Alleged Swindler Caught in Campground
Prior to arrest on Tuesday (Jan. 13) of Marcus Schrenker, the most excitement the owners of the KOA campground in Chattahoochee, Fla., can remember is the time a cow wandered up and tried to drink out of their swimming pool.
“It’s normally real quiet out here,” said 33-year-old Troy Hastings who bought the 34-acre site in May, according to the Pensacola News Journal.
All that changed after dark Tuesday when sheriff’s deputies converged on a small tan pup tent and arrested Schrenker, the president of Heritage Wealth Management, who faces financial and legal trouble involving hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Three days ago, Schrenker’s plane crashed in Milton, Fla., after the 38-year-old Indiana businessman allegedly faked a distress call and parachuted out, leaving the aircraft on autopilot.
Schrenker arrived at the KOA campground, located on the Georgia border about 40 miles northwest of Tallahassee, around mid-day on Monday riding a red Yamaha motorcycle.
“He said he had been riding and gotten cold,” said Hastings, who sold Schrenker a six-pack of beer and some firewood.
“He paid for everything in cash,” said Troy Hastings’ wife, 32-year-old Caroline Hastings.
Neither of them recognized Schrenker from the news.
“He was real friendly,” said Troy, “He said he was going to the Keys to meet some buddies and was just passing through.”
Schrenker paid for the evening and built himself a large fire. Neither Troy nor Caroline suspected anything until the next day.
“He was supposed to leave on Tuesday morning but he never left,” said Troy. “He never got out of his tent, even to use the bathroom.”
At around 5 p.m. Troy Hastings went to check on Schrenker, and though he didn’t go into the tent, he said he noticed some red tinge on the front flap.
“I yelled and asked if everything was OK and told him if he wanted to stay another night that he’d have to pay and he just told me he’d fallen asleep or was taking a nap or something,” said Troy.
Inside the office, Troy and Caroline debated calling the authorities. At around 7 p.m., the authorities called us.
“They just asked if there was anything suspicious going on,” said Carolyn, who said they have a close rapport with the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office.
“We said, ‘yeah, we have a guy who came in on a motorcycle and hasn’t left his tent all day,’” she said.
Troy and Carolyn Hastings drove out to meet the deputies and to confirm that the man in the tent was indeed Schrenker.
“They didn’t even get the picture all the way unfolded when I recognized him,” she said.
Deputies then swarmed the campsite.
“There was a few seconds of yelling and then they just pulled him out of the tent and put him in an ambulance,” said Caroline, who remembers that there was blood everywhere.
“They didn’t think he was going to make it,” she said.
By Wednesday morning the camp was quiet again, the only sign of the arrest was a pair of used latex gloves the deputies apparently left on a picnic table.?
“I’m just glad they got him,” said Caroline. “This has just been unbelievable."
Schrenker was airlifted to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital to be treated for self-inflicted cuts on one of his arms. He is expected to be kept in the hospital until Thursday and then to be held in the Gadsden County jail pending extradition to Indiana, a sheriff's office spokesman said.
Multiple Charges Filed in Indiana
Deputy U.S. Marshal John Beeman of the Southern District of Indiana said Schrenker will likely be brought back to Hamilton County, just north of Indianapolis, where a judge issued an arrest warrant Tuesday on felony fraud charges alleging that Schrenker acted as a financial adviser after his state license expired on Dec. 31. Schrenker fled not only the law but divorce, a state investigation of his businesses and angry investors who accuse him of stealing potentially millions in savings they entrusted to him.
On Sunday (Jan. 11), Schrenker was flying his single-engine Piper Malibu to Florida from his Indiana home when he reported the windshield had imploded over central Alabama.
Then his radio went silent.
Military jets tried to intercept the plane and found the door open, the cockpit dark. The aircraft crashed more than 200 miles farther south in a Florida Panhandle bayou surrounded by homes.
Police believe Schrenker parachuted to the ground in central Alabama, where he'd stashed a motorcycle with full saddlebags in a storage unit in Harpersville rented just the day before his flight.