Rancho Mirage man sought for embezzling $650,000 captured in Philippines

POSTED: 03:06 PM PDT Apr 12, 2013 
INDIO, Calif. -

A man wanted since 2009 for the embezzlement of more than $650,000 from a desert-area construction company has been captured in the Philippines and returned to the United States on Thursday to face criminal charges.

Homeland Security agents transported Michael Barnett, 51, formerly of Rancho Mirage, from the Philippines to Los Angeles International Airport Thursday where he was turned over to U.S. Marshals and booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside on a fugitive arrest warrant.

Authorities first located Barnett in Manila, where he was being held in a Homeland Security immigration facility for illegal entry into the Philippines. Earlier this month, a judge in the Philippines authorized the deportation of Barnett to the United States. It was known that he had fled to the Philippines in 2009, but authorities had failed to locate him until recently. 

In 2004, Barnett and another man formed a general partnership company called Brandon Construction. The net profits were to be split evenly between the two. They hired Barnett's wife, Bettina, to do the company's bookkeeping. Brandon Construction operated from October 2004 until dissolving in July 2006.

After the company dissolved, the man who formed the business with Barnett learned he had no access to company bank records. A subsequent investigation done by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department revealed Michael and Bettina Barnett had been moving large sums of money between personal and business accounts in an attempt to hide company profits. The Barnetts had 24 bank accounts through six different financial institutions. A review of financial records showed the Barnetts received payments from Brandon Construction customers which should have gone to the company.

A financial analysis determined that a total of $656,000 was embezzled from Brandon Construction over a 21-month period. 

In April 2012, Bettina Barnett pled guilty to one felony count of embezzlement and was sentenced to 180 days in custody and five years of formal probation.

Michael Barnett is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday, April 16, at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.