Husband and Wife Who Fled Prior to Trial in Colorado Arrested in the Bahamas
DENVER—Donald and Karlien Winberg, of Earth, Texas, appeared in federal court in Miami today after being arrested at Miami International Airport yesterday on charges of bond violations in Colorado, U.S. Attorney John Walsh and FBI Special Agent in Charge Thomas Ravenelle announced. Donald Winberg, age 44, and Karlien Winberg, age 33, were originally detained in the Bahamas after fleeing the United States to avoid trial on conspiracy and wire fraud charges in Colorado. Authorities in the Bahamas had detained the defendants, who were accompanied by their seven children, for failing to have proper identification and travel documents. Bahamian authorities also knew of the federal arrest warrants based on the bond condition violations, which resulted in the Winbergs being deported. The two defendants and their seven children were put on a flight to the United States, landing in Miami, where they were taken into custody by FBI agents.
The Winbergs were indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on April 22, 2014. As their case progressed in U.S. District Court in Denver, Colorado, and as the defendants neared trial, they committed alleged bond violations and later fled, resulting in the issuance of arrest warrants in October 2014.
The Winbergs, beginning in 2010, advertised on the Internet that they had hay and corn for sale. Once a potential buyer contacted the defendants, a sale would be negotiated. Defendants claimed to buyers that they owned extensive farmland in Idaho and Texas; that they produced hay, straw, potatoes, and other agricultural crops in substantial quantities; that they shipped large quantities of agricultural products throughout the United States; that they had between 15,000 and 65,000 tons of hay for sale; and that they had trucks to deliver the large quantities of purchased hay or corn to the buyer. The defendants would then take the victims’ money and not deliver the material that was advertised, purchased and promised.
As the case was moving toward trial, the Winbergs fled, at one point staying in the Galveston, Texas area. The defendants purchased a sail boat that they then ran aground not far from the shore. At that time it was believed that they had a large amount of cash. Around that same time, the defendants were the subject of local publicity in the Galveston area. The Winbergs were able to obtain another boat and successfully travelled to the Bahamas. They were arrested without incident on a boat near the Staniel Cay Yacht Club in the Bahamas. The arrest was made by Bahamian authorities after a Louisiana family vacationing in the Bahamas recognized the family from a press story out of Galveston. The defendants failed to provide identification documents, and the Bahamian authorities, knowing about the federal arrest warrants, arrested the two defendants. They were then deported back to the United States, where they were arrested. After the court orders that they be sent to Colorado, the U.S. Marshals Service will be responsible for their transportation. No time table has been set for that transport. Social Services is working to determine what happens to the seven children.
The defendants face one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. If convicted of that count, they face not more than 20 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine. They each face 14 counts of wire fraud and/or aiding and abetting. If convicted of wire fraud, or aiding and abetting, the defendants face not more than 20 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine per count.
This case was originally investigated by the FBI. The FBI wants to recognize the following agencies that assisted in the search and arrest of the Winbergs: Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs and Border Protection, American Citizen Services at the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas, and the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
The defendants are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Davies. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs also provided assistance in this case.
The indictment is an allegation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.