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Judge orders arrest of Geist pilot

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Marcus Schrenker

Richard Essex/Eyewitness News

Harpersville, Alabama - An Indiana judge has issued an arrest warrant on fraud charges for the Geist businessman who parachuted out of his plane before it crashed and disappeared. Police in Alabama are searching for Marcus Schrenker, but they believe he is no longer in the state or even in the country.

Richard Furgeson was the first person to come across Mark Schrenker.

"I'm so far off the road that anybody come walkin' down in here has got to be up to no good anyway," said Furgeson.

Schrenker reportedly told Furgeson he had turned over a canoe and needed help getting to a hotel in Harpersville..

"He had that black jumpsuit on with that mesh on underneath and he had on blue jeans and a nice plaid suit," Furgeson said. "I was leery as all get out."

Furgeson called a friend at the Childersburg police, who brought Schrenker to the Harpersville Hotel. Police say they couldn't find any reason to keep him so they let him check in. Schrenker checked in under a false name, changed clothes and took off into the woods..

When Schrenker left, he was seen running on the sidewalk and then disappeared into nearby woods At first police combed the heavily wooded area, but just a half mile away Schrenker was about to add another twist to his plan..

On Saturday he rented a storage unit where he stored a motorcycle and another change of clothes.

"Saturday. Said he would be back Monday. He didn't actually do a rental. He did a reserve for just a couple days," said Wanda Brooks, storage unit owner.

Schrenker told the owners of the storage facility that he would return in a few days and he only asked for towels to dry off his motorcycle.

"Said that he borrowed his truck, the trailer that he was pulling the motorcycle with, borrowed it from a friend and needed to get it back but he actually stayed, talking to her for a while, and asked to borrow some rags or a towel or something," said Brooks.

"My husband walked over to the dumpster and lifted up the door and his clothes and shoes were in there," said Brooks.

By Monday, the motorcycle was gone and Schrenker's still-damp clothes were in the storage unit when investigators got there, Marty Keely, U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Alabama, told The Birmingham News.

Case history

Federal marshals on Tuesday pressed their search for Schenker, whom they believe faked a distress call before parachuting from his plane over Alabama and disappeared on a motorcycle he had stashed in advance.

Authorities were trying to figure out if it was all an attempt by Schrenker, 38, to fake his own death after his wife filed for divorce, his companies were targeted by investigators and he lost a half-million dollars in a court case.

Tuesday afternoon, charges were filed against Schrenker. Prosecutors say that Schrenker acted as a financial adviser after his state license expired on Dec. 31. He faces one count of an unlawful act by a compensated advisor and one count of an unlawful act by an investment adviser representative.

The US Marshal Service is still actively searching for Schrenker.

Monday email

The only sign of life from Schrenker came in an ominous email he apparently sent to a neighbor, Tom Britt, that said the situation was a misunderstanding and added: "By the time you get this, I'll be gone."

Britt quoted Schrenker as saying, "I embarrassed my family for the last time." He turned the e-mail over to authorities, fearing it was a suicide note.

In the e-mail, Britt is asked to set the record straight and Schrenker says he's stunned after reading coverage of the case on the Internet. According to the e-mail, the accident was caused when the window on the pilot side imploded, spraying him with glass and reducing cabin pressure.

"Hypoxia can cause people to make terrible decisions and I simply put on my parachute and survival gear and bailed out," the e-mail reads.

Schrenker's mother speaks out

Schrenker's mother, meanwhile, told Eyewitness News she thinks her son had some sort of accident. She does not believe he tried to stage his own death or disappearance.

The last time Marcia Galoozis saw her son Marcus Schrenker was at the funeral of his stepfather last Friday.

"What makes sense is that he might have had plane trouble. That makes sense," she said.

Schrenker's mother says she's been following the story on the internet and on TV. "There he is. He's on TV right now. Every 15 minutes they show him," she said, describing her feelings as "numb."

Schrenker's mother says she was not aware of her son having any financial problems. She said they just didn't talk about things like that. She says if she could speak with her son tonight, she would encourage him to get a lawyer and turn himself in.

Sunday night plane crash

The investigation began Sunday night, when Schrenker's plane went down en route to Destin, Fla., from Anderson, Ind. Schrenker had reported that the windshield imploded and that he was bleeding profusely, officials said.

After he stopped responding to air traffic controllers, military jets tried to intercept the plane. They noticed the door was open and the cockpit was dark, following it until it crashed in a bayou surrounded by homes. Authorities said he apparently put the single-engine Piper Malibu on autopilot for more than 200 miles, bailed out over Alabama and left the plane to crash in Florida.

U.S. Marshals spokesman Michael Richards in Birmingham declined to detail where agents are looking or how the search is being conducted. But investigators in Florida said Schrenker faces a host of possible charges if he deliberately abandoned the plane.

"You just can't let an unmanned aircraft just maliciously fly into a residential area without facing any consequences," Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office spokesman Scott Haines said on the CBS "Early Show."

Schrenker lived a high-flying life as an investment manager and an experienced recreational pilot with the nerves to pull off aerial stunts. In a video posted on YouTube, he is shown boldly completing a daredevil maneuver in the Bahamas, flying underneath a bridge.

He bought luxury automobiles, two airplanes and a $4 million house in an upscale neighborhood known as "Cocktail Cove," where affluent boaters often socialize with cocktails in hand.

But Schrenker's life appeared to be spiraling downward: He lost a half-million-dollar judgment against one of his companies, and his wife filed for divorce. Investigators probed his businesses for possible securities violations.

Authorities in Indiana have said little about the investigation into Schrenker's businesses - Heritage Wealth Management Inc., Heritage Insurance Services Inc. and Icon Wealth Management - wealth management companies that provide financial advice.

Jim Gavin, a spokesman for Indiana's secretary of state, said investigators are looking at possible securities violations, and officers who searched his home Dec. 31 were looking for computers, notes, photos and other documents related to those companies, he said.

On Friday, two days before the crash, a federal judge in Maryland issued a $533,500 judgment against Heritage Wealth Management Inc., and in favor of OM Financial Life Insurance Co. The OM lawsuit contended Heritage Wealth Management should return more than $230,000 in commissions because of problems with insurance or annuity plans it sold.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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