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Federal fugitive found in jail here

By Seth Burkett 340-2355

A Morgan County sheriff's investigator exposed a man arrested locally under an assumed name as a fugitive on the Drug Enforcement Administration's most wanted list this week.

When a federal grand jury indicted Ulises Torres Cruz, 31, in July on charges of conspiracy to traffic in methamphetamine as part of a major drug trafficking organization in North Alabama, authorities apparently were unaware that Cruz had already been jailed by local authorities months earlier under the alias Martin Contera Vera.

Decatur police had arrested Vera on charges of trafficking in methamphetamine in February.

He was in the Morgan County Jail on June 27 while teams of federal and local authorities descended on homes and safe houses in Decatur, Hartselle, Huntsville, Madison, Limestone County and Cullman County, seizing tons of drugs and making 29 arrests in the course of the day.

The effort brought down a drug trafficking ring allegedly run by Oscar Xicotencah Salomon, 34, of Decatur, U.S. Attorney Alice H. Martin said. Martin said Salomon's alleged organization brought drugs into the U.S. from Mexico through the Texas border.

Investigator's discovery

The diligence of an investigator on the county drug task force helped federal agents finally locate Cruz, who was considered a fugitive.

Investigator Jim England occasionally digs back through cases to check arrests against federal wanted lists, said Chief Deputy Mike Corley.

"From time to time, he has a guy that is on the most wanted list by the feds. In checking that, just as he randomly does, he saw a picture of a subject on there that he thought he recognized," Corley said.

Corley said England forwarded the Sheriff's Department's information on Vera to DEA agents in Huntsville, who confirmed that Vera and Cruz were the same person.

"They will place a hold on him, and he will be brought over for arraignment in U.S. District Court. He'll be put in line for the regular court schedule," said Jill Ellis, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office.

Ellis said she didn't believe the federal charges would supercede felony charges filed locally, but said that the matter could depend upon whether Cruz was arrested by Morgan County as a result of a connection with the Salomon ring.

"It depends on when they picked him up and what he was doing. What the genesis of their charges was," she said.

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