SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A suspect in a nationwide mortgage fraud scheme who fled the country was caught at the Canadian border with $70,000 stuffed in his cowboy boots and nearly $6,000 worth of platinum, authorities said Wednesday.
Christopher J. Warren, 26, was arrested early Wednesday while entering the United States at Buffalo, N.Y. After he disappeared Feb. 3, Warren was charged with conspiracy, fraud and conducting a continuing financial crime.
If convicted, he faces life in prison.
Warren is the second of three fugitives to be caught in the ongoing fraud investigation of Loomis Wealth Solutions, a Roseville, Calif.-based investment company, and several related companies.
Court documents alleged they defrauded investors and mortgage companies of $100 million since 2006. The fraudulent deals involved 500 homes and condominiums in California, Florida, Nevada, Illinois, Colorado and Arizona, according to Internal Revenue Service affidavits.
Warren flew to Ireland on Feb. 3 on a chartered private jet, then traveled to Lebanon and Canada, acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown said. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents were on the lookout for him when he took a taxi from Toronto to the border at Buffalo.
Prosecutors said Warren had photocopies of assay certificates showing the weight and purity of $1.1 million worth of gold, but it was unclear if he actually had ownership of that gold. They earlier had said he was carrying $1 million in Swiss bank certificates.
Authorities believe Warren also had brought to Lebanon $4 million to $5 million in gold, which he had shown some of the flight crew, but that has not been recovered, Brown said.
"He's a man of high style — all of it ill-gotten," the prosecutor said.
Brown also said Warren was carrying two fake passports with an alias, and authorities previously said he had obtained a passport with another name and indicated he planned to go to Mexico.
Warren had an initial court appearance in Buffalo on Wednesday, Brown said. He was represented by a federal public defender, Roxanne Mendez Johnson, who declined comment.
Don Heller, Warren's lawyer in Sacramento, said he was disappointed that his client chose to flee, adding: "I think he will now pay the price."
On Tuesday, authorities announced that a second suspect in the case, Garret Griffith Gililland III, 27, of Chico, had been apprehended in Spain in October. He is fighting extradition to the U.S.
Authorities are still looking for Scott Cavell, 25, of Sacramento, who they said fled the country a day after Warren left.
Lawrence Leland "Lee" Loomis, president of Loomis Wealth Solutions, has not been charged with any crime. His attorney denies any wrongdoing by his client.
Brown said the investigation into the mortgage scheme was ongoing.