Say You Had A Bad Day And You Killed Somebody

Run for the border!

A frequent destination of choice along the American fugitive’s flight from justice, a place that conventional wisdom suggests brings freedom, is Mexico. But, just in case you’re planning your next caper, should this be your route of escape?

Back in 1978 the United States and Mexico first signed a bilateral extradition treaty to capture and return criminal fugitives to America. In recent years, cooperation between the two nations has only improved, and the alliance has paid off: Since 2003, Mexico has returned more than 3,500 wanted men and women to face the music in their own country, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. On average, 341 fugitives in Mexico have been captured and returned to America annually since 2011, about 200 more per year than in the early 2000s. That’s like one a day!

Recent high profile fugitive apprehensions include Ethan Couch, the so-called affluenza teen, who was nabbed in Puerto Vallarta in December, and Brenda Delgado, a jilted lover who allegedly orchestrated the murder-for-hire of a Dallas dentist. She was captured just last month in the Mexican city of Torreon.

“Maybe it’s from watching movies, but people think that U.S. law enforcement stops at the border,” said Special Agent Darrell Foxworth, spokesman for the FBI’s San Diego office. “We don’t.”

Fugitives who have appeared on the FBI’s Most Wanted List are more likely to be captured in Mexico than any other foreign nation, statistics show. Since 1998, 12 “Most Wanted” fugitives have been caught here, compared with 14 in all other parts of the world combined, excluding the U.S.

Proximity and ease of entry are two reasons Mexico remains a preferred destination for bad guys, authorities acknowledge. Mexican customs agents monitor border crossings, but their resources are spread thin and sometimes agents are overwhelmed by sheer volume, officials say. That’s a nice way of saying nobody is watching or caring about who enters this country. It’s not like coming into the U.S., where every person is scrutinized.

Once suspects enter Mexico, marshals or FBI agents typically take up pursuits on behalf of local law enforcement in the U.S. Federal authorities usually seek what’s known as a “UFAP,” or an “unlawful flight to avoid prosecution” warrant, that essentially tacks an additional federal charge onto the local charges for which a suspect is already wanted.

Only Mexican police in Mexico have jurisdiction to arrest fugitives here, but U.S. agencies can offer help. Investigators on either side of the border typically meet in person on a monthly basis, and otherwise share information daily.

Once captured, American citizens with no ties to Mexico can be deported within a few hours. For fugitives with stronger ties, such as citizenship or family members living here, it may take several months to be extradited. Like the Mexican drug king pin El Chapo who is fighting extradition tooth and nail and high priced lawyers. Even he is going to be shipped to the United States very soon.

So, what have we learned here today, cats and kittens? If you’re on the outs with American law enforcement, try another country, but stay out of Mexico.