NEW YORK – The girlfriend of a missing hedge fund swindler who police say faked his own suicide was arrested and charged with helping him dodge prison the day he was supposed to start a 20-year sentence.
Debra Ryan, of Armonk, was charged Thursday with aiding and abetting the escape of Samuel Israel III, who scrawled a cryptic note in the dust on his SUV hood about suicide and left the vehicle on a Hudson River bridge.
A federal nationwide alert was issued for Israel, 48, believed to be driving and living out of a white RV.
The complaint against Ryan indicates that Israel may have taken off in a recreational vehicle packed with his belongings and carrying a motor scooter. The day after he was supposed to surrender, Ryan told state police she found a suicide note written by Israel, the complaint said.
On Thursday, Ryan acknowledged that she helped Israel attach a motor scooter to the back of an RV and helped him pack it with his belongings, according to the complaint.
She told authorities that on the day Israel was to surrender, she drove her car and he drove the RV to a rest area about 55 miles north of New York City. Israel parked the RV there, and the two drove back to their home, the complaint says, quoting Ryan.
The complaint had no other information about what happened later that day.
Israel was supposed to turn himself in to prison officials June 9 but never showed up. Authorities say he abandoned his sport utility vehicle on a Hudson River bridge, with the ominous words "Suicide is Painless" etched in dust on the hood to make it appear he had jumped and then disappeared.
No body was found beneath the 150-foot-high bridge, and authorities said they believed the scene was yet another of Israel's scams.
Federal officials issued a nationwide alert for the missing hedge fund swindler, who is believed to still be in the area and living in the white 2007 Coachman Freelancer RV he's been driving, the New York Post reported.
The New York license plate on the motor home is EEN-5973; the vehicle could have a blue 2005 Yamaha motor scooter tethered to the back of it, according to the Post.
Israel turned fugitive after making a fortune swindling hedge-fund investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
He was convicted of stealing $450 million through his company, Bayou Group LLC, from investors, the Post reported.
Ryan appeared before a judge in federal court in White Plains for arraignment Thursday. She was released on the condition that she post $75,000 bond by Monday. Her attorney, Paul Davison, did not enter a plea.
Ryan, who could face as many as 10 years in prison if convicted, refused to comment as she left the courthouse. Davison also refused to comment.
Ryan originally told police that Israel left their Armonk house June 9 to drive to prison. It was unclear whether she asked what he planned to do with his vehicle once he got to a penitentiary in Massachusetts for inmates with special health needs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.