Fugitive arrested in Miami Beach granted bail in Arizona

 

fpeinado@MiamiHerald.com

The arrest of Antonio Julio Sanchez, a fugitive for more than 10 years, was not an easy task.

He had changed his name to Antonio Anderson Erin Pina and was living in a beachfront condo in Miami Beach, far from Maricopa County in Arizona where he had been convicted of sexual assault in 2002.

Sanchez, 40, fled before his sentencing.

Two years ago, a squad specializing in fugitive searches began work on the case.

Police identified the aliases Sanchez had been using first in Salt Lake City, then Houston and finally in Miami Beach, where he was arrested on April 24. After that, Sanchez was extradited to Arizona.

But last month he was released on bail to the disbelief of his victims and the officers involved in his arrest.

“We are disappointed because of the time and work that we put into his arrest, but mainly for his victims,” said Sgt. Mike Pooley, a spokesman for the Tempe Police Department. “He committed horrible crimes against two young ladies.”

In 2001, Sanchez and his cousin Mazen Diamond drugged and raped two women they met at bars, videotaping the assault.

Pooley made calls to both victims, who live now out of Arizona, informing them of Sanchez’s release.

Sanchez posted a $150,000 bond within days. He is not on probation and does not have to show up in court again until Aug. 12 for the sentence hearing.

The judge, Robert Gottsfield, did not ask Sanchez to surrender his passport, according to the Clerk of the Court.

Pooley said that he cannot confirm whether Sanchez is on the run again.

“He is in compliance with everything, so we cannot track him down,” he said. “Our hands are tied.”

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office believes that Sanchez flight risk is high.

On June 13, the state of Arizona asked the court to raise the bond to $1 million, up from the $150,000 that Sanchez paid.

A state attorney spokesman, Jerry Cobb, said that granting a bail to a fugitive is not common, but not unheard of.

The state argued that Sanchez had a relationship with a wealthy Italian citizen and had shown in the past that he is willing to go to great length to avoid being sentenced.

“He fled the state and changed his identity. There is simply no reason to believe the defendant will return to court to be sentenced,” said a motion filed by Rian Powell, Deputy County Attorney.

Sanchez’s attorney, Woodrow Thompson, did not respond to two interview requests made by phone.

Sanchez’s cousin, Diamond, 37, was not granted bond. He, too, had been on the run since 2002.

Authorities arrested him in Atlanta, only two weeks after Sanchez’s arrest.

At the time of their arrests, Diamond was an Arizona State University student and Sanchez was a former ice-cream shop owner, authorities said. The men were roommates.

Maricopa County Superior Court records show that in August 2002, Sanchez pleaded guilty to kidnapping and sexual assault and Diamond pleaded guilty to sexual assault, but neither showed up for sentencing the next month.

After they pleaded guilty, the judge allowed them to get their affairs in order before taking them immediately into custody, according to Tempe Police Department.

When he was found by police in Miami-Dade, Sanchez was living with a longtime girlfriend and the couple’s “three or four” young children.

His family did not know about his past. When Sanchez was arrested, Sgt. Pooley warned “You can never completely erase your past or your history. No matter how hard you try, there’s always going to be some connection that’s going to lead us to you.”

Pooley said he was contacted by his victims, who congratulated him. After Sanchez left jail, Pooley called one of the victims and assured her that they will arrest Sanchez in case he does not show up for sentencing.

“We are very confident we will find him again.”

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