By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com October 04 2002 11:00 PM ET
Former Mecklenburg County, N.C., Democratic chairman Andrew Reyes, who vanished more than a year ago, is being held on federal bank fraud charges after his arrest at the Mexican border, authorities said Friday. Agents arrested the openly gay former accountant without incident early Thursday after he crossed into the United States from Mexico near Otay Mesa, Calif., said U.S. attorney Bob Conrad.
On September 13 a federal grand jury in Charlotte, N.C., indicted Reyes on 15 counts of bank fraud. The indictment remained under seal until Reyes's arrest, Conrad said. Reyes was scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate in San Diego, where the government will request that he be held pending his extradition to Charlotte to face the bank fraud charges, Conrad said.
Keith Byers, an FBI agent in San Diego, said Reyes was driving a 1997 Dodge Caravan through the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego when he was taken into custody. Three other people--a man, a woman, and her child--also were in the vehicle, he said. He declined to identify them.
According to the indictment, Reyes had signature authority over a client's checking account at First Union National Bank, and he used that power to funnel large sums of money into his own accounts. "Using that authority, he illegally diverted more than $3.6 million from accounts of his client to accounts he controlled," said Conrad, the federal prosecutor for the western district of North Carolina. "On 15 separate occasions between March 1998 and March 2000, he transferred amounts in the six-figure range." Each of the 15 counts carries a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Byers said Reyes had been living in Tijuana. Conrad also declined to say if any of the missing funds had been recovered. The money came from the First Union National Bank account of Aslan Construction, owned by Doug King. King had previously co-owned a Charlotte building company, United Building Contractors, where Reyes had worked as treasurer. King, 50, died in a motorcycle accident near his home in Hillsborough, N.H., in September 2000.
On May 4, 2001, Reyes told friends that he was leaving town on business. He drove away in his BMW and was not seen until his arrest Thursday. Reyes had filed for bankruptcy in 1989, but less than a decade later he was a major donor to Democratic candidates, mingling with Hollywood celebrities and President Clinton. In 1999 then-governor of North Carolina Jim Hunt named Reyes to his Advisory Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs.