PENSACOLA, Fla. (CBS/AP) He had it all: money, a beautiful wife, fancy cars, a private plane. But his picture perfect life came crashing to Earth when Marcus Schrenker, 38, an Indiana money manager, jumped out of his plane at 2000 feet.
(AP Photo )
Schrenker parachuted to safety over Alabama after radioing authorities and claiming his plane was about to crash. Instead the plane flew on autopilot for another 200 miles towards the Gulf of Mexico. Military jets scrambled to assist the plane but found the cockpit dark. When it finally ran out of fuel, the plane smashed into flames behind several homes in Florida. No one was hurt.
By then Schrenker had made his way to a storage shed where he had stashed a motorcycle and sped off toward Florida. U.S. marshals caught up with him days later at a remote Panhandle campground. He had slashed his wrist and was drifting in out of consciousness because he lost so much blood.
Today, he will stand before U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in a Florida courtroom and, according to documents filed Thursday, plead guilty to placing a false aircraft distress call and intentionally crashing a plane.
But that's the least of his problems.
Prosecutors in Indiana are waiting to get their hands on him. They said Schrenker was an amateur daredevil pilot whose high-flying lifestyle included planes, luxury cars and a 10,000-square-foot home in an upscale neighborhood known as "Cocktail Cove," where affluent boaters often socialized.
Pilot Marcus Schrenker, from a video posted on YouTube.
But according to Indian prosecutors, his daredevil antics including playing with his clients' money… lots of it. Financial investigators say Schrenker's investors lost hundreds of thousands of dollars through annuity investments he handled. Prosecutors believe Schrenker was facing financial ruin when he fled Indiana in his single-engine Piper Malibu on Jan. 11.
In March, an Indiana administrative law judge ordered him to pay $304,000 in restitution to bilked investors and $280,000 in state fines for violating state insurance rules.
Even before that, Schrenker faced millions in judgments and potential penalties ranging from an insurance company's lawsuit seeking $1.4 million in commissions to a judge's order that he pay $12 million in a lawsuit over the sale of a plane.
Jeff Wehmueller of the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office in Noblesville, Ind., said Schrenker probably won't appear there before the end of August because federal statues mandate a 50-day wait between a guilty plea and sentencing.
And Wehmueller said investors who lost money in Schrenker's schemes are skeptical that he'll cooperate.
"Until he says I'm actually guilty and did it, we'll wait to see," Wehmueller said.
In an April letter to The Associated Press, Schrenker wrote that problems with his finances and marriage caused him to snap and he left Indiana without thinking.
According to an Alabama television station that also covers parts of Florida, Schrenker and his alleged girlfriend, Kelly Baker, were caught on surveillance cameras at the same airport where he later took of from the night of his plane crash.
According to WKRG, flight records indicate that Schrenker and 31-year-old Baker flew to Key West on December 29, 2008 to celebrate New Year's Eve.
Schrenker's wife filed for divorce Dec. 30. The next day Indiana police served a search warrant on his home and office. They seized computers, financial documents and evidence of recent document shredding, all within days of his losing a $533,000 judgment to an insurance company.
"I never asked for the help I needed and one day it all came crashing down around me," Schrenker wrote in his letter.
This time he may not have a parachute.