Tucson, AZ – Today, Thomas Ruben Velarde, age 26, of California, was returned back to the United States and into the hands of awaiting Deputy U.S. Marshals and detectives with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Velarde was deported by Mexican law enforcement officials through the Nogales Port of Entry in Nogales, Arizona. Velarde, aka “Poison” and “Serio,” is a known street gang member and has been wanted for homicide with a bond of nine million dollars, since January 2009, for his alleged participation in a homicide that killed one man and wounded two others.
On January 11, 2009, Velarde and Patricio Michel, age 26, confronted three male subjects in a parking lot outside a Mexican food restaurant in Compton, California. An altercation between the subjects ensued and Velarde allegedly shot at the three males, killing a 28 year old male and wounding the other two.
Within close proximity of the incident two armed security guards hired to work at a nearby party heard the gun shots and responded. While approaching the scene, the security guards observed a vehicle accelerating in their direction and in self-defense fired upon the vehicle. The vehicle fled the area and a search for Velarde and Michel began. Law enforcement officers located and arrested Michel later that morning at his residence in Downey, California. Detectives conducting the homicide investigation learned that Velarde had fled to the Republic of Mexico, where his whereabouts remained unknown.
On January 26, 2009, Velarde and Michel were both charged with one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder. Velarde maintained his fugitive status for over four years and was featured on the television show America’s Most Wanted, meanwhile, Michel continued his journey through the justice system. On July 14, 2010, Michel pled guilty to manslaughter with the use of a firearm, and was
sentenced to 15 years in a California state prison. Velarde continued to elude U.S. law enforcement officials until recent information on his location was obtained. Deputies with the U.S. Marshals led Violent Offender Taskforce - Mexican Investigative Liaison unit were contacted and were requested to assist with newly discovered information. Deputies immediately began to assist the Mexican authorities with their investigation of U.S. fugitive, Velarde. Authorities in Mexico located Velarde and arrested him without incident in Huatabampo, Sonora Mexico. Velarde was taken into custody by Deputy U.S. Marshals and was transported to the Pima County Detention Center where he will await his extradition back to Los Angeles, California.
United States Marshal David Gonzales stated, “Tracking down and arresting individuals that commit these violent acts in our communities is a priority of the United States Marshals Service. It is my hope this arrest can bring some sense of closure to the victim’s family.” He added, “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners in Mexico and throughout the United States to track down dangerous individuals.”
The federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that comprise the Arizona WANTED Violent Offender Taskforce (Tucson Metro Division) include: U.S. Marshals Service; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Arizona Department of Public Safety; Pima County Adult Probation Office; Arizona Department of Corrections; Tucson Police Department; U.S. Border Patrol; Pima County Sheriff’s Department; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.