Bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman says U.S. officials may have sold him out to Mexico in exchange for a convicted drug lord.
Chapman, the star of A&E's "Dog the Bounty Hunter," was arrested last week by U.S. marshals during an early morning raid on his Hawaii home on charges related to his 2003 capture of fugitive rapist Andrew Luster.
Mexico - where bounty hunting is illegal - claims Chapman jumped bail after being charged with illegally detaining Luster in June 2003.
But Dog and his family have suggested that he may have been nabbed as part of a prisoner exchange between U.S. and Mexican authorities - specifically, Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, a Mexican drug lord who is alleged to have run the Tijuana drug cartel and is wanted in the U.S.
Felix was transferred into U.S. custody last week - two days before U.S. marshals took Chapman, son Leland and business partner Tim Chapman (no relation) into custody on orders from the Mexican authorities.
The U.S. Department of Justice says Chapman is barking up the wrong tree.
"There is no connection," DOJ spokesman Bryan Sierra told The Post yesterday. "That is just complete speculation from someone who wouldn't know."
A source close to the case says that the timing of Felix's extradition is curious.
"[Chapman] might in good faith think there's a connection, but no facts have been presented to his legal team at this point where we would make that assertion," Chapman's lawyer, Brook Hart, said yesterday.
"As a private citizen under his circumstances, we understand why he's thinking there might be a connection, but at this point, whether there is one or isn't one is not terribly important."
A new special about last week's arrest will air tonight (10 p.m.) on A&E.
Felix, who has a lengthy rap sheet - including charges ranging from dealing cocaine to murder - spent 10 years behind bars in a Mexican prison.
He was supposed to be released in 2004, but was held pending a final resolution of a U.S. extradition request.
Chapman, who is out on $300,000 bail, said on yesterday's "Today" show that if he goes to prison in Mexico, he will be killed by inmates avenging the thousands of fleeing felons he's brought to justice.
"I won't last two days," he said.