BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – An Arkansas man suspected of faking his death on the Mississippi coast five years ago to avoid paying court-ordered restitution was arrested at a small Alabama airport where records show he was the manager.
People around the Bibb County Airport at Centreville knew a man called Chris Sullivan who often worked around the field. Authorities said Sullivan really was Timothy Dehart, 38, who mysteriously vanished in 2004.
Officers placed the airport under surveillance after receiving a tip that Dehart was there, U.S. Marshal Marty Keely said Friday.
"He was arrested (Thursday) in his Jeep in front of the airport while checking the mail," said Keely.
The chairman of the airport board, Walt Williams, said the man had been in town two or three years.
"I wasn't there when he was arrested, and I really don't know anything about what happened," said Williams.
A federal judge in Birmingham approved Dehart's transfer back to Arkansas. His attorney did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Marine police found Dehart's 14-foot aluminum boat running in circles off the coast of Gulfport, Mississippi, on Sept. 9, 2004. His pickup truck and boat trailer were parked at the harbor.
Dehart's disappearance came less than two months after he pleaded guilty to a federal bank fraud charge for selling mortgaged equipment. A federal judge recently ordered him to pay $29,271 in restitution and placed him on probation for five years.
A federal court in Arkansas issued a fugitive warrant for Dehart in 2004, and authorities said he was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm when he was arrested. Keely said Dehart had a shotgun with him in his vehicle but didn't resist arrest.
Federal Aviation Administration records list Sullivan as manager of the Bibb County Airport. But Williams denied that Sullivan ever worked for the airport or that the small airport even has a manager.
"He worked for a company called Boneyard," he said. "They bought some land out there near the airport, and they had been developing some property."
State records show a surplus company called Boneyard Acquisitions LLC has the same address as the Bibb County Airport office. A woman listed as the company's agent did not return an e-mail message seeking comment.