FBI 10 Most Wanted: How US intelligence determines who makes notorious criminal list
The FBI gets assistance from local law enforcement agencies across the country to determine which criminals make its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, which deserves more media attention than it receives, according to a former agent.
Why the list exists
"The people that are typically placed at the top are individuals who posed a grave threat to national security or the security of the people of the nation," former FBI special agent and Navy SEAL Jonathan Gillam told Fox News Digital. "Those are two different things. One … has to do with the ability of the nation to protect its secrets and the other is to protect people … in their homes."
Fugitives who make the list pose an "imminent threat" to the nation, according to Gillam, meaning that person "can cause great damage" to a specific person or the country, therefore threatening national security.
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Ronald Hosko, Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Criminal Investigative Division, speaks during a press conference on July 29, 2013 in Washington. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Gillam named Osama bin Laden, the deceased al Qaeda leader who inspired other individuals to carry out deadly attacks, as one of the most infamous Most Wanted names. The FBI added him to the list in 2007.
The FBI added Osama bin Laden to its Most Wanted list in 2007.
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"That's somebody who, overall, could enter this nation at any given time by either directing or inspiring individuals so that they become a huge threat to the country," he said, adding that other fugitives on the list include people who have committed other "heinous" crimes and tried to avoid capture.
History of the list
The agency created its top 10 list in March 1950 after a journalist asked for names of the FBI’s "toughest guys," and his subsequent story generated widespread publicity, according to a FAQ sheet.
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Of the 530 fugitives that have made the list since the 1950s, 494 have been captured — 163 of whom were captured as a result of citizen cooperation — representing a 93% success rate.
— Jonathan Gillam
"So, where you can't have a tremendous amount of people in one place to look for somebody, you can use this list to go after … who the government or the FBI believes [are] the most dangerous," Gillam said.
The shortest amount of time a Most Wanted fugitive has ever been featured is a mere two hours. The longest was 32 years.
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Crimes committed by fugitives on the list have varied over the decades. When it began in the 1950s, fugitives were mostly wanted for bank robberies, burglaries and car thefts, according to the FBI’s FAQ sheet. A decade later, crimes were more radical, including destruction of government property, sabotage and kidnapping. In the 1970s, the FBI began concentrating more on organized crime and terrorism.
Over the next two decades, in the 1980s and 1990s, the list included sexual predators, international terrorists and drug traffickers. The contemporary Most Wanted list features fugitives accused of those same crimes along with crimes against children, white-collar crime and gang violence.
Attention from press and local law enforcement
The Criminal Investigative Division (CID) at FBI headquarters gets assistance from 56 FBI field offices around the country in determining who makes its Most Wanted list. Local law enforcement agencies also submit recommended Most Wanted fugitives to the FBI, according to Gillam.
Most agencies have posters of the FBI’s Most Wanted posted in their offices.
But despite its fame among law enforcement, the list typically only gets press coverage when the FBI announces a fugitive capture. Gillam says the FBI needs to do a better job at promoting the list.
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"I don't think that takes a lot of manpower to maintain the list, but it does take effort to continuously figure out ways … to keep those things relevant," the former special agent said. "In fact, I do believe, actually, that the FBI does not do a good enough job keeping the top 10 list relevant."'
— Jonathan Gillam
Gillam says the FBI should make better efforts to publicize the list prior to captures because they pose an imminent threat. The FBI shares Most Wanted updates on its Twitter and Facebook pages.
Current fugitives on the list
The most recent fugitive added to the list is Wilver Villegas-Palomino, a.k.a Carlos El Puerco, a member of the paramilitary narco-terrorism group called the National Liberation Army, who was involved in a 20-year scheme to transport cocaine from Columbia into the United States.
Wilver Villegas-Palomino, a.k.a Carlos El Puerco, a member of the paramilitary narco-terrorism group called the National Liberation Army, was involved in a 20-year scheme to transport cocaine from Columbia to the United States. (FBI / File)
"Villegas-Palomino is allegedly responsible for numerous kidnappings, ordering assassinations, money laundering, and weapons trafficking," James Smith, special agent in charge of the FBI Houston field office, said in a statement this month, adding that "his laboratories allegedly contribute to the production of at least 80 percent of the cocaine entering the United States."
