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Originally published July 6, 2010 at 3:55 PM | Page modified July 7, 2010 at 12:04 PM

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FBI unseals 'Barefoot Bandit' papers; is he in Bahamas?

Federal prosecutors have unsealed a criminal complaint charging Colton Harris-Moore — the teenage "Barefoot Bandit" being sought by authorities from the San Juan Islands to the Bahamas — with interstate transportation of stolen property in connection with the theft of an Idaho airplane that crashed and was abandoned near Granite Falls in October.

Seattle Times staff reporter

As the hunt for the so-called "Barefoot Bandit" now shifts to the Bahamas, federal prosecutors on Tuesday unsealed a criminal complaint charging the Camano Island teen with interstate transportation of stolen property in connection with last fall's theft of an airplane in Idaho that crashed and was abandoned near Granite Falls.

The complaint, filed in December in U.S. District Court in Seattle, accuses Colton Harris-Moore, 19, of stealing a $340,000 turbo Cessna 182 on Sept. 29 from the Boundary County Airport, where investigators found bare footprints.

Similar footprints have been found at other crime scenes linked to Harris-Moore, according to the complaint.

Agents also claim they have DNA evidence linking him to the theft of the airplane and say they found a campsite, about four miles from the wreckage, where investigators recovered two KeyBank bags taken in the burglary of an Orcas Island hardware store, a gun stolen from an airplane hangar in Creston, B.C., and a mirror taken in a residential burglary.

The complaint says Harris-Moore is the suspect in those crimes.

Since his escape from a Renton group home in 2008, "approximately 65 investigations have been initiated into crimes which have listed him as the primary suspect," wrote FBI Special Agent Linwood Smith in the complaint.

"These include residential and commercial burglaries, vehicle prowls, vehicle thefts, assaults on law enforcement officials and ... aircraft thefts."

The penalty for interstate transportation of stolen property is up to 10 years in prison and a possible fine.

The plane stolen from Boundary County Airport near Bonners Ferry had between four and five hours' worth of fuel and likely crashed the day it was stolen, Detective Dave McClelland, of the Boundary County Sheriff's Office, said days after the theft.

Authorities believe it was flown at a low altitude to avoid radar detection, he said.

For much of the past year, Harris-Moore — whose antics have made him an underground cult hero on some Internet sites — was believed to have been in the San Juan Islands or Camano Island.

He grew up on Camano Island, where he lived with his mother. In the past several weeks, however, law-enforcement officials believe Harris-Moore may have moved on to South Dakota, Nebraska and Indiana.

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Investigators in the U.S. and Bahamas are investigating Harris-Moore in the weekend theft of a small plane in Indiana that was ditched in shallow waters in the Bahamas.

By the time rescuers arrived Sunday, nobody was in the plane.

The single-engine Cessna that crashed off Abaco Island was apparently stolen more than 1,000 miles away in Bloomington, Ind.

The 2009 Cessna 400 Corvalis was stolen from the Monroe County Airport, said the facility's manager, Bruce Payton.

It was unclear how the thief got into the airport, which has a 10-foot security fence with barbed wire and coded access gates.

U.S. authorities said the heist has similarities to other thefts attributed to Harris-Moore, who has no formal flight training but is believed to have taught himself to fly by reading manuals and the Internet.

Payton said a detective with the Monroe County Sheriff's Department told him authorities had recovered a stolen vehicle about a half-mile from the Indiana airport and "the details of the stolen vehicle seemed to fit that of the pattern known as the Barefoot Bandit."

Authorities believe he has taken five planes, luxury cars and power boats.

In Abaco, a sparsely populated northern Bahamian island known for fishing and sailing, police were handing out wanted posters appealing for information about Harris-Moore.

A statement on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Nassau said Harris-Moore may have recent injuries and urged anyone who sees him to contact the nearest Bahamas police station. It said the FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

A team of detectives in the island chain, east of Florida, traveled from Nassau, the capital, on Tuesday to join the investigation and search for the pilot, police Sgt. Chrislyn Skippings said.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman, Jeff Dubel, said an extensive manhunt had been under way since the weekend.

"We have a lot of faith in the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defense Force and they are chasing all active leads," Dubel said.

The Cessna in question has a range of more than 1,400 miles with a full tank of fuel.

The plane was reported missing Sunday after the owner received a call from the U.S. Coast Guard that the emergency locator transmitter on the plane was sending out a beacon signal off the Bahamas, Payton said.

Meanwhile, Bahamas police received a report of a wrecked plane and requested assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard, which dispatched a Falcon jet from Miami to fly over the area.

The jet did not find any sign of bodies, said Petty Officer Sabrina Elgammal, a Coast Guard spokeswoman in Miami.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com.

This report contains information from Seattle Times archives and The Associated Press.

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