One was Dwayne Fitzen, a motorcycle gang member and cocaine dealer convicted in Idaho and sentenced to 24 years in prison back in 1992. Last fall, the feds put Fitzen on a bus in Waseca, Minn., bound for the federal prison in Lompoc, Calif. Fitzen got on the bus on Sept. 14, but didn’t arrive as scheduled at the minimum-security Lompoc lock-up two days later. He was last seen in Las Vegas, where he withdrew $12,000 from a bank account and disappeared. A press release from the U.S. Marshals Service says the 55-year-old dealer, known as “Shadow,” is “considered armed and dangerous,” and U.S. Marshals have “made the apprehension of this fugitive a top priority.”
The San Diego newspaper reported that eight prisoners bound for San Diego alone have escaped during their Greyhound rides since 1996. That’s when federal prison officials started the bus-transfer program as a money-saving move. It releases prisoners who are being transferred to low-security facilities on a furlough for their bus ride, after they sign a letter promising they won’t try to escape, according to the Union-Tribune’s report. The feds call the program “voluntary surrenders.” But when the San Diego newspaper’s reporters checked with Greyhound, the bus line’s spokeswoman said Greyhound had never been told that it was carrying unescorted prisoners alongside its regular passengers. “If this is happening, we are going to ask that it stop,” spokeswoman Kim Plaskett told the newspaper.
Federal prosecutor Monte Stiles, who prosecuted Fitzen in Idaho, told the Union-Tribune, “When I first heard it, I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke.”
The San Diego newspaper reported that Federal Bureau of Prisons officials wouldn’t say how many of their convicts have escaped during bus transfers, but the paper documented “dozens” who are still at large.