'Barefoot Bandit' deported back to the US

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Barefoot BanditThe Bahamas deported Tuesday the 19-year-old fugitive burglar and Internet folk hero dubbed the "Barefoot Bandit" back to the United States, the FBI said.

Colton Harris-Moore was taken into custody in Miami after pleading guilty earlier in the day in a Nassau courtroom to charges of illegally landing a plane in the Caribbean nation.
FBI spokeswoman Judith Orihuela told AFP the fugitive was taken to the federal detention center in Miami and would appear in court on Wednesday to face charges pending in Seattle, Washington.

A two-year fugitive from the law, Harris-Moore was arrested Sunday after a high-speed boat chase on Bahamas Harbour Island, one week after police found the wreckage of a stolen plane they believe he flew to the archipelago.

Harris-Moore achieved outlaw folk hero status by eluding authorities on foot, in stolen cars and even airplanes and is wanted in the United States for committing burglaries in at least six states as well as in Canada.

He faces charges including vehicle theft, identity theft, possession of stolen property and other crimes, but is also sought in other jurisdictions, officials said.

Harris-Moore was shown earlier on television in the Bahamas, head bowed and shackled as he was led off a plane to the Nassau court house. He looked otherwise unharmed and in good health.

Romanticized by some as a latter-day "Billy the Kid," Harris-Moore has a criminal record stretching back to the age of 12.

His legend took on a new dimension in 2009 when a private plane crashed in the Cascade Mountains, east of Seattle. It had been stolen in Idaho, close to where a rash of burglaries had occurred.

Investigating one of the burglaries, police found bare footprints leading up to the door and inside the Idaho hangar where the stolen plane had been stored. And so the mystery of the Barefoot Bandit was born.

More crimes were soon attributed to the teenager, including another plane theft in the San Juan Islands north of Seattle in 2008.

The young burglar, subject of an international manhunt, grew up on rural Camano Island, north of Seattle, on the US Pacific Coast. Caught in 2007, he was sentenced to a halfway house in the city, but he walked away in 2008 and disappeared with no trace but a string of crimes.

Within months, he was suspected of more than 50 burglaries.

In a digital camera recovered from his stolen booty, police found a self-assured smirking self-portrait. The photograph soon became the public face of the teenaged robber, now an Internet idol.

A fan page set up on the social networking site Facebook has over 68,600 members.

One Washington state area sheriff's deputy said he nearly caught Harris-Moore in the woods and had him in his flashlight before the lanky, six-foot five-inch (1.98-meter) suspect "virtually vaporized in front of me."

He recalled hearing Harris-Moore laughing loudly from the woods when he realized he had eluded capture.

His mother, Pam Koehler, has hailed her son as a genius, even if of the criminal sort. "He's smart. He took an IQ test a few years ago and he's three points below Einstein," she said last year.


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