Four Va. Sex Offenders Arrested as Part of Operation Guardian

September 20, 2010

Four people have been arrested as a result of Operation Guardian, a nationwide project that aimed to locate and arrest the most wanted, non-compliant convicted sex offenders across the country. United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy and United States Marshal Gerald Holt announced the arrests on Friday.

After identifying the most non-compliant offenders in the Western District of Virginia, agents with the United States Marshals Service set out to locate and arrest four individuals charged with failing to register as convicted sex offenders as required by the terms of their conditions of release. These non-compliant sex offenders were deemed some of the most wanted sex offenders in the Western District of Virginia.

Arrested at various locations in recent weeks were: Steve Ray Stewart, 59, of Lynchburg, Virginia, Herman Cave, 51, of Winchester, Virginia, Francis David Sherman, 55, of Bristol, Virginia and Jason Lee Bess, 36, of Franklin County, Virginia.

“I am thoroughly impressed with the speed and professionalism displayed by the Marshals Service in locating and apprehending these fugitives,” United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said today. “All of these men were required to register as a sex offenders upon their release from prison and all of them have now been charged with failing to comply with that order.”

Sherman was previously convicted of raping a woman in Illinois and deviant sexual assault in Missouri. After serving time in prison, Sherman and his girlfriend moved to Bristol, Virginia in 2006, where he registered as a sex offender. A Virginia State Trooper, while conducting a compliance check in 2007, obtained information that Sherman had moved from the residence without informing law enforcement. At that time, a federal arrest warrant was issued and information was gathered that the defendant may have fled to Canada.

Stewart was previously convicted of aggravated sexual battery in 1989 and failing to register in 1999, 2002 and 2008. On June 7, 2010, Stewart was indicted by a Lynchburg Grand Jury for failing to register. Local officers worked with members of the USMS Central Kentucky Fugitive Task Force and were able to locate and arrest Stewart on July 14, 2010 in Lexington, Kentucky.

In 2006, Cave was charged with rape and malicious assault. On March 16, 2010 and April 21, 1010, the Circuit Court in Winchester, Virginia issued warrants for Cave’s arrest for failing to register as a sex offender and a probation violation. Working with Deputy United States Marshals on the Violent Crimes Task Force in Philadelphia, Cave was located and arrested on September 14, 2010 at a recovery house in Philadelphia.

In 2002, Bess was convicted of receiving child pornography transmitted in interstate commerce. After serving time in prison, he was released and required to register as a convicted sex offender. On January 7, 2009, a Franklin County Grand Jury indicted the defendant for failing to register as a sex offender. The matter was referred to the United States Marshals Service, Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force. On July 29, 2010, Bess was arrested in Randleman, North Carolina. Bess was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury sitting in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia on August 12, 2010 and charged with one count of failing to register as a sex offender.

The primary objective of Operation Guardian was to safely apprehend wanted, non-compliant un-registered sex offenders with the emphasis being placed on further prosecution of these individuals for failing to register. Marshals offices across the country worked from July 12 of this year until September 30 to locate and apprehend non-compliant defendants across the country.

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