(LONGPORT, N.J.) — A nationwide manhunt is underway for a champion boater who may have faked his own death, according to authorities.
Andrew Biddle has been missing since a boating accident last month. Police believe Biddle may have faked his own death to avoid criminal charges.
Police say the father of two was with another racer, Justin Belz, riding in a pontoon boat near Longport, New Jersey, on July 20 when they hit a buoy and plowed into a jetty.
Belz survived by swimming to shore and a massive search for Biddle was called off just a day later. Belz was being interviewed by authorities, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
A witness to the accident, Tom Murphy, said, “It just seems like the most ridiculous thing to pull off.”
Officials said in a statement to ABC News that Biddle is considered a “wanted person,” and they “believe that Mr. Biddle ‘staged an incident,’ to avoid prosecution.”
ABC News’ legal expert Dan Abrams said, “It’s not illegal to fake your death. The problem is once you do it, you almost inevitably end up committing other crimes by not showing up for court, not paying your taxes, fraud, etc.”
According to prosecutors, Biddle and his business and racing partner, Tracy Blumenstein, have been indicted on multiple counts of theft by deception and fraud.
“When someone is facing criminal charges and he disappears, the authorities are going to be suspicious,” Abrams said.
Court documents obtained by ABC News allege Biddle accepted a $20,000 down payment for a boat that he never supplied to the customer.
Neither Blumenstein nor Biddle’s attorneys would comment on the investigations.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
Kristina Sgueglia, CNN
Morgan Loew, CNN
Jackie Wattles and Amanda Barnett, CNN
Matt McFarland, CNN