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Alejandro Rosales Castillo made the list after the 2016 murder of his former girlfriend and a co-worker in Charlotte, North Carolina. Castillo apparently owed the victim $1,000, and she disappeared after agreeing to meet with him at a gas station. Authorities later found her vehicle in Phoenix.
Alejandro Rosales Castillo made the list after the 2016 murder of his former girlfriend and coworker in Charlotte, North Carolina. (FBI / File)
Ruja Ignatova, a Bulgarian woman known as the "Cryptoqueen," is accused of defrauding investors out of an estimated $4 billion through her fraudulent cryptocurrency company, OneCoin, beginning in 2014.
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Ruja Ignatova, a Bulgarian woman known as the "Cryptoqueen," is accused of defrauding investors out of an estimated $4 billion through her fraudulent cryptocurrency, OneCoin, beginning in 2014. (FBI / File)
Arnoldo Jimenez is accused of fatally stabbing his wife a day after their wedding in 2012.
Arnoldo Jimenez is accused of fatally stabbing his wife a day after their wedding in 2012. (FBI / File)
Omar Alexander Cardenas is wanted for allegedly murdering a man by shooting several rounds from a semiautomatic handgun at the victim outside a large shopping center in Sylmar, California, in August 2019.
Omar Alexander Cardenas is wanted for allegedly murdering a man by shooting several rounds from a semiautomatic handgun at the victim outside a large shopping center in Sylmar, California, in August 2019. (FBI / File)
Alexis Flores is wanted for the kidnapping and murder of a 5-year-old Philadelphia girl who was found strangled to death in an apartment in August 2000.
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Alexis Flores is wanted for the kidnapping and murder of a 5-year-old Philadelphia girl who was found strangled to death in an apartment in August 2000. (FBI / File)
Bhadreshkumar Chetanbhai Patel is wanted for the April 2015 murder of his wife in Maryland.
Bhadreshkumar Chetanbhai Patel is wanted for the April 2015 murder of his wife in Maryland. (FBI / File)
Yulan Adonay Archaga Carias is the alleged leader of the Latin American MS-13 gang for all of Honduras.
He is accused of "supporting multi-ton loads of cocaine through Honduras to the United States and for ordering and participating in murders of rival gang members and others associated with MS-13," according to the FBI. The U.S. government is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.
Yulan Adonay Archaga Carias is the alleged leader of the Latin American MS-13 gang for all of Honduras. (FBI / File)
Lastly, Michael James Pratt and Jose Rodolfo Villarreal-Hernandez, a.k.a. "El Gato," remain on the list despite having already been captured.
Villarreal-Hernandez is charged with an interstate stalking and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire scheme that left a 43-year-old man dead in May 2013.
Jose Rodolfo Villarreal-Hernandez is charged with an interstate stalking and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire scheme that left a 43-year-old man dead in May 2013. (FBI / File)
Pratt, a New Zealand national, is the co-owner of San Diego-based pornography website GirlsDoPorn.com and is charged with sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, as well as production of child pornography and sex trafficking of a minor by force, fraud and coercion, according to the Justice Department.
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Michael James Pratt is charged with sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, as well as production of child pornography and sex trafficking of a minor by force. (FBI / File)
The website's co-owner, Matthew Isaac Wolf, admitted to coercing about 100 "models" between the ages of 18 and 23 into making the videos, which he said would not be shared in the United States, and then posting them on the U.S. website GirlsDoPorn for public viewing. He also said he trained cameraman and co-defendant Theodore Gyi on how to shoot the videos – training that included a lesson on how to tell the women in the videos that they would not be posted on the internet.
The FBI is asking anyone with information about these 10 individuals to contact your local FBI office or the nearest American embassy or consulate.