The FBI Was Investigating Colton Harris-Moore Before They Said They Weren't

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Even with his police-evading, transporting-stolen-property-across-state-lines antics, Camano Island's least favorite son has never rated very high on the FBI's list of priorities. That's always been the agency's official line, anyway. But now that the manhunt for Colton Harris-Moore has gone international, federal prosecutors are unsealing court documents related to the case. Turns out the FBI has been actively involved in the investigation for months.

Asked last week if Colton Harris-Moore's recent cross-country crime spree had altered the bureau's position, Special Agent Fred Gutt stuck to the script, saying that the FBI was not involved in any investigation of the Barefoot Bandit. Harris-Moore is a problem "best addressed by local law enforcement," he said.

But according to court documents, the FBI has been involved to some degree since at least 2009. On Tuesday, federal prosecutors unsealed a criminal complaint filed last September in a Seattle U.S. District Court charging Harris-Moore with the theft of a $340,000 single engine Cessna. The plane was taken from an Idaho airport last September. FBI Agent Linwood Smith writes that investigators found DNA evidence at the crash site in Granite Falls. They also found a gun and two bank bags stolen from a hardware store on Orcas Island.

On Tuesday, Bahamian police found a Cessna sitting in the shallows near Abaco Island in the Bahamas, just over a thousand or so miles from the Bloomington, Indiana airport where its owner first reported the plane stolen. Shortly afterward, a series of break-ins were reported by Bahamian homeowners. Which means that if Harris-Moore is trying to evade U.S. justice, he bypassed Cuba for a country with whom the U.S. has an extradition treaty.

In any case, the FBI has gone public, offering $10,000 for information leading to Harris-Moore's arrest. But some agents of the Bureau seem to resent that Harris-Moore is diverting their attention from other, more important investigations. "Is this something that the FBI should be putting a lot of time into? Probably not," says a spokesperson. Try telling that to these folks.

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