One of ‘America’s Most Wanted’ may have slipped through Collier’s legal system

Date: 
2008-12-26

RYAN MILLS

NAPLES — Authorities are investigating whether a fugitive featured on the television program “America’s Most Wanted” was arrested in Collier County in November, but then bonded out and slipped away before anyone knew his true identity.

Norma Hansen, a criminal investigator for the district attorney’s office in Santa Barbara, Calif., said she has evidence that 57-year-old Orson Mozes, who is wanted in California on 62 counts of theft by false pretenses for running an international adoption scam, was arrested in Collier County on Nov. 15 using the alias “Jack Rose.” The Florida Highway Patrol made the arrest.

Rose was charged with possession of a forged or stolen driver license and driving without a license, but posted an $8,000 bond and skipped town before his court appearance.

Hansen said Mozes was then arrested twice in Miami-Dade County, in mid-December using the alias Jerry Brosse, but bonded out and slipped away each time.

“Our sheriff’s department’s warrants bureau got a call from the Miami-Dade warrants bureau saying, ‘We had this guy in custody on the 21st, but he bailed out,’” Hansen said.

The aliases “Jack Rose” and “Jerry Brosse” are showing up on Mozes’ criminal history, Hansen said.

A warrant for Mozes’ arrest was signed on April 1, in Santa Barbara. According to an affidavit, Mozes operated an international adoption agency, Adoption International Program, from his California mansion.

He told prospective parents that he could “hold” children for them in foreign countries, primarily Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia. The prospective parents then sent the agency a fee, generally between $7,000 and $11,000, to “hold” the child, the affidavit said.

After paying, a majority of the parents were told “Your child is no longer available,” reports said. On at least 10 occasions Mozes promised the same child to multiple adoptive parents, investigators said.

The affidavit lists 62 victims with an estimated loss of more than $1 million.

Paula Cade, a paralegal for the Michigan law firm handling the civil lawsuit against Adoption International Program, said Mozes was illegally posting photos of Kazakhstan children on Web sites.

“Somebody would see child number 47 and they’d say ‘I want to adopt child 47,’” Cade said. “Six or seven people wanted to adopt child 47, and Orson took money from all these people.”

Mozes “disappeared” in June 2007, according to the affidavit. His ex-wife told authorities he took $500,000 at the time he “took off.”

He was featured on America’s Most Wanted in August.

“We had no idea where he was, if he was even still alive,” Hansen said.

Around 6 p.m. on Nov. 14, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Roberto Castilla pulled over a white, four-door Mazda traveling at 85 mph in a 70 mph zone in the westbound lanes of Interstate 75 near the Collier toll plaza, according to an arrest report.

The driver handed Castilla a California license with the name “Jack Rose.” He said he was “heading to Tampa to see his girlfriend’s father,” reports said.

The license didn’t check out, however, coming back to a Manruque Bucio Torres. When asked for another form of identification, the driver handed over a Social Security card that also didn’t check out, coming back to a Miguel Rico, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.

The driver was arrested and booked into the Collier County jail.

He posted bond and was released instead of appearing before a judge. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest after he failed to show at his Dec. 8 court date.

“We had no control over the FHP establishing a bond for him,” said Jim Williams, chief of investigations for the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. “If the trooper established a bond for him, as soon as he is able to make that bond ... he’s free to go.”

Williams said the Sheriff’s Office does not set bond for charges a driver is arrested on, instead requiring an appearance before a judge to buy time to determine the driver’s identity.

When reached on his cell phone Friday, Florida Highway Patrol spokesman, Lt. Chris Miller, said he was unaware of the arrest. He said it would only be second guessing to say how Castilla identified the driver of the Mazda.

“If the arresting officer felt like he had identified that individual, then he would go by the bond schedule,” Miller said, referring to standard bond procedures.

Williams said he believes the Mazda driver’s fingerprints were run through the Sheriff’s Office’s computer databases, and were not flagged. He said the Sheriff’s Office is working with state and federal authorities to determine if Jack Rose is, in fact, Orson Mozes.

“It potentially could be,” Williams said. “He’s got numerous AKAs, but we need to have confirmation of fingerprints from the FBI that it is who we think it is.”

Because Mozes’ previous arrest record is from the 1970s, authorities said it is possible his fingerprints are not in automated databases.

“How did they let him bond out without determining who he really was?” Cade asked. “That’s what bothers me about this. That’s what bothers a lot of my clients, too.”

Anyone with information about Orson Mozes’ whereabouts is asked to contact their local authorities, or America’s Most Wanted confidential hotline at 1-800-CRIME-TV.

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