Back in 1985, something truly remarkable unfolded: Operation Flagship, a wildly successful and imaginative sting operation conducted by the US Marshals Service. With a cunning plan in place, they managed to apprehend over 100 criminals with outstanding warrants, all while hosting a fake pre-game brunch.
The masterminds behind Operation Flagship, Robert Leschorn and Howard Safir, wanted to create a sting operation that would outshine any previous efforts. They decided to use the allure of a Washington Redskins game as bait for the unsuspecting criminals. Leschorn mailed over 3,000 invitations to fugitives' last known addresses, and the excitement began to build.
When the day of the event arrived, the convention center buzzed with anticipation. Undercover officers disguised as Redskins cheerleaders skillfully performed discreet weapons checks, offering hugs or a casual arm around the shoulder to ensure everyone was unarmed. The room was adorned with both Redskins and FIST (Fugitive Investigative Strike Team) logos, making the atmosphere seem even more legitimate.
As the guests settled in, they were treated to Redskins highlights playing on a big screen TV, including the legendary John Riggins' touchdown run in Super Bowl XVII. The party was in full swing, and the criminals had no idea what awaited them. Law enforcement officers, some in Redskins headdresses and even a knock-off San Diego Chicken suit, mingled with the crowd, armed and ready to make the arrests.
Robert Leschorn, acting as the CEO of Flagship, greeted the attendees with charisma and flair, while his partner in crime, Herbert M. Rutherford, portrayed a master of ceremonies, donning a tuxedo and a massive top hat. The event seemed like a regular party, but beneath the surface, the stage was set for the big reveal.
To ensure a smooth operation, the fugitives were split into groups of 14-16 and escorted to an upstairs room under the guise of receiving their game tickets and hearing a special announcement from Rutherford. Little did they know, this was where their plans would crumble.
As Rutherford addressed each group, the tension built. And then, with a strategic signal, law enforcement personnel swiftly entered the room, guns drawn, surrounding the audience. The cheerleaders, the chicken, and even the Indian characters went from party hosts to enforcers, brandishing their weapons. The criminals were caught off guard, their surprise entirely genuine.
In an instant, the room transformed from a festive gathering to a scene of arrests and chaos. One by one, the criminals were apprehended, processed, and escorted onto buses—instead of heading to the football stadium, they were destined for prison.
Amidst the commotion, humorous lines were exchanged. One criminal claimed he came to see Boomer Esiason, the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback, while another protested, declaring that the authorities were searching for his twin. In total, 144 arrests were made during Operation Flagship, resulting in a staggering array of charges from assault to arson to forgery.
This brilliant and successful operation marked a turning point in law enforcement strategy, inspiring similar approaches across the nation. With meticulous planning, clever disguises, and a touch of theatricality, Operation Flagship demonstrated that criminals could be caught off guard and justice served, all while ensuring the safety of everyone involved.
Looking back, it was an extraordinary highlight in the careers of both Leschorn and Rutherford. Their ingenuity and the seamless execution of the operation made it an unforgettable moment, proving that even the most audacious dreams can become reality. Keep right on laughing by checking out one of our other joke categories or read one of our funny articles.