Investor's troubles mount as federal charges filed
Published: Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 10:08 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 10:08 a.m.
CHATTAHOOCHEE, Fla. — A road atlas and campground directory discovered in the airplane cockpit of an Indiana financial manager helped lead authorities to the remote North Florida campsite where he was finally arrested.
In an affidavit supporting the federal charges filed Wednesday against 38-year-old Marcus Schrenker, investigators who searched the empty cockpit after the plane crashed said they found a 50-state U.S. road atlas with the Alabama and Florida pages removed. They also found a national campground directory with the same two states' listings torn out.
Schrenker was arrested late Tuesday night when U.S. Marshals found him semiconscious inside a tent at the Florida campground, muttering the word "die" as he bled from a self-inflicted gash to his left wrist. His arrest ended a dramatic three-day run from personal and financial ruin that saw Schrenker parachute from his plane in an apparent attempt to stage his death, then flee on a motorcycle he'd stashed in rural Alabama.
Schrenker was recovering Thursday in a heavily guarded hospital room after the apparent suicide attempt. He was in fair condition, and was expected to appear in court in Florida 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.
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," Wilson said. "Someone parachuting out of a plane to avoid capture as a fugitive. It's certainly not the run of the mill case for us."
Investigators had not previously disclosed how they tracked Schrenker to the leafy campground, but the affidavit offered new clues on the search.
"On the back of one of the books was what appeared to be a list containing bullet summary points which included the following: 'cracked wind shield, window imploded, bleeding profusely' or words to that effect," the affidavit said.
When Schrenker made the distress call from his plane Sunday, he claimed the windshield had shattered and that he was covered in blood. But when investigators found the wreckage the window was not broken and there was no blood.
Campground owners Troy and Caroline Hastings said they first heard from law enforcement when the sheriff called late Tuesday and asked if anything odd was going on. Troy Hastings mentioned a camper who had checked in the night before, and the sheriff asked if they could identify him.
Caroline Hastings didn't need to look at a picture long to know it was Schrenker — and soon, authorities swarmed the grounds and found him bloodied and barely conscious inside the tent.
Schrenker had hardly lurked in the shadows, approaching local police in Alabama before hopping on the 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 the 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.
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."
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