FORT MYERS, Fla.- Authorities are searching for three violent offenders who have been arrested more than 100 times combined in Lee County alone.
Over the last three weeks, Keeshall Whitfield, 40, Reginald Tucker, 36, and Christopher Banks, 44, have all committed acts of violence in the central part of Lee County, according to SWFL Crime Stoppers.
A fourth violent offender authorities were also on the lookout for, Mark Deforge, 42, was recently booked into jail following a tip received.
All are repeat offenders with lengthy criminal histories, something Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott says is unfortunately a fact of life.
“It’s a tragedy that faces us across the country, it’s not unique to Lee County or Southwest Florida, it’s a phenomenon that’s taking place everywhere across the country,” Scott said.
Deforge is a registered convicted felon, who authorities say punched a female in the face and shoved her into a doorway on March 18. He has 20 prior arrests on his rap sheet.
“Continuing to rehash these criminals over and over and over again with slaps on the wrists and out the back door of the jail only to re-offend in our community, is unacceptable,” Scott said. “It’s frustrating for law enforcement but we continue to press on and fight on.”
Whitfield, who has been booked 71 times into the jail, is wanted for getting into a physical altercation with a woman just before Easter. While Tucker, a documented gang member with 22 priors under his belt, is wanted for throwing a person on the ground over a dispute regarding a bus pass.
So why are these criminals on the street and not in jail?
“It’s not the arrest that matters, it’s the conviction,” said defense attorney Zachary Cantor.
Cantor says misdemeanor charges carry less weight than felony charges, making it easier to get out of jail.
“If those convictions are for 15 misdemeanors then the maximum they are going to be getting is 60 days in jail or a year in jail, so you’re going to continually see those people out on the streets,” Cantor explained.
Authorities are also searching for Banks, a 35 time offender, who is wanted for throwing a chair and becoming violent with a person who was trying to break up a verbal altercation between Banks and a female.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of any of these four offenders is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477). All callers will remain anonymous and will be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000. Tips may also be made online at www.swflcrimestoppers.org or by texting a tip to CRIMES (274637) Keyword: REWARD.