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Captured fugitive not first to make complaints about California-based transport company

FARGO - Joseph Megna said a forced diet of "bread and cheese" drove him to flee the transport van that was taking him westward to face criminal charges in Washington state.

Joseph Megna
Convicted sex offender Joseph Megna talks to the reporters following his capture in October 2011 in Tower City, N.D. Megna, accused of fleeing a private transport company's van Tuesday while being moved from Florida to Washington state, was found in a cornfield after farmers and officials worked together to flush him out. Michael Vosburg / The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead / Forum Communications

FARGO - Joseph Megna said a forced diet of "bread and cheese" drove him to flee the transport van that was taking him westward to face criminal charges in Washington state.

After the high-risk sex offender surrendered to local authorities in a rural cornfield near Tower City, his reason was simple:

"I was starving, and that's why I escaped," Megna said. "I wasn't trying to hurt anybody; I was just trying to get out of that transport vehicle."

Megna isn't the first to make such claims after being in the care of Extradition Transport of America, a private contractor based in Riverside, Calif.

A search of federal court records by The Forum revealed at least four prisoners formerly in ETA's care have sued the company since January 2010, each independently alleging ETA violated their basic civil rights.


Two of those cases were dismissed after the prisoners didn't keep current addresses on file with the local federal courts.

The remaining two cases - filed in Missouri and California - are pending.

The details of each complaint are eerily identical, even though the incidents occurred at separate times all across the country.

A secretary at the company's Riverside office declined to provide any comment to The Forum and refused to leave a message for owner Billy Taylor.

According to court records, the allegations by former prisoners transported by ETA include:

Spending days on end shackled inside transport vehicles.

James Rickey, who sued ETA in California in June, said he spent 10 straight days bound by painfully tight restraints en route from Nevada to Missouri.

Rickey claims ETA employees refused his multiple requests for a chance to rest, the ability to stretch his legs or the chance for a shower or just to wash his hands.


He said ETA's transport crisscrossed the entire U.S. after more than two dozen stops in at least 11 states, including California and New Jersey.

Malnutrition and lack of medical care.

Bradford Hines, who filed suit against ETA last month in Texas, said each meal cost $2 or less and included a small glass of water and either two breakfast sandwiches or two cheeseburgers.

Hines said he suffers from severe ulcer and acid reflux conditions and was denied access to necessary medications.

Physical danger due to unsafe conditions.

Hines alleges ETA failed to properly maintain its vehicles, which endangered the prisoners.

Hines claims the van that transported him broke down multiple times, and ETA management refused to pay for tow-trucks or full repairs on the vehicles.

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