DENVER (AP) _ Authorities who spent five days searching for a Marine reported missing after a hiking accident have arrested the man's friend and said Thursday they believe the disappearance was staged.

Steve Powers, 20, of Boulder was arrested late Wednesday for investigation of a misdemeanor charge of false reporting, Sheriff's Lt. Phil West said.

Authorities are still trying to find the Marine, Lance Hering, 21, who returned from Iraq in July and was due back at Camp Pendleton, Calif. West said the new development had been reported to the Marine Corps and to Hering's parents.

He said investigators had some leads into Hering's whereabouts but declined to elaborate.

``Essentially (Powers) was trying to keep (Hering) from having to return to service as a Marine,'' West said. ``That's Powers' version. Powers has lied to us repeatedly, so we take what he says with a grain of salt.''

Powers had reported that Hering fell while the two were hiking and injured his head, losing consciousness in Eldorado Canyon west of Boulder. Powers said he went for help, but when he returned, Hering was gone.

The sheriff's department and search and rescue teams called off their search after five days, saying they were confident Hering had left the area. At the time, West said that a nationwide missing-person bulletin would be distributed for Hering.

In a statement, West said the sheriff's department planned to seek restitution for the thousands of dollars spent on the search.

West said Marine officials have told his agency that Hering was classified as unauthorized absent because he left before official approval of his request for leave.

A call to Hering's parents in Boulder and messages left with Camp Pendleton officials were not immediately returned.