July 6, 2010 in News
‘Barefoot Bandit’ charged in Idaho plane theft
A teen bandit accused of airplane, boat and car heists from the San Juan Islands to the tropics has been charged with last fall’s theft of a single-engine plane in Bonners Ferry.
Although long considered a suspect in the case, a criminal complaint formally charging Colton Harris-Moore was unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, the same day federal agents scoured the Bahamas for the teen after a plane stolen in Indiana crash-landed in shallow waters near a remote island there.
The complaint accuses the 19-year-old of stealing a $340,000 turbo Cessna 182 on Sept. 29 from the Boundary County Airport in Bonners Ferry, then crash-landing it near Granite Falls, Wash., after it ran out of fuel.
Investigators found bare footprints – Harris-Moore’s signature method of operation – at the North Idaho airport and at the crash scene. They believe the fugitive burglarized an airport in Creston, B.C., before stealing the Cessna, which was owned by a Bonners Ferry cattle rancher.
DNA evidence links Harris-Moore to the theft, according to the complaint. Investigators also found evidence from other thefts at a campsite about four miles from the wreckage, including a gun stolen from the Creston airport.
While bounty hunters in Western Washington have offered to give Harris-Moore $50,000 for legal fees if he turns himself in, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has offered a $10,000 reward for tips that help capture him. The U.S. Embassy in Bahamas on Tuesday urged anyone who sees the teen to call local police.
The teen, who escaped from a halfway house near Seattle in April 2008 and has no formal flight training, gained international fame as the Barefoot Bandit after stories of his barefoot exploits were picked up by national news networks.
Authorities began tracking him through the Midwest last month after a series of burglaries and car thefts moved from northeastern Oregon and into Nebraska.
Police in Yankton, S.D., confirmed last week that Harris-Moore’s fingerprints were found at a burglary scene in which the culprit shaved or cut his hair in the home. A car stolen in the town turned up 60 miles south in Norfolk, Neb., two days later, then a car stolen from a nearby airport was found 240 miles east in Pella, Iowa.
Police in Nebraska issued an arrest warrant last week after surveillance cameras captured images of him at the airport the same day the car was stolen.
The last trace of Harris-Moore in Washington state was over Memorial Day weekend, when he left $100 at a veterinary clinic in the southwestern town of Raymond along with a note that said: “Drove by, had some extra cash. Please use this money for the care of animals Colton Harris-Moore (AKA: ‘The Barefoot Bandit’) Camano Island, WA.”
About that same time, a boat stolen in southwest Washington turned up in Warrenton, Ore., where police believe Harris-Moore may be responsible for a series of burglaries on June 1.
Authorities tracked Harris-Moore to the Bahamas on Sunday after a 2009 Cessna 400 Corvalis stolen in Indiana crashed more than 1,000 miles away in shallow waters off the sparsely populated northern Bahamian island of Abaco. By the time rescuers arrived Sunday, nobody was inside. Police were handing out wanted posters Tuesday appealing for information about Harris-Moore.
A statement on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Nassau said Harris-Moore may have recent injuries and urged anyone who sees him to contact the nearest Bahamas police station.
The Cessna in question has a range of more than 1,400 miles with a full tank of gas.
It was reported missing Sunday after the owner received a call from the U.S. Coast Guard that the emergency locator transmitter on the plane was sending out a beacon signal off the coast of the Bahamas, said Monroe County Airport manager Bruce Payton
Payton said it was unclear how the thief got into the airport, which has a 10-foot security fence with barbed wire and coded access gates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.