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US fugitive arrested on his sailboat in St. Croix

October 30, 2013

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) — A California businessman who left the United States before he was indicted on fraud charges has been arrested on a sailboat in the U.S. Virgin Islands, officials said Wednesday.

Federal agents arrested Didier DeNier as he made a stopover in St. Croix on his catamaran, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron May.

DeNier is being held on charges issued by a Southern California grand jury in February 2012 that include wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.

The 63-year-old was CEO of Powerline, Inc., a company based in Simi Valley, California, that had a contract to provide batteries to the Department of Defense from 2004 to 2011, according to the indictment. He is accused of shipping cheaper, poorer-quality batteries and disguising them as the models specified by the contracts.

The batteries were used in radios, laptops and backup power supplies and there is no evidence that any lives were lost as a result of the alleged fraud, said May, a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles. The indictment does not specify the amount of the contracts.

DeNier’s wife, Lisa, the company’s vice president of sales, has pleaded guilty to the charges and is awaiting sentencing.

Authorities believe DeNier has been living on his sailboat, May said. He was arrested Tuesday by the Defense Criminal Investigative Services and was scheduled to appear in court Friday to begin extradition proceedings.

A court-appointed public defender, Gabriel Villegas, declined comment.

The wire fraud charge alone carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

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