The sting, dubbed Operation Nabbed, was designed to catch people with outstanding warrants whom the sheriff's office had been unable to find.

Sixteen people made appointments to check out the cell phone deal offered to them by mail from Debban ("nabbed" backwards) Communications. The 13 who showed up were taken to jail on charges from unpaid fines to drug trafficking, said Chief Deputy Ron Washington.

"They were surprised," Washington said. "One guy looked up at us and said: 'This is a good scam, I can't complain.' "

The office mailed letters offering the phone to more than 600 wanted people, many of them hard to find because of multiple addresses, Washington said. More than 200 letters were returned by the post office because the person had moved.

"These people are people who move around a lot," Washington said. "That makes it difficult, because by the time we're knocking on their doors, they've moved."

Typically three hours of work may net just one arrest, he said. The 13 arrests Saturday came in just four hours.

"This is one way to get the criminal to come to you," Washington said.

Saturday's roundup was the second phase of "Operation Nabbed." The first began six weeks ago when the office added two officers to its Fugitive Apprehension Team, doubling it. The additional deputies had made 61 arrests before Saturday on people they could find quickly.

The Kentucky Division of Probation and Parole and the Kenton County Jail also assisted in the operation.

Jane Prendergast contributed to this report.


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