A US Department of Homeland Security official who fled his post in South Korea is wanted in California in connection with a 240,000-dollar wire fraud, according to a statement seen Monday.
Dario Tomas, 51, was charged on Friday by a federal grand jury with defrauding investors by falsely promising to open a computer training school in the Philippines, said the statement from the US attorney's office in San Diego.
The offence is punishable by up to 20 years' imprisonment, according to the statement which gave Tomas's address as Oceanside in California.
"Tomas recently fled his post in Korea and his whereabouts are presently unknown," the news release said.
He is accused of creating fake email accounts to send messages to investors to make it appear that the project was progressing, and falsely advising them by telephone of the progress of the school.
Tomas was based in the southeastern port city of Busan and was involved in a security initiative to check containers, a police officer at the city's Haeundae station told AFP.
The US citizen of Filipino descent fled to the Philippines on March 3 just two days before he was to be stripped of diplomatic immunity, the officer said.
The US statement did not make it clear where the victims of the alleged fraud are located.
Busan police are investigating claims that Tomas swindled a local widow out of 220 million won (194,000 dollars) between September 2007 and June last year by asking her to invest in the computer school.
The money she lost had been left by her American husband who died in a traffic accident, the officer told AFP on condition of anonymity, describing the case as "outrageous."
"We have worked closely with Korean authorities on the case and will continue to do so till we have resolved the situation," said US embassy spokesman Aaron Tarver.
"The Department of Homeland Security employee departed the country without informing the embassy and is currently absent without leave."
Tarver declined comment on whether the man's diplomatic status has been officially revoked.
Police said they would seek Interpol's help in locating him.