Vietnamese police take one month to track down American fugitive before arrest

By Ba Do, Hoang Phong   October 31, 2020 | 02:37 am PT
Vietnamese police take one month to track down American fugitive before arrest
Hammett Andrew, an American fugitive, is escorted to a special aircraft of the U.S. police at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi, October 23, 2020. Photo by Quyet Nguyen.
Officers from Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security took over a month to track a wanted American man before arresting and handing him over to U.S. police on October 23.

American Andrew Hammet, 31, fled in 2019 before a U.S. court issued seven arrest warrants against him for "manufacturing, distributing, buying or possessing drugs."

In early September this year, the Vietnamese ministry received a request from U.S. police to help apprehend the suspect.

Vietnamese police then discovered Hammett had hired an apartment in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, which neighbors HCMC, and started following him.

During surveillance, police found him frequently intoxicated and displaying signs of mental disorder.

"The operation had to be carefully planned and executed to ensure public safety," Major Ha Duc Quang from the Office of the Investigation Police Agency, who led the arrest, said.

Police continued to monitor Hammett while coordinating with U.S. agencies. After more than a month, officers from the public security ministry and police of Ba Ria - Vung Tau arrested the shocked but passive culprit.

Working with Vietnamese police on October 22, he pretended to be tired and fainted when hearing the arrest order issued by the U.S. court, Quang recalled.

Hammett Andrew (L) pretends to faint while working with Vietnamese police October 22, 2020. Photo by Quyet Nguyen.

Andrew Hammett (L) pretends to faint while working with Vietnamese police on October 22, 2020. Photo by Quyet Nguyen.

Hammett told Vietnamese police he "wanted to settle down in Vietnam for a while" and did not want to return to the U.S., begging them for help.

When his proposal was dismissed by Vietnamese police, he faked ill health when taken to Hanoi to be handed to U.S. police for extradition.

Explaining the reason for monitoring Hammett for more than a month before arrest, Quang said fiven fight restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the operation had to be in line with the U.S. police's flight schedule and ensure maximum safety en route from HCMC to Hanoi.

Hammett was one of two American fugitives recently caught hiding in Vietnam.

The other was Wade Astle, 46, who was previously on the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office’s list of most wanted fugitives, having been on the run since 2017.

Wade Astle is eccorted by Vietnamese police to Noi Bai Airport to hand over to the U.S. police, October 23 2020. Photo by Quyet Nguyen.

Wade Astle (3rd from L) is escorted by Vietnamese police at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi to be handed to U.S. police, October 23, 2020. Photo by Quyet Nguyen.

The suspected pedophile was found living in a rented apartment in HCMC’s Tan Binh District where he was arrested on October 20.

When Astle visited the U.S. Embassy in HCMC, an employee had noticed he was wanted in the U.S. Accordingly, Vietnamese authorities worked with the U.S. Marshals Service, leading to his arrest, American TV channel 12News reported.

Astle stands accused on 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor in 2017. In 2018, he was indicted in Maricopa County, but officers were unable to locate him, the channel said.

Astle is suspected to have been involved in sexual exploitation of children in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, and is known to have traveled to Thailand and Costa Rica, the Arizona Republic news site reported, citing Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone.

On October 23, the U.S. for the first time dispatched a special aircraft to Noi Bai in Hanoi to extradite the two suspects.

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