UPDATE: Feds Suspect Israel Faked Suicide

Jun 11 2008 | 1:12pm ET

Authorities believe that Bayou Group founder Samuel Israel staged his own death and is on the run.

The hedge fund fraudster was set to begin a 20-year prison term on Monday for defrauding investors of $450 million, but never showed up. His SUV was found on a bridge 40 miles north of New York City with the words “suicide is painless” etched into the dust on its hood.

State police are still searching for Israel’s body in the Hudson River, but federal officials are searching for a still-breathing fugitive.

“There’s nothing to substantiate that he killed himself,” a police source told the New York Post.

The tabloid adds that the Federal Bureau of Investigation thinks Israel was picked up and driven away from the Bear Mountain Bridge after abandoning his 2006 GMC Envoy, which was found at about 12:30 p.m. on Monday. Israel is believed to have stashed money around the world, and may have acquired a phony passport to replace the one he was forced to surrender in 2005.

The FBI and U.S. Marshals Service are actively searching for Israel, whose girlfriend said he left their home on Monday morning to meet a 2 p.m. surrender date at a federal prison in Ayer, Mass.

The “suicide note” on his hood—the title of the theme song to the classic movie and television show M*A*S*H—was surrounded by pine needles, a fact that makes police even more suspicious, the Post reports. A law enforcement source suggested to the newspaper that the words were written somewhere other than the bridge; there are no pine trees near the bridge, but more than a dozen along Israel’s Armonk, N.Y., driveway.

Surveillance videos of the bridge were inconclusive, police say. The FBI is now poring over the tapes.

RELATED STORIES

FBI, Marshals Hunt For Missing Bayou Fraudster
Bayou Group Founder A Possible Suicide
Bayou’s Israel Gets 20 Years

Bayou Group Head To Be Sentenced Today
Bayou CFO Sentenced To 20 Years For Fraud
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