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Man accused of fleeing his trial in Atlanta caught in southern Utah

Published: Sunday, May 29 2011 9:53 p.m. MDT

ST. GEORGE — A nationwide manhunt for a man who disappeared after his trial for securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy had started, was arrested just outside of St. George Sunday.

Rufus Paul Harris, 43, and two other men were on trial in federal court in Atlanta for numerous counts of fraud in a multi-million dollar scheme. The men were accused of issuing false press releases and financial statements about their company for the purpose of inflating stock prices. At the same time, they were transferring shares to family members who sold at the inflated prices, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office.  

Harris chose to represent himself during the trial rather than hire an attorney. On May 23, after eight days of the trial, investigators say Harris skipped town while free on bond. The trial continued, however, and all three men were convicted Thursday.

U.S. marshals were able to track Harris to a residence in Bloomington Hills just outside of St. George, said Mike Wingert, with the Joint Criminal Apprehension Team. They actually began surveillance of him on Saturday, he said.

Harris had two former business associates in southern Utah who were not part of his illegal activities, Wingert said, and were unaware that he was on trial and had fled. He was found at the home of one of those associates.

When JCAT officers made their move Sunday, they believed Harris was ready to flee again, Wingert said. They believed he had been traveling by night and sleeping in his car when he wasn't staying with friends.

Harris was found hiding in a utility closet in the basement, he said.

Harris already faced a possible sentence of 25 years in prison for his securities fraud conviction. He could now face additional charges and penalties for bail jumping.

Pat Reavy, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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