As police continue to search for a man who they believe staged a boating accident in order to run from his legal troubles, the owners of the boat involved in the incident are speaking out for the first time.
Police believe Andy Biddle faked his death and is now on the run. The 45-year-old off-shore boat racing champion has been missing since July 20 when the pontoon boat he was piloting hit an unlit buoy just off shore near Longport, N.J.
Biddle and his passenger, Justin Belz, were thrown overboard. Belz swam to shore and called for help, but Biddle was never found.
But detectives have reason to believe the entire crash was staged to elude the law.
Frank Casey, the owner of the boat involved in the crash, says he and his wife weren't shocked by the allegations against Biddle.
"We weren't surprised at all," Casey said.
Police say Professional Boat Sales, the company which Biddle worked for, stole Casey's pontoon boat. Casey says he and his wife bought the boat from the company in 2012. After leaving it with the company for service in October of that year, they never got it back.
"I said, 'show me the boat,'" Casey said. "They couldn't show me and that's when they fessed up and said, 'your boat is not here. We actually lent it out to a customer.'"
Egg Harbor Police charged Biddle with several counts of Theft by Deception in the months before his disappearance. They allege the man defrauded customers, including Casey, of boat sales.
Investigators tell NBC10's Ted Greenberg that Biddle previously tried to disappear under suspicious circumstances.
"I'm continuing the investigation as if he were still alive," Det. Ray Theriault said. "Given the knowledge that I have with what’s occurred in the past, certainly makes me skeptical."
On August 1, NBC10 obtained a flier issued to law enforcement agencies warning them to be on the lookout for Biddle. A day earlier, Egg Harbor Police issued an arrest warrant for new charges related to the boat crash. Egg Harbor Township Police also entered Biddle's name into the National Crime Information Center database as a wanted person with full extradition from all 50 states.
Belz offered no comment when asked about Biddle's disappearance. Our crew was asked to leave when they tried to speak with Biddle's family at his home.
Biddle has contacts throughout the United States and around the world, according to the flier.
Police are asking the public to be on the lookout for the man and contact them with tips. Meanwhile, Casey says he continues to make payments on a boat that he hasn't had in nearly two years.
"I keep joking and saying you can't make this up," Casey said. "You really can't. It's like a movie."