A Jersey Shore man who has been missing since a boat he was driving crashed near shore two weeks ago may not be missing at all. Police believe he faked his death and is now on the run.
Egg Harbor Township Police say they believe Andy Bittle, an off-shore boat racing champion, is alive and well. The 45-year-old 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.
Egg Harbor Police charged Biddle with several counts of Theft by Deception in the months before his disappearance. They allege the man defrauded customers of boat sales. He is also accused of fraud at his employer.
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 Friday, 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.
"The boat that he was allegedly thrown overboard on was stolen by the business that he was part of," Theriault said.
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.