LIHU‘E — The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that a fugitive accused of operating a Ponzi scheme out of his Kaua‘i recording studio was arrested at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at Honolulu International Airport.
Peter Heckman, 63, returned to Hawai‘i to face a 2007 federal grand jury indictment on seven counts of wire fraud. He left Hawai‘i prior to being arraigned on the criminal charges and lived as a fugitive for six years in Indonesia.
“He felt it was time,” said FBI Special Agent Tom Simon of the Honolulu FBI Press Office. “The life of a fugitive is miserable, and he said he was tired of spending his life looking over his shoulder.”
Known as Peter Heckmann during the time he lived on Ohu Road in Kapa‘a, the German national operated Heckman Multimedia Productions in the C. Ahko professional building in 1997. He is accused of promising investors large returns for buying into a local sound and video editing company that would contract with film and music studios when they came to Kaua‘i.
The scheme paid early investors with funds from new ones, according to Simon. When it collapsed in 2007, Heckman had allegedly raised more than $1.2 million from investors, with victims including Kaua‘i retirees.
In 2010, the FBI located Heckman on the Indonesian island of Bali, where he was operating a recording studio and a record label, producing albums for musical artists in the Philippines and Indonesia.
Simon said there was a mission to lure Heckman to the island of Saipan in 2010. The mission failed, he said, but agents did learn more about Heckman’s life in Bali, including that he recently married an Indonesian woman and that they have no children together.
Then the FBI went public with information about Heckman’s fugitive status through a massive social media roll out on Jan. 14, 2013. It was designed to attract international interest in the manhunt with rewards of up to $10,000 for information that led to Heckman’s capture.
The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Indonesia, and Simon said the FBI worked with Interpol, an international criminal police organization, to see what could be done.
He said Indonesia would be willing to extradite an American to the United States or a German to Germany, but not a German to the United States.
“Getting a German national exported us from Indonesia presented a hornets nest of procedures and nobody knew how to navigate the process, and no thought it would be possible,” Simon said.
Simon emailed Heckman with links to articles about his situation to inform him of ongoing efforts to bring him to justice. He communicated back his interest in coming to a self-surrender agreement, Simon added.
“Heckman was welcomed into the negotiation, and we worked with him through the United States Embassy in Jakarta to make that happen,” Simon said.
Agents stayed in touch with Heckman and assisted him in the process through the United States Embassy in Jakarta. He flew to Honolulu with an FBI agent as an escort, but he was not placed under arrest during the flight, Simon said.
Heckman was transported by agents to the U.S. Federal Court-District of Hawai‘i for a hearing before Magistrate Judge Richard Puglisi at 11 a.m.
The court approved Assistant U.S. Attorney Les Osborne’s request that the defendant be detained in federal detention without bond until his trial on May 7.
Heckman is represented by Peter Wolfe of the Federal Public Defender’s Office. The maximum possible penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison per count.
Vida G. Bottom, FBI special agent in Charge of the Honolulu Office, said in a press release that the FBI would like to thank Honolulu Airport Customs and Border Protection officials for facilitating with the arrest.
Bottom also credited a new Internet wanted poster and a social media campaign using Facebook and Twitter that is designed to attract international interest in the manhunt.
“Although this is not our case, we applaud the FBI’s use of social media tools as an innovative means to track down this fugitive and hopefully find some long-delayed justice for his alleged victims,” said County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar.