Cathedral City fugitive back in California after turning himself in

Someone who saw ``wanted fugitive'' flier on the D.A.'s website told investigators he was in Ecuador

COACHELLA VALLEY, Calif. - A Cathedral City fugitive accused in a real estate scam is now back in California after being arrested at LAX.

Christopher Diekmann, 27, was on the Riverside County District Attorney's Office Wanted Fugitive list for felony charges including identity theft, forgery and grand theft that allegedly occurred in the Coachella Valley area in 2008 and 2009.

A few years ago, someone who saw a ``wanted fugitive'' flier on the D.A.'s website told investigators that he was in Ecuador. Authorities tried to have Diekmann deported, but Ecuador has no extradition treaty, and officials there refused to help return the suspect to the United States, D.A.'s spokesman John Hall said.

``Last week, D.A.'s investigators received information that Diekmann wanted to return to Riverside County to face the charges against him,'' Hall said.

Investigators met Diekmann at LAX at 11:45 p.m. Monday and arrested him, Hall said. 

He was booked at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside in lieu of $11 million bail and is due in court in Indio on Thursday, according to jail records. 

He was charged with five felony counts in January 2009, according to court records.

Hall said Diekmann and co-defendants George Wolfe of Cathedral City and Nicolas Kevin Barthel of Palm Desert identified vacant residences that were either abandoned or in foreclosure. A trustee's deed upon sale was created, listing the property as purchased at auction, and the title was transferred.

The title included ``forged signatures of bank officials as well as a notary stamp which had been stolen from a true notary,'' Hall alleged.

"Once a `Quiet Title' was obtained in civil court, a loan would be obtained on the home, which did not legally belong to the defendants,'' Hall said. ``The defendants reportedly would sometimes live in the home free of any rent or mortgage and, in some instances, the homes were rented to unsuspecting victims by the defendants so they could obtain income.''

Wolfe has a preliminary hearing on Oct. 3 at the Larson Justice Center in Indio. Barthel pleaded guilty to four counts of identity theft in August 2009 and was sentenced to 16 months in custody.

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