January 14, 2009 / 5:31 AM / 11 years ago

U.S. arrests wealth manager accused of faking death

MIAMI (Reuters) - U.S. marshals have arrested a pilot accused of parachuting out of his plane and letting it crash in an apparent attempt to avoid financial fraud prosecution by faking his death, an investigator said late on Tuesday.

The pilot, Marcus Schrenker, 38, was arrested late on Tuesday at a campsite in the north Florida town of Quincy, Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Haines said by e-mail.

Details of the arrest were sketchy and Haines could not confirm local media reports that Schrenker was hospitalized after cutting his wrists in an apparent suicide attempt.

Schrenker was the only person aboard the small plane that took off for Florida on Sunday from Anderson, Indiana.

Investigators said that as the plane flew over Alabama the pilot made a fake emergency call, then put the plane on autopilot and parachuted out.

The empty plane crashed in a swampy area a few hundred yards (meters) from several homes near the northwest Florida city of Milton. No one was injured and no structures were damaged, investigators said.

Schrenker parachuted safely to the ground near the Alabama city of Harpersville on Sunday night, got a police officer to give him a ride to a hotel and then fled, investigators said.

He had previously stashed a motorcycle near that hotel and got away before local police learned of the plane crash, police and local media reported.

Schrenker was wanted in Indiana on financial fraud charges alleging he misled consumers who invested money in his wealth management companies and misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars of their money.

Reporting by Jane Sutton, editing by Philip Barbara

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