The U.S. marshals who tracked fugitive Alaska businessman Bill Weimar to a luxury hotel in Havana last week were prepared to wait him out, since there's no extradition treaty between Cuba and the United States.
But on Friday, the day after they located Weimar, he abruptly turned up in Cancun, Mexico, about 300 miles away, said Deputy U.S. Marshal Ron Lindbak, a spokesman for the Marshals Service in Tampa, Fla..
That was a sudden break for the international fugitive trackers in the Marshal's Service, Lindbak said Monday in a phone interview from Florida. By Sunday afternoon, Weimar, still in deck shoes and shorts, was facing a state judge in Texas, who ordered him held without bail. On Monday, Weimar was awaiting extradition to Florida.
Weimar, 70, once Alaska's private halfway house king and a convicted felon in the state's public corruption scandal, was wanted in his new hometown of Sarasota, Fla., on a sexual battery charge involving a 6-year old girl. The charge carries a mandatory life sentence.
The quick work by U.S. and Mexican authorities might have prevented a much longer flight from justice for Weimar, Lindbak said.
Weimar, a millionaire many times over from his Allvest Corp. business based in Anchorage in the 1980s and 1990s, had retired to Sarasota early last year after serving six months in prison and another six months in home confinement on the federal corruption charges. A detective in the sheriff's office, Catherine Duff, said in court papers that Weimar mainly lived aboard his 60-foot motor yacht, the Renewal II, docked in a marina slip in Sarasota Harbor.
The sheriff's office obtained an arrest warrant for Weimar on Jan. 24, but when they went to his boat, he was gone. The boat remained in the slip.
Lindbak said he doesn't know how or when Weimar got to Havana. But authorities had the boat under surveillance and noticed Weimar's girlfriend getting ready for a voyage, Lindbak said.
"She was prepping the boat for a long trip," Lindbak said. She also hired someone to captain the vessel for a trip to the Florida Keys, Lindbak said. But something happened and that person was no longer working for the girlfriend, he said.
"He didn't make the trip," Lindbak said. "It looked like she prepped the boat for the trip and then she changed her mind for whatever reason and they left without the original captain." Instead, the girlfriend's brother apparently took the hired captain's place, Lindbak said.
"Evidently, the plan was then for the girlfriend to meet up with him with his boat and they were going to sail away," he said. "Last Tuesday, she left the Sarasota port and went out to open waters ... Where they were from Tuesday until Friday, I have no idea."
The marshals learned Thursday that Weimar was in Cuba, Lindbak said. With no formal diplomatic ties to the United States, Havana can be a safe haven for fugitives. One of North America's most famous wanted men, financier Robert Vesco, lived there for more than a decade until he crossed up Cuban authorities and went to prison there, where he died.
"I don't know of anyone that's been taken out of Cuba -- there's no extradition policy in place," Lindbak said.
The marshals decided to wait "in hopes of him leaving Cuba to a country where there was an extradition treaty in place."
That happened quickly. By Friday, they learned Weimar had flown to Cancun on the northeast tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Later on Friday, the Renewal, with Weimar's girlfriend and her brother aboard, pulled into port and docked "at an upscale slip," Lindbak said.
The Marshals Service liaison in the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City contacted the Mexican Navy, which spotted the docked yacht Saturday.
They boarded and took Weimar without incident, Lindbak said.
The Mexicans didn't take time for an extradition process -- they just declared Weimar an "undesirable" and deported him into the custody of U.S. agents, Lindbak said. The girlfriend and her brother were not held, he added.
Find Richard Mauer online at adn.com/contact/rmauer or call 257-4345.
By RICHARD MAUER