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Fugitive couple found in Arizona

The FBI wanted the Lakeland pair in a stock fraud case.

By MICHAEL A. MOHAMMED, Times Staff Writer
Published August 25, 2007


The Rehbergs had evaded FBI agents and federal prosecutors for nearly a decade when an Unsolved Mysteries rerun and an Arizona police sergeant's sharp eyes foiled their retirement plans Wednesday.

Karl Rehberg, 64, had made $21 million on the 1997 sale of stock in the biodiesel company he founded, but authorities said it was phony. When federal prosecutors refused to let him plea bargain his way out of jail time in 1998, he and his wife, Helen Rehberg, disappeared.

Agents tracked the Lakeland residents to Auburndale, then Michigan. Later that year a New Mexico woman reported seeing Karl Rehberg wearing "dowdy women's clothing, orthopedic shoes and a grayish-blond little old lady wig" and going by the name Peggy Helms.

The tipster told police she'd seen "either a very ugly female or a linebacker with laryngitis," according to the FBI.

The couple faded away until last week when Mesa, Ariz., police Sgt. Ryan Russell got a nighttime call about a suspicious person at a local office building, said department spokesman Steve Berry.

Russell found an older couple there, and arrested the man after he gave the officer what appeared to be an obviously forged ID, Berry said.

So they charged the man, who gave his name as Shawn Pierce, with giving false information to police and possessing a forged driver's license, then released him the next day on bail.

A couple of days later, Russell saw Rehberg's face on a re-run of the TV show Unsolved Mysteries, and the couple was rearrested, Berry said.

The Rehbergs are expected to be returned to Tampa to face the outstanding fraud charges, according to the FBI.

Information from the Lakeland Ledger was included in this report.

[Last modified August 25, 2007, 00:58:18]

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