The official story goes like this: Last month, a pontoon boat carrying two men crashed off of Longport, N.J. One swam to shore safely; the other, 44-year-Andrew Biddle, has not been found and was reported missing. But local police now believe that Biddle faked the accident in an attempt to escape prosecution on a series of complaints that he scammed boat buyers.
On Friday, the Press of Atlantic City reported on a flyer distributed by Egg Harbor Township police. It alleges that the accident was staged by Biddle, who is believed to be "alive and well and on the run."
The flyer, circulated to law enforcement agencies, calls Biddle a "current U.S. and European offshore boat racing champion and has contacts throughout the country and abroad and could be anywhere."
So who is Biddle? Along with business parter Tracy Blumenstein, he is one half of team Livorsi Marine and Team Pro Boat, which captured the 2012 and 2013 U.S. championships in P1 SuperStock, a small offshore powerboat racing series. They also hold a world speed record certified by UIM, the international governing body for powerboating.
Biddle and Blumenstein also own Professional Boat Sales in Egg Harbor, and it's there that they've run into some serious legal trouble. The Philadelphia Inquirer sums up some of the things that Biddle would theoretically be on the run from:
A number of criminal complaints this year against Biddle and Blumenstein, provided by the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office, allege they conned customers.
In May 2013, according to one record, they sold a boat and trailer for $17,000, plus taxes and fees, through the company and never provided the owner of the property with compensation. Another filing states that in 2012, Biddle sold a motor as new even though it had been used for more than 150 hours.
The pair are also accused of failing to provide a pontoon boat to a man who paid a $20,000 deposit for it in March 2013.
Blumenstein was arrested in February at the Atlantic City Boat Show, following a months-long investigation, in the alleged "fraudulent sale of a boat," and charged with issuing bad checks totaling $33,000, police announced at the time.
Egg Harbor detective Ray Theriault, who signed the seven complaints totaling nine charges against Biddle, is the one who circulated the flyer alleging that he faked his death. Theriault said he was "proceeding with the investigation as we would if [Biddle] hadn't been reported missing."
Biddle's boat allegedly crashed around 11:30 p.m. on July 20, according to the man who swam ashore, later identified as 23-year-old Justin Belz, another P1 SuperStock racer. Belz told police Biddle (pictured left) had been driving and struck rocks near the inlet to Great Egg Harbor, just a few miles down the shore from Atlantic City.
The coast guard conducted an 18-hour search that covered more than 60 miles and included helicopters and the help of private boaters, but no trace of Biddle was found.
"We have no proof Biddle is dead at this point," Theriault said when asked by the Press about the flyer.
The flyer was never meant to be made public, so Egg Harbor police are keeping mum on the department's official position on Biddle. But they did put out a brief statement confirming that Biddle staging the boating accident "to avoid prosecution" was "a scenario [that] must be considered."