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Fugitives often zapped amid Las Vegas’ neon glow

They flock to Southern Nevada from far and wide, the allure of neon lights and fast-paced life seemingly too much to resist.

And they’re not just tourists.

Fugitives can’t say no to Sin City.

"If you have to run somewhere, why not come to Las Vegas?" asked Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Clint Nichols.

"I wouldn’t want to go to Riverside (California)," he quipped.

On Dec. 2, four bodies were found outside a home in Northridge, a normally peaceful suburb of Los Angeles. The victims were fatally shot.

Less than 48 hours later, authorities nabbed four suspects at the Silverton, a south valley resort.

Los Angeles police worked with the Criminal Apprehension Team, a task force of seven Las Vegas police detectives, one detective from Henderson and an FBI special agent.

Nichols, who supervises the Las Vegas detectives in the task force, has several theories why fugitives are drawn here.

If choosing the Strip, they can blend in with legions of people who are there at any given time, he said, and Las Vegas’ transient population lends well to criminals on the lam hiding among us like chameleons.

"This is a fairly easy place to get lost," Nichols said.

Running to the Strip and other heavily visited areas in Las Vegas, however, might not be the best idea, he said.

Where there are tourists and casinos, there also tend to be cameras.

"In Vegas, it’s just part of our culture," Nichols said of the 24-hour surveillance common in the city.

He added that many fugitives trip up by leaving a trail of identification, including the use of credit or debit cards for transportation or lodging.

The four suspects arrested in connection with the Los Angeles homicides were Howard Alcantra, 30, Ka Pasasouk, 31, Christina Neal, 33, and Donna Rabulan, 30.

Local authorities detained them on fugitive warrants, and they were extradited last month.

Los Angeles police said Pasasouk, of Los Angeles, faces murder charges. Alcantra, of Glendale, Calif., faces charges of robbery and aiding a felon, while Rabulan and Neal, both of Los Angeles, face a charge of aiding a felon.

The CAT task force learned the suspects fled in a black Audi with no license plates and were possibly staying at the Silverton. The Audi was located, and investigators determined the quartet had checked into the resort.

They were arrested by 2 p.m. Dec. 3.

Los Angeles police Detective Gus Villanueva commended Las Vegas police and the CAT task force: "They wouldn’t be in custody if Las Vegas Metro hadn’t stepped up and assisted us."

It’s unclear why the four fugitives fled to Las Vegas.

Although the arrests in the quadruple homicides were high-profile, the CAT task force is constantly hunting down suspects in a variety of criminal cases.

Nichols said that as of Oct. 1, the latest report available, the task force had made 618 arrests . Of those arrests, 145 suspects were from outside Clark County.

"There is no shortage of work," Nichols said.

While most arrests didn’t make headlines, others have.

In September, 30-year-old Darren Crockett , suspected of attempted murder in Arizona, was arrested in Las Vegas.

In July, 51-year-old Ulrich Felix Anton Engler of Germany was arrested here in a $100 million international fraud scheme. He had been on the run for five years. A finger-print match in a drunken driving case led U.S. authorities to Clark County.

Las Vegas police worked with the U.S. marshals in that case.

In November 2011, Emanuel Lopez, 26, was arrested, suspected of being one of five L.A. street gang members who executed a rival gang member.

A month later, 21-year-old Anton Blevins was arrested in Las Vegas. Blevins was accused of fatally shooting a Wayne State University football player, Courtney Cortez Smith, outside a Detroit nightclub.

Although the names of most fugitives arrested in Clark County wouldn’t ring familiar with most people, some notorious criminals also get caught here.

In August 2006, Warren Jeffs, the leader of America’s largest polygamist sect and a member of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, had been on the run for more than a year.

Rumors placed Jeffs everywhere from Texas to Canada and Mexico.

He was arrested just north of Las Vegas during a routine traffic stop by an alert Nevada Highway Patrol trooper.

Jeffs was a passenger in a Cadillac Escalade. Large amounts of cash, more than a dozen cellphones, three wigs and about $10,000 in gift cards were found in the vehicle.

He now is serving a life term in a Texas prison for sexually assaulting children.

Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638.

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