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Crime

US Marshals offer $5,000 reward for 'affluenza teen' turned fugitive

A payday awaits anyone who can help the U.S. Marshals service find an infamous teen who is suspected of violating his probation and possibly fleeing the country.

Agents are offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the whereabouts or arrest of Ethan Couch, the 18-year-old Texan who is known as the “affluenza teen.”

“Every person who carries a badge in the United States of America is aware he’s a fugitive,” Terry Grisham, a spokesman for the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office said.

“You can run, but you’re always going to be looking over your shoulder,” the sheriff said of Couch, according to CNN. “We’re not going to give up. We’re going to come after you. We’re going to find you, wherever you are.”

Couch first made headlines in 2013 when he avoided jail time for a DUI manslaughter conviction that killed four people after his lawyers successfully argued that the teen’s privilege kept him from knowing right from wrong. Couch’s family is reported to be worth millions, thanks in part to a booming sheet metal business. It’s their success – and the way they have handled it – that Couch’s attorneys argued contributed to the teen’s reckless behavior.

Couch was sentenced to 10 years of probation but failed to appear at a Dec. 11 hearing after a video emerged claiming to show him playing beer pong.

An arrest warrant for the Fort Worth area teenager was issued the same day.

When authorities dropped by the teenager’s house that he shared with his mother, they found the home empty except for a pinball machine, according to the New York Daily News.

The U.S. Marshals Service joined the search for Couch this week, and the FBI has been in contact with local authorities to see how the agency can assist.

“If we [had] a top 10 wanted list today, he’s number one,” Anderson told ABC News.

A wanted poster released by the U.S. Marshal’s described Couch as a 5-foot-7, 130-pound teenager with strawberry blond hair, green eyes and a back tattoo.

Authorities are trying to determine where Couch is and are worried he may have left the country. He is still a juvenile under the Texas legal system, according to the Dallas Morning News. Also missing is, Tonya Couch, the teen’s mother.

“With the wealth and the wherewithal that his family has, it’s going to be a tough assignment for us to find him,” Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson told the Morning News.

“It’s one of those times when you hate to say ‘I told you so,’ but I told you so,” Anderson added. “I knew he was going to end up in more trouble.”

The hunt for Couch has rallied people beyond law enforcement. Colleen Sheehey-Church, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, issued a public plea asking people to keep their eyes peeled for the fugitive.

“Affluenza aside, Ethan Couch appears to show blatant disregard for the law, and he must be held accountable,” Sheehey-Church said in a prepared statement issued Wednesday. “The families impacted will never have their loved ones back. Ethan Couch must have consequences for his actions.”

The night of the crash that first landed Couch in legal trouble, his blood-alcohol level was three times the adult driving limit, and there were traces of Valium and marijuana in his system. The teenager was driving more than 70 mph when he slammed a into a broken-down car on the side of the road.

The crash killed four people working on the disabled car. Two of Couch’s friends were critically injured, and another was paralyzed.

The carnage “looked more like a plane crash than a car wreck,” a Tarrant County Sheriff’s deputy later recalled.

This time around, Couch’s defense team told the Morning News that it has not been in contact with their missing client.

Authorities suggested to the paper that they’re anxiously awaiting seeing Couch in custody.

“Any mess-ups from now on, he’s going to be over with us,” Terry Grisham, spokesman for the Tarrant County sheriff’s office told the Morning News. “He’s going to see what the big-boy jail is like.”

© 2015, The Washington Post

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