Details emerge about man in Koenig case

"Person of interest" in Koenig case indicted by grand jury on fraud claim.

Anchorage Daily NewsMarch 22, 2012 

Martin

The man Anchorage police linked to 18-year-old Samantha Koenig's disappearance was arrested in Texas with a stolen Alaska debit card, rolls of cash and a disguise worn during illegal cash withdrawals in three states in the Lower 48, according to a charging document filed in federal court.

The man, 34-year-old Israel Keyes, was charged after a Texas traffic stop March 13 with access device fraud. Anchorage police later said Keyes was a "person of interest" in their search for Koenig, the apparent victim of an abduction in Anchorage six weeks earlier. A federal grand jury indicted him Thursday on the fraud charge.

According to an FBI agent's affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Alaska and made public Thursday, a stolen debit card found on Keyes was used in Anchorage hours after Koenig's disappearance. The card, from an unnamed man's bank account, was used again in several more transactions for a total $2,440 in cash disbursed, the affidavit says.

Police say an armed man wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, who was "significantly taller" than the 5-foot-5 Koenig, forced her from a Midtown coffee hut about 8 p.m. Feb. 1. Nobody has reported seeing her since.

A man described as "Person A" in the affidavit reported seeing an unknown man about 3 a.m. Feb. 2 wearing a ski mask and dark clothes going through his vehicle, the affidavit says. It's unclear when the report was made. The alleged robbery victim said his Credit Union 1 debit card was missing afterward and that he had not given it to anyone or given anyone permission to use it. Person A's gender is described as male in the FBI agent's affidavit.

It wasn't until the end of February that a man -- described as muscular and light-skinned, based on surveillance footage -- was seen in the surveillance video making cash withdrawals with the card, according to the affidavit. It is unclear from the document if Keyes is the person police believe stole the card or made the withdrawals, what the connection authorities have made between the cash withdrawals and Koenig or her disappearance, or how the thief gained access to the PIN for the card.

A light-skinned, muscular man tried to use the card to withdraw $600 at an automated teller machine in Midtown Anchorage about 10:15 p.m. on Feb. 28, but the transaction was rejected because it exceeded the daily withdrawal limit, the affidavit says. About two hours later, a man fitting a similar description used the card to withdraw $500 from an ATM in Spenard, the document says. The following day, he withdrew $500 from an ATM in East Anchorage, the document says.

A week later, the card was being used in the Lower 48 to steal cash again, according to the affidavit.

On March 7, just before midnight, a "light-skinned male adult with a muscular build" in a gray hooded sweatshirt, glasses, gray ski mask and gloves withdrew $400 from an ATM in Willcox, Ariz., according to the affidavit. He was seen driving what appeared to be a white Ford Focus sedan, the affidavit says. Willcox is along Interstate 10 east of Tuscon.

The next day, at about 1:30 a.m., a man with a similar description tried to withdraw another $400 in Lordsburg, N.M., also along I-10, but again the withdrawal was declined because it exceeded the daily limit, according to the affidavit. He used the same ATM to check the account's balance and found that $3,598.91 remained in the account, the charges say. Video showed the man was wearing similar clothing as in the Arizona withdrawal and was driving the same car, the affidavit says.

On March 10 at about 2:20 a.m., wearing the same clothes, the man used the stolen bank card again to get $480 in Humble City, Texas, north of Houston. He made another withdrawal in Shepherd, Texas, farther north, for the same amount on March 12, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit says law enforcement spotted the white sedan the next day at a hotel in Lufkin, Texas, which is farther north. They watched a man -- later identified as the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Keyes -- leave a room, put some personal items in the car's trunk, then drive away, the affidavit says. A Texas State Highway Patrol Officer stopped the car for speeding in Lufkin, and Keyes told the officer he'd flown from Anchorage to Las Vegas on March 7, the affidavit says.

"Keyes was unable to describe the route he drove or explain why he elected to travel in this manner, given that he was reportedly going to a wedding in Wells, Texas. Keyes became increasingly confrontational during the traffic stop, especially when asked for details about his activities," the affidavit says.

There were rolls of rubber-banded cash on the floorboard of the car and maps with highlighted routes from north to south through California and highlighted areas in Arizona and New Mexico. In the trunk, officers found a gray, hooded sweatshirt, glasses and a piece of gray T-shirt cut to make a face mask and other clothing that matched those worn during the withdrawals in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The stolen debit card was found on Keyes, according to the affidavit.

Keyes was jailed in Texas and in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service after the arrest, police said. He was awaiting transport back to Alaska at last report, and it is unclear when the federal agents will return with him or if he was in Alaska on Thursday.

U.S. Attorney for Alaska Karen Loeffler would not comment on any information not in the charging document and would not say if the federal authorities think Keyes is the man who stole the card he was found with.

"Right now he's only charged with access device fraud. The only thing I can say is that we're still continuing the investigation," Loeffler said. "Everybody is working as hard as they can to find Ms. Koenig. And we'd appreciate any help that any member of the public has."

Investigators are asking members of the public who have had personal or business contact with Keyes -- a self-employed builder working in Anchorage under the business name Keyes Construction -- to call 1-800-225-5324 OR 1-800-CALL-FBI.

Koenig remains missing, said police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker. Anchorage detectives are not ready to say yet how Keyes is connected to Koenig's disappearance, Parker said.

"The case is ongoing, obviously, and they're hopeful of a positive resolution," Parker said. "We have every cop in Alaska looking for her. When we find Samantha, people will know where she is."

Loeffler would not comment on whether federal authorities have information on Koenig's whereabouts in Alaska or elsewhere.

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

Anchorage Daily News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service