The Mexican Navy captured former Alaska halfway house magnate Bill Weimar on a fugitive warrant Saturday night and returned him to the United States on charges that he sexually assaulted a 6-year-old girl, the Sarasota County, Fla., sheriff's office said Sunday.
A spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service said Weimar arrived at the Houston airport early Sunday afternoon on a commercial flight from Mexico, accompanied by U.S. immigration agents. After clearing customs, he was taken before a state judge who ordered him held in the Harris County jail without bond. Weimar agreed to waive extradition to Florida, the Marshals spokesman said, and it is expected that he will be brought to Sarasota to answer the criminal charge within two weeks.
Weimar, 70, moved to Florida about a year ago while under the supervision of federal probation officials, having completed a one-year sentence stemming from the public corruption investigation in Alaska. Weimar kept his 60-foot cabin cruiser, the Renewal II, at a marina in the Sarasota harbor.
The Sarasota sheriff's office has been looking for Weimar since issuing an arrest warrant Jan. 24 accusing him of sexual battery. A detective interviewed Weimar on board the boat several days before the warrant was issued. When deputies and police returned to arrest him, the boat was there but Weimar was gone.
A witness who was keeping an eye on Weimar's boat in the marina said it disappeared from its slip early last week.
The sheriff's office said in a prepared statement that it got help locating Weimar from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Coast Guard, which tracked him to Havana. From there, authorities learned he was planning to travel to Mexico, the sheriff's office said.
Sheriff's investigators contacted the U.S. Marshals Service office and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, which asked the Mexican Navy for assistance. The navy captured Weimar Saturday night in Cancun, the sheriff's office said.
U.S. Deputy Marshal Alfredo Perez, spokesman for the agency in Houston, said Weimar's girlfriend and her brother were on board Weimar's boat when the Mexican authorities arrested him. Neither she nor her brother were taken into custody, said Perez. He didn't have their identities.
Weimar was still wearing deck shoes and shorts when he made his appearance in court, Perez said. He answered the judge's questions in a straightforward way but otherwise wasn't talkative, Perez said.
Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight praised the "outstanding inter-agency cooperation that contributed to the successful resolution of what was ultimately an international manhunt."
Sexual battery on a 6-year-old in Florida is a capital crime that carries a mandatory life sentence.
According to an affidavit by a sheriff's detective, the attack happened when Weimar babysat the child in August for several hours while her mother went to the airport.
The mother contacted authorities in the past month when she noticed the girl playing sex games with Barbie and Ken dolls. The girl told her mother, and repeated to a Florida child protection officer, that Weimar had asked her to perform fellatio while he took care of her, and she did. She told her mother that Weimar was "mean."
Before the warrant was issued, a detective confronted Weimar about the accusation in an interview aboard his boat, the affidavit said. Weimar initially agreed to answer questions, according to the detective. He denied the sexual contact but admitted he babysat the girl that day. He told the detective that he had no reason to believe the girl would make up a story like that or that the girl's mother was trying to extort him.
Weimar became a rich man in Alaska in the 1980s on state contracts with his chain of Allvest Corp. halfway houses. His efforts to promote a large private prison in Alaska, however, came to the attention of the FBI. That initial investigation, dubbed "Polar Pen," evolved into a major federal corruption probe that came to light in 2006 with raids on legislative and businesses offices around Alaska.
Weimar ultimately pleaded guilty in 2008 to two federal felonies related to his failed effort in 2004 to get Republican Jerry Ward elected to the Alaska Senate, where Weimar expected Ward to support a private prison.
Find Richard Mauer online at adn.com/contact/rmauer or call 257-4345.
By RICHARD MAUER