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Fugitive wanted in investment fraud surrenders to U.S. attorney

October 15, 1997

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ An investment counselor suspected of cheating elderly clients and banks of millions of dollars surrendered to federal authorities Tuesday, more than seven weeks after he disappeared as civil lawsuits and federal agents closed in.

The FBI had feared that Donald M. Bickerstaff, 38, fled to his native Scotland while under investigation for bank fraud. As a citizen of the United Kingdom, he could not have been extradited.

But Bickerstaff, who faces two counts of bank fraud, turned himself in to the U.S. attorney’s office, FBI spokesman George Grotz said. He was taken into custody, pending an appearance before a federal magistrate Wednesday.

Bickerstaff left a wife and two children behind in his Mill Valley home in August.

An arrest warrant accuses Bickerstaff of defrauding federally insured banks by taking out up to $800,000 in loans shortly before he fled.

The FBI broadened its investigation to include accusations that Bickerstaff cheated his investment clients by issuing them phony brokerage statements to make it appear as if they were doing well. He used similar statements as collateral for his loans with Pacific Bank, the FBI said.

The FBI is uncertain how many clients Bickerstaff had, but estimates the number at close to 100.

``Obviously we hope that the funds people have invested with him can be recovered to the greatest extent possible,″ said Dov Grunschlag, a lawyer for a couple that lost $750,000.

Bickerstaff was banned in 1995 from the stock brokerage business for deceptive practices.

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