A man who authorities say faked his own disappearance to avoid prosecution on bank fraud charges, prompting a two-day search by the Coast Guard, pleaded guilty to federal counts.
Andrew Biddle, 51, of Egg Harbor Township, faces up to 36 years in prison when he's sentenced Oct. 18. He pleaded guilty Wednesday to the bank fraud charge and causing the Coast Guard to render unnecessary aid.
The bank fraud charge was filed in 2014 after Biddle lied to secure a $55,000 loan from a credit union, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Biddle and another unnamed person then plotted to fake his disappearance.
Biddle and his conspirator took a boat out of a marina in Northfield on July 20, 2014 and traveled across the Great Egg Harbor Inlet to a restaurant in Somers Point, where they finalized their plans.
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When they returned to the marina that night, the conspirator dropped Biddle off between two piers, where he was picked up by another person and driven away.
The conspirator then intentionally hit a navigational marker in the inlet near Longport, causing that person to be ejected from the boat, prosecutors said. That led to someone else making a 911 call which spurred a response by the Coast Guard, state police and local emergency responders, who used vehicles and helicopters to search for Biddle until the following day.
Biddle eventually admitted he was safe in Florida while the search was conducted and that he faked his disappearance, prosecutors said. He turned himself in to Atlantic County authorities in February 2015.
It's not clear if anyone else was charged in connection with the hoax.