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Page last updated at 14:51 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

US 'fake death businessman' found

A single-engine Piper Malibu Meridian flown by Marcus Schrenker is seen after having crashed in East Milton, Florida
The plane crashed near Milton, Florida, close to several homes

A US businessman suspected of faking his own death in a plane crash is in custody after he was found alive at a Florida camping ground.

Marcus Schrenker, accused of stealing millions from investors, was treated in hospital for self-inflicted cuts.

He was semi-conscious and apparently resisting first aid when found.

It is thought he parachuted out of his company aeroplane after making a fake distress call, leaving the plane to crash in north-western Florida.

The Indiana businessman was arrested on Tuesday night at a campsite in Quincy, northern Florida.

Police officer Frank Chiumento said Mr Schrenker had a self-inflicted gash to his left wrist and a puncture wound near his elbow.

Both were thought to be self-inflicted but investigations were continuing, he told ABC's Good Morning America programme.

He was quoted by Associated Press as saying the wrist injury which was "very serious at the time," and required medical attention as he was "bleeding profusely."

Map

Mr Chiumento told ABC that Mr Schrenker was drifting in and out of consciousness and spoke to police as they tried to help him.

"He muttered 'die' at one time, as if to say that he didn't want the first aid that we were rendering to him."

The 38-year-old, who had already been ordered by a court to pay out $533,500 (366,500), faces a possible jail sentence if found guilty on charges of securities fraud.

His wife, Michelle, has filed for divorce, saying that Marcus Schrenker was having an affair.

Stashed motorbike

Mr Schrenker was the only person aboard a single engine Piper plane that took off for Florida on Sunday from Anderson, Indiana.

When the authorities received a distress call from the pilot as he flew over Alabama, a rescue operation was launched.

Two military planes were scrambled and they found Mr Schrenker's plane flying on autopilot, with its door open and no sign of the pilot.

The plane then crashed in a swampy area near Milton, Florida, close to several homes.

But investigators said the wreckage showed no signs of blood or a smashed windshield.

The Indiana businessman is thought to have sped off on a motorcycle he had hidden in the pine barrens of central Alabama.

A man with Mr Schrenker's identification apparently checked into a hotel in Alabama after the crash, telling police he had been in a canoeing accident, before being seen running away into nearby woods.

Investigators believe Mr Schrenker's plan was to let the plane crash into the Gulf of Mexico, but the plane ran out of fuel first.

Police search

The Indiana Department of Insurance filed a complaint against Mr Schrenker last January on behalf of seven investors who claimed he cost them more than $250,000 because he never told them they would face high fees to switch annuities.

The office of Marcus Schrenker in McCordsville, Indiana
Authorities say Mr Schrenker was desperate to avoid a prison sentence

A hearing in the case was scheduled for next week.

On Tuesday, prosecutors alleged Mr Schrenker had been advising clients even though his licence expired on 31 December.

A judge ordered him to be arrested on financial fraud charges.

Authorities in Indiana have been probing Mr Schrenker's financial management businesses - Heritage Wealth Management Inc, Heritage Insurance Services Inc and Icon Wealth Management - for possible securities violations, said Jim Gavin, spokesman for Indiana's secretary of state.

Officers searched Mr Schrenker's home on 31 December looking for computers, notes, photographs and other documents related to those companies, said Mr Gavin.

On Friday, two days before the crash, a federal judge in Maryland issued a $533,500 judgment against Heritage Wealth Management Inc, in favour of a life insurance company.

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SEE ALSO
US businessman 'fakes own death'
13 Jan 09 |  Americas

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