Almost five years after he disappeared with up to $1 million of his clients' money, notorious Breckenridge attorney Royal "Scoop" Daniel III was arrested Wednesday as he crossed into the U.S. from Mexico.
Breckenridge police were initially told Daniel was entering the country by bus when he was apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol, but new information suggests he may have been trying to cross the border on foot, after reportedly spending the last four years living in Acapulco, Mexico.
Daniel is being held at the San Diego Central Jail on a $175,000 bond while he awaits an extradition hearing expected today. He faces charges of theft, a Class 3 felony, and commercial bribery, a Class 6 felony. Together the two charges could carry a sentence of up to eight years in prison, although more charges are likely to follow.
"We're getting those charges filed as a place holder," said 5th Judicial District Attorney Mark Hurlbert. "There's a potential for filing more charges."
Assistant Breckenridge police chief Greg Morrison, the original lead investigator on Daniel's case, happened to be in San Diego for a conference this week and spoke with Daniel Thursday. He told reporters at CBS4 that Daniel said he was not aware there was a warrant out for his arrest.
He said he had been living in Acapulco for the last four years, doing translation work for companies, Morrison told CBS4. He also said Daniel told him he would likely waive his extradition, meaning he could be back in Colorado in the next few weeks.
For the local community, news of Daniel's whereabouts and answers to the many questions surrounding his disappearance have been a long time coming.
"When the topic of Scoop comes up, I still have some people tell me they think he's at the bottom of Lake Dillon," Breckenridge attorney Kent Willis said. "They can't believe he'd do anything like this, he was that well liked."
"I'm glad there's some closure on this," Breckenridge Mayor John Warner said following news of Daniel's arrest. "I think people feel like we've come full circle and we'll know more about what he was thinking."
Daniel went missing April 27, 2007 after, it was later discovered, he allegedly bilked clients out of as much as $1 million through real estate exchanges, which allowed him to hold large sums of money during property transfers.
Local 911 dispatch received a call from Daniel's cellphone the day he disappeared, but no one came on the line during the 9-second call.
For the last four-and-a-half years, authorities were unable to rule out foul play, but they suspected Daniel took the money and ran.
"He was operating under a house of cards, moving all this money around, and he must have seen that the house of cards was about to crumble," Morrison told the Summit Daily after the disappearance.
Some speculated he might have fled with the money to South America. He had made frequent visits to Brazil and was known to have been fluent in Portuguese and to have had contacts in the area.
If Daniel does waive his extradition today, the Summit County Sheriff's Office will take over the logistics of his return to Colorado and will have five days to make arrangements.
Daniel was a well-known member of the Breckenridge community. He attended the Father Dyer United Methodist Church and volunteered his legal expertise helping local immigrants from West Africa secure green cards. When he went missing, the Breckenridge community turned out to look for him, although the search was abandoned when reports of the money missing came to light.