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Page last updated at 21:55 GMT, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 22:55 UK

International conman held in US

Juan Carlos Guzman-Betancourt
Guzman-Betancort is likely to be deported to Colombia

A Colombian man who has spent his life stealing from rich hotel guests has been arrested in the US state of Vermont near the border with Canada.

Juan Carlos Guzman-Betancourt was detained after attempting to cross the border illegally.

He has used at least 10 aliases, and has been wanted in Canada, Colombia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Thailand and Venezuela, according to reports.

In 2005, he escaped from a UK prison after a trip to a dentist.

Prosecutors have compared him to confidence trickster Frank Abagnale Jr, who was the subject of the film "Catch Me If You Can".

Orphan

A US Border Patrol agent, responding to a tip-off, arrested him after he had walked across the border into Vermont.

Guzman-Betancourt told the agent that he had inadvertently crossed the border to seek help for a broken-down car, according to an affidavit.

He was carrying a Spanish passport in the name of Jordi Ejarque-Rodriguez containing stamps from Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman.

His true identity was later revealed using fingerprint analysis.

He is a highly accomplished liar - plausible, believable and very professional
Detective Sgt Andy Swindells

His first reported con took place in 1993, when he was discovered on the runway at Miami airport claiming to be a 13-year-old orphan who had hung on to the plane's landing gear on a flight from Colombia.

His case became a local sensation, and he soon began receiving gifts and donations, until it was revealed that he was really 17, and that his parents were still alive.

Since then, his scams have tended to take place in luxury hotels around the world.

Typically, he would arrive at a hotel, claim to be a guest, and then tell security that he had forgotten the combination code to his safe.

When hotel staff helped him to open the safe, he would pocket the contents and make his escape.

Court records show that Guzman-Betancourt has been deported from the US on three separate occasions.

In 2005, a British court sentenced him to three and a half years in prison for stealing jewellery worth £150,000, cash and other goods over six years.

But after serving just two months of his sentence, he persuaded prison authorities to let him go to a dental appointment unaccompanied, and never returned.

"He is a highly accomplished liar - plausible, believable and very professional," testified Detective Sgt Andy Swindells at his UK trial.

"He commits these offences for a living and is, therefore, incredibly well versed in identity theft, hotel and foreign travel."

Following his arrest in Vermont, he now faces removal to Colombia, officials said.



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