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US fraud suspect caught with $70,000 in boots

A suspect in a nationwide mortgage fraud scheme who fled America was caught at the Canadian border with $1 million in Swiss bank certificates and $70,000 stuffed in his cowboy boots.

world Updated: Feb 13, 2009 00:26 IST

A suspect in a nationwide mortgage fraud scheme who fled America was caught at the Canadian border with $1 million in Swiss bank certificates and $70,000 stuffed in his cowboy boots, authorities said Wednesday.

Christopher J Warren, 27, also was carrying four ounces of platinum valued at $1,420 an ounce when he was arrested early Wednesday while entering the United States at Buffalo, New York. After he disappeared Feb. 3, Warren was charged with conspiracy, fraud and conducting a continuing financial crime. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

Warren is the second of three fugitives to be caught in the ongoing fraud investigation of Loomis Wealth Solutions, a Roseville, California-based investment company, and several related companies. Court documents alleged they defrauded investors and mortgage companies of $100 million since 2006. The fraudulent deals involved 500 homes and condominiums in California, Florida, Nevada, Illinois, Colorado and Arizona, according to Internal Revenue Service affidavits.

Warren flew to Ireland on Feb. 3 on a chartered private jet, then traveled to Lebanon and Canada, acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown said. Immigration officials were on the lookout for him when he took a taxi from Toronto to the border at Buffalo.

Authorities believe Warren also had brought to Lebanon $4 million to $5 million in gold, which he had shown some of the flight crew, but that has not been recovered, Brown said.

"He's a man of high style _ all of it ill-gotten," the prosecutor said.

Brown also said Warren was carrying two fake passports with an alias, and authorities previously said he had obtained a passport with another name and indicated he planned to go to Mexico. Warren had an initial court appearance in Buffalo on Wednesday, Brown said. He was represented by a federal public defender, Roxanne Mendez Johnson, who declined comment.

Don Heller, Warren's lawyer in Sacramento, said he was disappointed that his client chose to flee, adding: "I think he will now pay the price."

On Tuesday, authorities announced that a second suspect in the case, Garret Griffith Gililland III, 27, of Chico, had been apprehended in Spain in October. He is fighting extradition to the U.S.

Authorities are still looking for Scott Cavell, 25, of Sacramento, who they said fled the country a day after Warren left. Brown said the investigation into the mortgage scheme was ongoing.