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Fake plane death businessman cuffed in Florida

Light aircraft bail-out masterplan ends in attempted suicide

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The US financial advisor who attempted to fake his own death in a light aircraft crash has been arrested at a Florida campsite following an apparent suicide attempt, CNN reports.

Marcus Schrenker, 38, left Anderson, Indiana, on Sunday in a Piper PA-46 en route for Destin, Florida. Over Alabama, he sent a distress call saying the aircraft's windscreen had "imploded" and that he was bleeding.

Two military aircraft were scrambled to assist, but found the plane flying on autopilot, with its door open and no sign of the pilot. It subsequently crashed in a swamp near East Milton, Florida, "missing a group of homes by only 50 to 75 yards", according to the local Santa Rosa County sheriff's office.

Investigators discovered no evidence of blood and an intact windscreen, raising strong suspicions that Schrenker had bailed out of the aircraft.

Schrenker did indeed turn up at a house in Childersburg, Alabama, a few hours after the crash, claiming he'd been in a canoeing accident. A resident gave the fugitive a lift into town, where "police made contact with him, identifying him through his FAA pilot's license".

Officers took Schrenker to a hotel in nearby Harpersville, unaware of the crash. As soon as they got wind of the news, they returned to find Schrenker "had checked in under a fictitious name and was gone".

Schrenker had in fact made good his escape on "a 2008 red Yamaha street bike" he'd previously hidden at a rented storage unit in Harpersville. Investigators "found the unit empty of the motorcycle and with some wet clothes left behind".

The businessman's flight from justice ended yesterday when he was arrested at a campsite near Quincy, Florida, suffering "deep cuts on his wrists", as the Florida-based US Marshals Service put it. He was put under guard at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.

An Indiana judge on Monday froze the assets of Schrenker, his wife and three of his companies - Heritage Wealth Management, Heritage Insurance Services and Icon Wealth Management. These are "the subjects of an active investigation by the Indiana Securities Division" amid allegations that Schrenker "defrauded several investors".

CNN has more details here and a video report here. ®

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