Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

January 6, 2011

Crego leaving town ... again

LOCKPORT — The man known as the Facebook fugitive was released from the Niagara County Jail around 6:45 a.m. Wednesday where he was greeted with open arms by his girlfriend and other friends.

And from here, Christopher Keith Crego, 40, formerly of 4617 Sunset Drive, said he plans to work at Ink Slave Tattoo in Corfu for about two weeks, before he heads back to Indiana, then Michigan to be closer to his girlfriend, who lives near Detroit.

“I’m going to work until I make enough money to get the hell out of here and go back to where I was starting my life over,” Crego said Wednesday as he was exiting jail.

Crego was brought back to Lockport after Niagara County District Attorney, Michael Violante, asked for Crego to be extradited by Lockport police Officer Mike Wasik and Detective Lt. John Yotter in March. Police said Crego “fled” to rural Terre Haute, Ind., in October 2009 before an assault sentencing in Lockport City Court.

Crego was convicted on an assault charge from Nov. 22, 2008, when he reportedly punched another man with a closed fist and then hit the victim with a beer bottle outside a West Avenue bar, sending the man to Eastern Niagara Hospital-Lockport.

“He caused serious physical injury to the man,” Lockport Police Capt. Rick Podgers said after Crego was sentenced to one year and 15 days in jail. “The damage to the victim was so bad, it resulted in surgery.”

In March, upon Crego’s return, Lockport City Court Judge William Watson sentenced Crego to seven months for the assault and an additional three months for bail jumping.

“I was in an argument with my ex-girlfriend and some guy came in trying to be this knight in shining armor,” Crego said in response to his side of the assault. “All I did was slap him. It was a simple misdemeanor and police wasted taxpayer money to bring me back.”

He was additionally charged Aug. 8, 2009, with possession of marijuana and driving while intoxicated, according to police reports.

U.S. Marshals captured Crego last February when Lockport Police found Crego’s whereabouts on his Facebook and MySpace pages.

Podgers said he hopes social network sites will help more often in catching suspects, but added that he has always used the Internet for help.

“From Craigslist to eBay to Facebook, we use every available means to solve our cases,” Podgers said. “And I wouldn’t have finding a fugitive any other way. He made it very, very easy.”

Podgers said detectives at the Lockport police department got a tip from an anonymous source that Crego was in Indiana and through his Facebook account found his exact whereabouts. Detectives then confirmed that by contacting his employer after acting as a customer who wanted to get a tattoo.

“I left a message with the DAs office that if they were interested, I knew where Chris Crego was and I told them the web page to go to,” Podgers said. “It takes a Governor’s Warrant, the District Attorney and judges in (Indiana) to extradite him, and I’m just a little Lockport cop. I have no pull. It’s up to the DA.”

About an hour later, Violante said he wanted to do the extradition, due to the severity of the crime.

Crego’s attorney, Tim Haseley, said his client was sent to Vigo County Jail in Indiana, but was released a week later after posting a $25,000 bail bond. Haseley additionally said Crego spent six weeks in Niagara County Jail before fleeing to Indiana, which made up for some time of the jail sentence.

And while Crego admits to leaving, he compared his extradition to a traffic violator getting the death penalty.

“Yes, I left prior to being sentenced on the misdemeanor assault charge and I wasn’t hiding when I did so ... I was working and living my life,” Crego said. “Getting a Governor’s Warrant extradition on a misdemeanor is about as common as getting the death penalty over a speeding ticket.”

Upon Crego’s arrival to Lockport, Crego was remanded to Niagara County Jail on more than $1 million bail issued in City Court by Watson.

But his family and friends said they are excited Crego is out.

“It’s been a long time coming and couldn’t be more happy about today,” his girlfriend, Cassandra Podgers, said after she greeted him with a kiss and hug.

“I’ve lost a lot because of this mess, but I’ve still got my job and some good friends in Indiana who are waiting for my return and offering me some help to get back on my feet,” Crego said. “And most importantly I’ve still got (Cassandra) standing behind me.”

His girlfriend is the niece of LPD Capt. Podgers , and the couple claimed the only reason why Crego was extradited was due to Podgers’ grudge against them.

Podgers said that was anything but the truth.

“I can care less,” Podgers said with a laugh. “It wasn’t until after he was arrested that I found out my niece and Chris Crego were even related.”

Podgers said he had lost touch with his niece about 20 years ago when she and her family left Western New York.

Crego said: “I’ve got to follow my heart on this. She’s stood by me not only as my heart, but also as my best friend, and this story needs a happy ending. Hopefully she’s it.”

Contact reporter Britney Milazzo at 439-9222 ext. 6251.

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