Monday, November 6, 2006

CDCR Investigators Catch California Prison Escapee after 35 years

Escapee Found in Canada Returned to California Prison On Monday

(Sacramento) – A 35-year odyssey came to an end today when a man who escaped from a California corrections conservation camp in 1971 was returned to custody after a special agent with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) reopened the case earlier this year.

“This case clearly demonstrates that CDCR never stops looking for offenders who have escaped from custody or parole supervision,” said Richard Rimmer, Assistant Secretary of the CDCR Office of Correctional Safety. “Our agents and staff are very experienced, talented and relentless investigators.”

Earlier this year, a special agent with CDCR’s Office of Correctional Safety-Special Service Unit reopened the case of Michael Florentino, who had escaped from a state correctional conservation camp on August 22, 1971. Within months, the agent tracked Florentino, now 60, living in Vancouver, British Columbia, under the alias Michael Capuano.

In August, the Special Service Unit contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for assistance. The RCMP confirmed Florentino’s identity and conducted surveillance to confirm his whereabouts. The Federal Bureau of Investigations submitted an Unlawful Flight to Avoid Custody warrant to authorities in Canada and Florentino was arrested on September 15, 2006 in Vancouver by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents for being a U.S. citizen in Canada illegally.

Florentino, convicted in Contra Costa County in 1969, was about two-and-a-half years into his six-months to 10-year sentence for assault with a deadly weapon when he and inmate Bobby Jehu Stroup walked away from the Growlersburg Conservation Camp in El Dorado County 35 years ago. Stroup was apprehended, but Florentino, who was 25 years old at the time, eluded authorities for more than three decades.

Following his recent arrest, Florentino was given a deportation order to return to the United States from federal immigration officials. He voluntarily surrendered to CDCR Special Service Unit agents and federal immigration agents this morning. He was taken into CDCR custody and transported to San Quentin State Prison’s Reception Center.

The Board of Parole Hearings will be notified and will schedule a hearing to determine how much time Florentino needs to serve and what action to take for his 1971 escape.

The Special Service Unit was established in 1964. Originally formed to enhance liaison activities between corrections and the law enforcement community, the unit provides state level investigative services to law enforcement when inmates or parolees are suspected, provides investigative services for CDCR institutions, functions as the department’s gang intelligence operation, apprehends escapees and dangerous parolees-at-large, and coordinates the California Gang Task Force, the longest running law enforcement task force in California history. In the past three years, the Special Service Unit has apprehended 61 escapees.

Of all offenders that escaped from a state prison, conservation camp or community based program between 1975 and 2005, 99 percent have been apprehended.