Local News

N.C., Mexico work together to capture fugitives

Posted November 5, 2009 6:40 p.m. EST
Updated November 5, 2009 6:53 p.m. EST

The 2007 murder of pregnant Maria Lauterbach launched an international manhunt for the suspect, Cesar Laurean, who was a Marine with dual citizenship who slipped through border security into Mexico.

It took several months for authorities to find Laurean near a remote village in Mexico. Witnesses said he had been sleeping in fields and eating avocadoes.

Laurean was extradited back to North Carolina where he is facing first-degree murder charges.

This wasn’t the first high-profile fugitive manhunt in Mexico that originated in North Carolina. In 2005, Flavio Cerecedo shot Rocky Mount police officer Greg Brown during a traffic stop.

“I saw the flash of the gun … ran around the front of my patrol car to take cover to return fire and as I was running, I was drawing my weapon and it just felt like a sledgehammer hit me in the back. My feet went out from under me. I didn’t even hear a second shot, didn’t feel the impact, under my vest and my gun belt in the center of my back. Immediately I felt, I felt my legs were on fire and you know tingling, like the pin prick and I couldn’t move them,” Brown told NC WANTED.

Brown was shot in the lower back and was left with partial paralysis in his left leg. Doctors told Brown he is lucky to be walking at all.

Rocky Mount Police investigators worked with the FBI, and the FBI worked with Mexican authorities to bring Cerecedo back to North Carolina to stand trial.

Cerecedo was sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison for attempted murder.

The Laurean and Cerecedo cases are just two examples of the many success stories of local, federal and international law enforcement agencies working together to bring dangerous fugitives to justice.

“People flee every single day to Mexico to avoid prosecution. That’s not a myth. The myth is we’re going to stop looking for them when they do,” said Special Agent Greg Baker of the FBI’s Raleigh field office.

Currently, NC WANTED features eight fugitives on the Target Twenty list who are believed to be in Mexico. Just because fugitives jump the border doesn’t mean they escape justice.

Baker told NC WANTED that criminals have become more mobile in a fairly short amount of time, and the FBI has been working overtime to keep up with that shift.

"When I started with the FBI and I was investigating a crime that occurred in eastern North Carolina, there was a very good chance that the person I was looking for that committed that crime was here," Baker said.

"Now, because of the global economy, we have global crime. Now, there's a very good chance that the person I'm looking for is not in the state of North Carolina or even in the country."

The "global crime" phenomenon has helped build bridges between the FBI and law enforcement agencies in other nations.

In Mexico, specifically, Baker said, the relationship is mutually beneficial. Mexican authorities rely on the U.S. to extradite criminals to stand trial in Mexico and vice versa.

The myth that criminals "escape" to other countries undermines the continuing work that federal agencies do to make sure that justice is served, no matter where criminals are hiding.

In fact, the FBI currently has more legal attache offices internationally than domestic field offices here at home.

"Mexico being our neighbor, we have a lot of criminal associations with them, things that are happening to them are mutually happening to us," Baker said.

"There's a host of violations that would occur in the United States that the Mexican government also has substantial interest in seeing justice done," he continued.

"Relationships are built through these cases. Relationships that we may have established working a Mexican cartel drug trafficking investigation may lead to us being able to walk in and say, 'We need some help on a guy named Flavio Cerecedo, who shot a police officer in North Carolina.'"

Baker added, “We will use all available resources to go anywhere in the world to bring back a fugitive who shot a police officer or anyone else.”