By JOSH NEWTON
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. —
Authorities in Cherokee County should know next Monday whether a Tahlequah man who allegedly fled to Florida to avoid felony prosecution will fight extradition.
Roxie Lee Wagers, 71, was captured by U.S. marshals at a residence south of Fort Lauderdale Tuesday. He is jailed in Broward County, Fla., and is set to appear before a judge Jan. 14, when he could decide whether to fight extradition to Oklahoma.
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Investigator James Brown, a special deputy U.S. marshal, said if Wagers doesn’t fight extradition, authorities will begin planning their trip to retrieve him and bring him back to Oklahoma.
Wagers is charged in Cherokee County with nine felony counts of lewd molestation and one count of attempted solicitation of a minor for indecent exposure. Prosecutors allege Wagers – a local businessman known for his barbecue and entertainment venue on State Highway 10 – began sexually molesting a 9-year-old girl in 2006.
Tahlequah Detective Thomas Donnell said there are two other potential victims, though formal charges are based on the alleged molestation of one victim. Authorities have said Wagers confessed to the allegations in an audio recording made while he spoke to one victim’s father, and then offered to pay $17,000 to keep the allegations secret.
When an investigation was opened into Wagers, he allegedly fled Oklahoma. A judge froze Wagers’ bank account last week after authorities received information he might try to flee the country.
One of Wagers’ Florida neighbors contacted the Daily Press Wednesday and said he was present when U.S. marshals arrested Wagers at a Florida apartment complex. The man said he was “shocked” to learn of the charges Wagers is facing in Cherokee County.
Wagers moved into the apartment complex sometime in December, the man said, though investigators know Wagers was in the area as early as November.
The man said Wagers seemed to be “a nice guy,” and claimed to be in the Hollywood, Fla., area on vacation. But Wagers also scoped out what he told his neighbors could be potential business locations, and would send information to someone back in Oklahoma. He and a friend, whom he had known and worked with in Oklahoma, talked of opening a barbecue joint in Florida, the neighbor said. That friend also lives in Florida, and owns some type of business in Bogota, Colombia, where he would travel about every month to pick up what the neighbor said was described as “business money.”
Wagers talked about wanting to travel to Jamaica, Cuba, and Colombia, and also wanted to get a boat and perhaps go to Key West, the neighbor said.
Although he had his truck hauled from Oklahoma to Florida, Wagers never drove it; he told others he’d lost his driver’s license and wallet. Instead, he would walk or occasionally catch a ride, the man said.
“He’d come out every morning at 5:30 or 6, go get Cuban coffee, or go to the Hollywood beach, or go eat lunch,” said the neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous. “He would go to the supermarket, or go to the park, but he never drove his own truck. And he lived by himself.”
The neighbor said Wagers also used a pay-by-the-minute cellular phone, claiming something had happened to his smartphone, and always had his passport in his pocket. Wagers had about $4,500 in cash when he was arrested Tuesday.
Authorities learned Wagers purchased a ticket on Dec. 31, 2012, from Florida to Bogota, Colombia, but didn’t catch that flight. Investigators believe if Wagers had flown to Colombia, he would have been protected by authorities there, who wouldn’t extradite him back to the U.S.
Wagers would frequently make barbecue for his neighbors, and had, on at least one occasion, received a box of spices from someone in Oklahoma, the man said.
“He’d cook that pork, make us all sandwiches and chips and all that stuff,” the man said.
Wagers also recently received $10,000 from an Oklahoma source – something the neighbor said he learned from authorities in Florida after Wagers’ arrest Tuesday.
The man said other neighbors were equally surprised when they saw Wagers handcuffed by Florida authorities.
“We said, ‘Roxie, what’s going on?’” the man said. “He said it was good while it lasted, the friendship. We were all like a family. There are mostly single men here, only a few couples, and most of us are retired. We didn’t know he was wanted; the marshals told us. We would have turned him in. We couldn’t believe it.”
The investigation is ongoing and authorities in Cherokee County have said Wagers could face charges for fleeing the state in an alleged attempt to avoid prosecution.