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Trail across Southwest US led to arrest of man tied to abducted Alaska barista

  • Author: Ben Anderson
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published March 22, 2012

A newly-released court document sheds some light on charges against Israel Keyes -- the man who Anchorage police believe may have ties to the Feb. 1 abduction of 18-year-old barista Samantha Koenig -- and alleges that he may have withdrawn thousands of dollars from a bank account that wasn't his. Keyes was arrested last week in Lufkin, Tex., and police say a stolen debit card found in Keyes's possession was used to make withdrawals in Alaska, Arizona and New Mexico before the arrest.

Koenig's abduction has been subject of much speculation in Alaska and beyond. Her whereabouts or condition remain unknown, and police have offered few details about their investigation or Keyes.

A contractor who had lived in Alaska since 2007, Keyes was arrested March 13 following a traffic stop in Texas that led to police there identifying him as a person of interest in the Alaska kidnapping case. Following a search of his vehicle, he was charged with access device fraud, a charge typically leveled against someone using another person's credit or debit card without authorization.

According to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, police allege that at least one individual, over the course of two weeks from Feb. 28 through March 13, withdrew $2,440 from an unnamed person's bank account using a stolen debit card. The affidavit provides no insight into Keyes's relation to the Koenig case.

The affidavit does reveal some interesting details, though. A man identified only as "Person A" saw someone going through his vehicle in Anchorage in the early morning hours of Feb. 2 -- the night of Koenig's disappearance -- just hours after she went missing from the Midtown Anchorage coffee stand where she worked, where police believe she may have been abducted by an armed man. A surveillance video documented the incident, though not in great detail.

The man reported his debit card stolen, taken from his vehicle, according to the affidavit. He told police he had neither given the card to anyone nor given permission to use it.

Nearly four weeks later, on Feb. 28, a person identified as a "light-skinned male adult with a muscular build," attempted to withdraw funds using the stolen debit card from an ATM at a Credit Union 1 in Midtown. That attempted $600 withdrawal exceeded the daily limit allowed and the transaction was denied.

An hour-and-a-half later, just before midnight, a man suspected to be the same individual made a successful withdrawal of $500 from a Credit Union 1 ATM on Minnesota Drive. Just a half-hour later, now Feb. 29, the same individual withdrew another $500 from an ATM on DeBarr Road.

There was no other activity on the card until March 7, when a "light-skinned male adult with a muscular build who appeared to be wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, glasses, a gray facemask, gloves, blue jeans and white shoes" made a $400 withdrawal at an ATM in Willcox, Ariz., the affidavit said.

There were other withdrawals after that:

• On March 8, a withdrawal of $400 was denied in Lordsburg, N.M. -- again over the daily withdrawal limit -- before $80 was successfully withdrawn.

• On March 10, there was a $480 withdrawal in Humble City, Tex. The affidavit said that at this stop, the person making the withdrawal appeared to be the same man who had made withdrawals in Arizona and New Mexico. The ATM surveillance video also revealed the suspect to be driving a late-model, white Ford Focus.

• Another $480 was withdrawn on March 12 in Shepherd, Tex.

The next day, a white Ford Focus with Texas plates was seen parked at a hotel in Lufkin, Tex. Israel Keyes was observed leaving a room at the hotel before putting items in the trunk of the white Ford Focus.

Less than an hour after leaving the hotel, Keyes was pulled over for a speeding violation by a Texas State Highway Patrol Officer. Keyes gave the officer his Alaska license and claimed he'd flown from Anchorage to Las Vegas on March 7, where he claimed to have rented the car to drive to a wedding.

"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, Tex.," the affidavit said. "Keyes became increasingly confrontational during the traffic stop, especially when asked for details about his activities."

The officer observed maps on the floorboard of Keyes's vehicle with highlighted routes through California, Arizona and New Mexico. Also on the floor were a pair of white tennis shoes. Stuffed in the driver's side door were wads of cash rolled up with rubber bands.

Once police searched Keyes's vehicle, they found a gray hooded sweatshirt and a cut-up T-shirt fashioned into a facemask in the trunk. Keyes was arrested in connection with Koenig's abduction and charged with access device fraud in federal court. A federal grand jury handed down the indictment.

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com

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