Federal fugitive arrested in Utah after 20 years on the run

WEST JORDAN, Utah, Jan. 9, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — A federal fugitive wanted for more than 20 years was arrested by U.S. marshals in West Jordan on Wednesday night.

Supervising Deputy U.S. Marshal Derryl Spencer, commander of VFAST, the Violent Fugitive Apprehension Team, told Gephardt Daily that Juan Valdez-Valenzuela, 43, was stunned, yet fully cooperative when taken into custody outside a gym near 7800 S. Redwood Road just after 9:00 p.m.

Spencer said Valdez-Valenzuela had been “living a comfortable, productive life” at a home in Midvale along with his wife, while on the lam from 1998 drug smuggling charges out of El Paso, Texas.

According to Spencer, Valdez-Valenzuela was working for a drug cartel when he was nabbed at the border with 350 pounds of marijuana hidden inside empty propane tanks.

Valdez-Valenzuela skipped out after being released on his own recognizance, Spencer said, and had been living in Utah for at least the last several years.

“U.S. marshals in El Paso reached out to us a few weeks ago. They had information a 20-year fugitive out of El Paso was living in Midvale,” Spencer said.  “We took that information and ran with it.”

After tentatively locating a man fitting Valdez-Valenzuela’s description, members of VFAST followed him to Vasa Fitness at 7836 S. Redwood Road.

Undercover officers worked out alongside the fugitive until they were able to positively identify him. He was taken into custody while getting into his car in the gym’s parking lot.

His wife was with him at the time of the arrest, but was released at the scene. Spencer said she knew of her husband’s past, but would likely not face charges.

Valdez-Valenzuela was facing an eight-year sentence in federal prison when he fled back in ’98. He’s expected to appear before a federal judge in Salt Lake City on Friday before being returned to Texas.

Spencer said the fugitive, who was living under the alias Juan Villas, was shocked when he was arrested on the two decade old charges, but once he was cuffed, he fully complied with the marshals and confirmed he was the man they were looking for.

Spencer said the arrest was proof just how long the long arm of the law really is.

“Eventually you’re gonna get caught,” Spencer said with a grin. “Eventually, we’re going to find you.

“It might not be today, might not be tomorrow, but we will find you.”



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