Investor's troubles mount as federal charges filed

 Light snow falls on the home of missing Indiana businessman Marcus Schrenker in McCordsville, Ind., Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009. Federal marshals on Tuesd...

Plane Crash Mystery

Light snow falls on the home of missing Indiana businessman Marcus Schrenker in McCordsville, Ind., Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009. Federal marshals on Tuesd...

The avalanche of legal and personal problems tumbling onto a brazen investor grew with the addition of federal charges that he faked a distress call and crashed his plane in an attempt to foil authorities.
The charges were announced Wednesday as Marcus Schrenker, 38, recovered in a heavily guarded hospital room after an apparent suicide attempt. His three-day run from the law _ and impending financial and personal ruin _ ended late Tuesday night when U.S. Marshals found him semiconscious inside a tent at a Florida campground, muttering the word "die" as he bled from a self-inflicted gash to his left wrist.
Scott Wilson, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Northern District of Florida, said Schrenker was charged with intentionally wrecking the aircraft and faking a distress call, which forced the Coast Guard to launch a costly and unnecessary search-and-rescue effort. Schrenker may have to pay at least $5,100 for the boats and helicopters used in the search.
"It's certainly something right out of Hollywood. Someone parachuting out of a plane to avoid capture as a fugitive. It's certainly not the run of the mill case for us," Wilson said.
Schrenker was expected to appear in court in Florida this week before returning to his home state of Indiana, where he faced the prospect of bankruptcy, divorce and other problems even before his ill-fated flight.
It remained a mystery how investigators tracked Schrenker to end the multi-state search after he parachuted from the plane over Alabama. But he hardly lurked in the shadows, approaching local police in Alabama before hopping on a flashy red motorcycle he had hidden in a storage unit. He even e-mailed a friend, saying the whole situation was a misunderstanding.
He rode that motorcycle to a tree-lined campground Monday night, telling the owners he was traveling across the country with friends. Schrenker didn't give his name but paid cash for a tent site, firewood and a six-pack of Bud Light Lime. He was also given a password to use wireless Internet.
The next day, campground owner Caroline Hastings and her husband, Troy, grew suspicious when Schrenker hadn't checked out.
"Are you OK? Planning to spend another night?" Troy Hastings asked outside Schrenker's tent, noticing a red stain on one an outer flap. Schrenker said he was OK and promised to pay later.
He didn't come.
Later, the couple were making dinner when the sheriff called and asked if anything odd was going on. Troy Hastings mentioned the camper, and the sheriff asked if they could identify him. Caroline Hastings didn't need to look at a picture long to know it was him _ and soon, authorities swarmed the grounds and found him bloodied and barely conscious.
Schrenker will likely face a parade of legal proceedings in the coming months. Already, he has been charged with acting as a financial manager even though his license had expired in Indiana. State regulators also have filed complaints against him that he unfairly charged seven investors some $250,000 in exorbitant fees he didn't tell them about when they switched annuities.
It wasn't clear if Schrenker had obtained an attorney, and no one answered the door Wednesday at his Indiana home.
When Schrenker took off from Indiana, he already faced some $9 million or more in potential and actual court judgments and legal claims, according to a review of court documents by The Associated Press. And according to a letter he wrote in early December, he was planning to file for bankruptcy.
"It needs to be known that I am financially insolvent," Schrenker, with two personal bankruptcies already behind him, wrote in a letter in early December. "I am intending on filing bankruptcy in 2009 should my financial conditions continue to deteriorate."
Things did get worse, and investigators say that's when Schrenker took another way out by apparently trying to stage his death.
"I have personally lost all hope," Schrenker wrote to his attorney in December, regarding an Alabama case in which a man sued him claiming he unknowingly purchased a damaged aircraft from Schrenker in 2002. "I don't think that there is a good person left in this world."
Associated Press Writers Devlin Barrett in Washington, Melissa Nelson in Pensacola, Fla., Rick Callahan, Ken Kusmer and Jeni O'Malley in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

Updated : 2021-04-15 20:00 GMT+08:00