From staff reports
The News Courier
U.S. marshals in Virginia have arrested a former Decatur resident with ties to Athens.
Fernando Harris, 45, was arrested Monday, after five years on the run, for his suspected participation in a drug conspiracy involving the possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, U.S. Marshal Bobby Mathieson said.
Harris was wanted by the Drug Enforcement Administration in Huntsville.
At approximately 3 p.m. Monday, investigators positively identified as Harris a man who exited a Hampton, Va., residence, Mathieson said. The suspect entered a vehicle and drove away.
Law enforcement officers followed Harris for about a quarter mile before the fugitive pulled the vehicle over, exited and began looking in the trunk, he said. While Harris was distracted, law enforcement officers moved in and Harris was arrested without incident.
In June 2008, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama issued warrants for 33 suspects accused of taking part in a 138-count indictment that stretched from northern Alabama to Texas, California and Mexico, he said.
The suspects were charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, 50 grams or more of cocaine base (crack) and 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, Mathieson said.
Within two weeks of the warrants being issued, the DEA requested help from the U.S. Marshals Service in Huntsville to apprehend them. All but two of the more than 30 suspects were captured within two months. One of the two fugitives, Harris, is alleged to have immediately gone into hiding, Mathieson said.
Harris was previously convicted of possession of cocaine in 1999. After serving a long prison sentence following that conviction, Harris was placed on supervised release. In December 2008, North Alabama issued a second arrest warrant for Harris for violating conditions of supervised release.
Approximately a week and a half ago, investigators with the Marshal’s Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force in North Alabama developed information that led them to believe Harris was residing within the Eastern District of Virginia, Mathieson said.
Investigators sought the help of deputy U.S. marshals in eastern Virginia. The deputy marshals developed additional information that led law enforcement, including the Newport News and Hampton Police Departments, to respond to the Hampton, Va., residence Monday.