January 19, 2009 / 9:45 PM / 9 years ago

Pilot accused of trying to fake death is jailed

MIAMI (Reuters) - A pilot accused of attempting to avoid financial fraud charges by faking his death has been transferred from a hospital bed to a jail cell in northern Florida, authorities said on Monday.

Marcus Schrenker, 38, parachuted out of his plane over Alabama and let it crash in Florida a week ago, investigators said. He was arrested a day later at a campsite and taken to a hospital with wounds to his wrists that apparently resulted from a suicide attempt.

Police said Schrenker was transferred on Sunday to the Escambia County Jail in Pensacola from a hospital in Florida’s capital, Tallahassee, He faces federal charges of making a false distress call and purposely crashing a plane.

Schrenker was wanted in Indiana on financial fraud charges alleging he misled consumers who invested money in his wealth management companies and misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars of their money.

Last Monday, he radioed a distress call from his single-engine Piper, reporting that the plane’s cracked windshield had imploded and that he was bleeding profusely.

Authorities dispatched two rescue helicopters, a Coast Guard cutter and two military F-15 fighter jets. When the jets caught up with the plane, the windshield was intact, the door was open and there was no sign of the pilot, investigators said.

The Piper crashed in a swampy wooded area north of Milton, Florida. When rescuers reached the scene, they found evidence including a book of campsites in America missing its pages on Alabama and Florida, and a bullet-point list scribbled on the back of a book that read: “cracked windshield, window imploded, bleeding profusely,” a court affidavit said.

No one was injured and no structures were damaged in the crash, investigators said.

Schrenker parachuted safely to the ground near the Alabama city of Harpersville, got a police officer to give him a ride to a hotel and then fled, police said. He previously stashed a motorcycle near the hotel and got away before local police learned of the plane crash.

He was arrested last Tuesday at a campground in the north Florida town of Quincy.

Reporting by Jim Loney; Editing by Peter Cooney

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