Home Entertainment M. Night Shyamalan’s Trap Was Inspired By a True Story

M. Night Shyamalan’s Trap Was Inspired By a True Story


Operation Flagship was the culmination of a states-wide, several-years effort by U.S. Marshals to capture hundreds of escaped convicts. They put together — and this is real — a special task force called the Fugitive Investigative Strike Team, or F.I.S.T., in order to round up criminals. One of F.I.S.T.’s primary tactics was, essentially, to scam the fugitives by mail. They would mail out flyers assuring the fugitives that they had won a marvelous prize. When they came to collect, they would be arrested. This was a safe and easy way to round up known criminals since arresting them at their homes was dangerous and inefficient.

In Buffalo, New York, fugitives were told they won a $10,000 lottery. In New York City, they were told they had to pick up a “valuable package” that had been delivered. Also relevant to “Trap,” convicts in Hartford, Connecticut were promised two free tickets to see Boy George in concert. All told, the widespread sting operation captured 3,309 criminals.

It was Operation Flagship, however — with the promise of tickets to the 1985 Redskins/Bengals game — that resulted in the largest concentrated number of arrests. Amusingly, one of the chief architects of the scheme, Tobias P. Roche, inserted multiple little clues that would have tipped off an observant criminal. The fake name he chose to put on the game invitation was I. Michael Detnaw, which is “Wanted” backwards. The “business manager” in the scheme was named Markus Cran, which is “narc” backwards.

The sting also involved hundreds of marshals, cops, and other law enforcement agents who dressed as ushers, cheerleaders, mascots, and stadium employees. They all had to remain in character. It wasn’t just effective. It sounds weirdly fun.

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