FBI buys billboard to help capture fugitive

LOS ANGELES - The FBI has purchased a Los Angeles billboard as part of its ongoing publicity campaign to find and capture Joe Luis Saenz, a fugitive on the FBI's national list of "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives," FBI officials said Wednesday.As of Tuesday, the billboard was visible to vehicles traveling near the intersection of Cesar Chavez and Soto avenues in the city of Los Angeles. The billboard, which will be posted for approximately 30 days, displays three photographs of Saenz and contact numbers for the FBI in Los Angeles, including (888) CANT-HIDE, a special number established by the FBI's Fugitive Task Force to directly respond to tips. This is the fourth publicity campaign launched by the FBI in Los Angeles utilizing a billboard. Previous campaigns proved to be successful and led to arrests based on tips from drivers who had seen or heard about the billboards. Nationally, several tips leading to FBI fugitive captures were generated by billboard publicity. Joe Luis Saenz first came to the attention of law enforcement when LAPD detectives identified him as the suspect in the 1998 murder of two men in the Hollenbeck area of Los Angeles. Less than two weeks later, Saenz is believed to have kidnapped, raped and murdered his girlfriend, who was also the mother of his child. Saenz was charged with three counts of murder, kidnapping and rape for the 1998 alleged crimes, and an arrest warrant was issued by the Los Angeles County Court on Aug. 12, 1998. When LAPD detectives determined Saenz had fled California, the FBI joined the investigation and obtained a federal arrest warrant on Jan. 23, 2002. Saenz was charged in a criminal complaint filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Investigators believe Saenz travels to Mexico frequently and may be residing there currently. The latest murder for which Saenz is wanted occurred in October 2008 when Oscar Torres was killed in his Whittier home. Detectives with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department believe Saenz murdered Torres in connection with a drug debt. Saenz is also wanted for shooting and wounding a second man on the same evening. The Torres murder was captured on the victim's home surveillance system and Saenz was identified as the killer. This video and the wanted poster for Saenz can be viewed at www.fbi.gov/wanted. Saenz has been described by gang associates and others as a major enforcer and hit-man for a Mexican drug cartel who is believed to be involved with importing cocaine into Los Angeles. In addition to the murders for which Saenz is currently charged, he's wanted for questioning about additional crimes, including kidnapping and murder. Saenz is considered a career criminal and is a known repeat offender. Saenz is also wanted for violation of his parole for a 1995 narcotics possession conviction. In addition, he has an extensive criminal history, including motor vehicle theft, assault with a deadly weapon, vandalism, and possession of narcotics. Saenz should be considered armed and extremely dangerous. According to individuals interviewed throughout the investigation, Saenz has expressed a willingness to kill law enforcement officers if confronted with arrest. Saenz is known by several aliases, to include the following: Jose Luis Saenz, Gabriel Saenz, Joe Louis Saenz, Louie Saenz, Toro, Smiley, Giovanni Torres, Giovanni Vasquez, Giovanni Gonzalez, Giovanni Velasquez and Mark Hunnicut. Saenz is described as a white or Hispanic male, born on 8/4/75 in Los Angeles. Saenz has brown hair and brown eyes, is approximately 5 foot 11 to 6 feet tall and, when last seen, weighed approximately 180 lbs. Saenz is believed to be a member of a Los Angeles area criminal street gang. Saenz is known for having tattoos of the words "Natalie" and "Cuatro" on his left arm, "Flats" on his right arm, and "In Memory Serelone Flew" and "Flats4" on his back. He also has a tattoo on his chest, although he may have removed tattoos with a laser. Saenz is also known to have a pierced ear. Despite being featured by media outlets locally and internationally, as well as on the Internet, Saenz has eluded capture. Saenz is an American citizen and was born in Los Angeles. The FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading directly to the capture of Joe Luis Saenz. All information will be kept confidential. Saenz was added to the FBI's list of Ten Most Wanted Fugitives in October 2009 and is the 492nd person to be added to the historic list, now in existence for over 60 years. "We're hopeful the billboard publicity will bring the right person forward with information that leads us to Joe Saenz," said Steven Martinez, assistant director in charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. "Those providing information can do so confidentially and their identity will be protected." Anyone with information as to the whereabouts of Joe Saenz is urged to contact their local FBI office or police department. Internationally, citizens with information about Saenz are asked to contact the nearest United States Embassy. The FBI's fugitive task force in Los Angeles, comprised of agents with the FBI and detectives with the Los Angeles Police Department and the California State Department of Parole, Division of Adult Parole Operations, is conducting the fugitive investigation of Saenz. Placing an emphasis on subjects of homicide investigations, this task force combines the resources of local and federal law enforcement to track fugitives. The task force pursues fugitives of local crimes who flee the state and apprehends fugitives from other districts, including foreign countries, who surface in the Los Angeles area. The Southern California region, due to its diverse ethnic make-up and geographic territory, is an attractive destination for individuals evading capture.

********** Published: January 13, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 39