California police chief responds to Nevada criticism over sex offender

RENO - A California police chief who arranged a one-way ticket to Reno for a convicted child molester after he was run out of town by angry residents defended the move and questioned the efficiency of Nevada's system to monitor sex offenders.

''We're not these bad guys from California,'' Monrovia Police Chief Joseph Santoro said Thursday.

Responding to criticism from some Nevada parole officials who accused him of shunning his responsibility by shipping Aramis Linares to Reno, Santoro said he isn't picking a fight with Nevada authorities.

But he also questioned why Linares, 49, was released from custody without any required supervision.

''In this particular case, if we don't have INS helping us, we have no way of knowing what the circumstances are because he's not listed in any of Nevada's data files that we could find,'' Santoro said.

Linares, 49, a Cuban national who had previous convictions in California and Nevada, was convicted of lewdness with a child younger than 14 in 1992 and sent to the Nevada State Prison.

He was discharged May 5, 1997 after serving five years of an eight-year prison term, then taken into immediate custody by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

But a federal judge ordered his release last month, saying the INS cannot hold detainees indefinitely when their own countries won't take them back.

Linares went to Monrovia, a Los Angeles, suburb, to live with his sister.

''When he gets to California, we get a heads-up from immigration,'' Santoro said, ''and they tell us he's a real dangerous threat.

''His sister happens to live right next door to a child day-care center, across the street from a city park and half a block from an elementary school,'' he said, adding that the family thought he'd been in prison on drug charges.

After California certified him as a high-risk offender, neighbors were notified as required by the state's Megan's Law. Angry protests followed and his family told him he'd have to leave.

''That next night, Mr. Linares calls us tells us he's in North Hollywood and wants a place to stay,'' Santoro said. Detectives contacted Los Angeles police to try to find him, but they were unsuccessful.

''The next day, he calls us again. He says 'I have no money, I have no place to stay and I'm homeless.

''It's in everyone's best interest to know where he is so he can be located,'' Santoro said. ''He could have walked away at any time because he's not in custody.''

Detectives finally got him into a homeless mission for five days.

''He told us he wanted to go back to Nevada because he said he could get a job there and he had friends there,'' Santoro said.

The chief arranged for a $700 donation from a private individual to buy him a plane ticket and give him some pocket money to get on his feet.

Santoro said he wonders how many other non-deportable sex offenders are free without supervision.

''When a person goes from custody to immigration, the assumption is they're going to be deported,'' he said. ''But I think there's a whole lot of these people who were not deported'' and are now on the streets.

''That's the scary thing,'' he said.

Linares arrived in Reno last week and is living in Lemmon Valley north of the city. Nevada has certified him as a Tier 3, high risk offender. Neighbors were notified of his location on Thursday.

Washoe County Sheriff Dennis Balaam said detectives also met with neighbors Thursday night ''to explain to them that we don't condone violence.''

''Our job is to enforce the law and we have to protect everyone,'' he said.


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