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US man charged over 'faked death'

Marcus Schrenker
Mr Schrenker was the only person aboard the single engine plane

A US businessman who apparently tried to fake his own death because of mounting financial problems has been charged by US federal authorities.

Marcus Schrenker, 38, was charged with faking a distress call from the air and intentionally wrecking his plane.

He was found on Tuesday by rescuers in Florida - three days after his distress call saying his plane's windscreen had imploded and he was bleeding.

Officials suspect he parachuted from his plane, letting it crash in a swamp.

Mr Schrenker's financial management companies are reportedly under investigation and he owes $500,000 to an insurance company.

'Crash plan'

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

Map

When the authorities received the 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.

Mr Schrenker was later found at a campground in north Florida. Reports said he had slashed his wrists.

The investigators believe his plan was to let the plane crash into the Gulf of Mexico, but the plane ran out of fuel first.

Authorities in Indiana have been probing Mr Schrenker's financial management businesses for possible securities violations, said Jim Gavin, spokesman for Indiana's secretary of state.

A single-engine Piper Malibu Meridian flown by Marcus Schrenker is seen after having crashed in East Milton, Florida
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 (367,000) judgment against one of Mr Schrenker's firms, in favour of a life insurance company.

Earlier this week, prosecutors alleged that Mr Schrenker had been advising clients even though his license had expired on 31 December. A judge ordered him arrested on financial fraud charges.

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

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