A fingerprint match in a Las Vegas-area drunken driving case led U.S. authorities to a German fugitive in a $100 million international fraud scheme who had been on the run for five years, authorities said Friday.
U.S. marshals recently learned that a fingerprint from a 51-year-old man arrested in February 2011 belonged to Ulrich Felix Anton Engler, and they joined Las Vegas police financial crimes detectives to locate and arrest him late Wednesday, Las Vegas police Officer Bill Cassell said.
Engler, who is accused of also using the names Joseph Miller and Joseph Walter, was being held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on an immigration violation, pending his transfer to Germany, ICE spokeswoman Nicole Navas said.
FBI agents and local police on Friday began tracing Engler’s steps in southern Nevada, finding more than 1,000 pieces of artwork at a storage facility he rented in Boulder City, about 25 miles east of Las Vegas.
“We’re investigating what, if any, criminal activity Mr. Engler might have been involved with in Las Vegas,”Cassell said. “This individual used multiple identities and was accomplished at concealing his true identity.”
FBI agent Patrick Turner in Las Vegas said the warrant search at the storage facility was an effort to recover proceeds on behalf of alleged fraud victims.
A local court in Mannheim and Hamburg, Germany, issued a warrant in December 2007 accusing Engler of multiple criminal fraud charges, according to an ICE statement. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
Engler had also been named in a March 2010 notice from the international police agency Interpol.
He is accused of using a marketing company called Private Commercial Office in Cape Coral, Fla., to build an Internet pyramid scheme. From June 2003 to December 2004, it collected almost $101 million from more than 3,500 investors in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, authorities said. Once the money reached the United States, investors lost access to it.
When the arrest warrant was issued in Germany, Engler was believed to have been living in Florida.
Last year, U.S. marshals and Interpol officials in Washington determined Engler was living in Nevada under the name Joseph Miller.
Records show that a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper issued Engler a summons on Feb. 11, 2011, for failure to drive in a marked lane and driving under the influence of alcohol. The disposition of the DUI case could not immediately be determined Friday.
It was not immediately clear what name Engler used at the time or whether he was represented by an attorney.
ICE Director John Morton called Engler’s capture after five years “a welcome day and an important step” toward providing his victims a measure of relief and justice in Germany.