FBI Admits Mistake in Telemarketing Fraud Arrest

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The FBI had the wrong man when it asked the South African government to detain a 72-year-old British man on vacation with his wife to face charges of involvement in a telemarketing scam, the Reuters wire service reported yesterday.


FBI officials admitted the mistake and asked for the tourist's release after agents arrested the real suspect Tuesday in Las Vegas, Reuters reported. Bond was later freed.


South African police arrested Derek Bond at gunpoint Feb. 6 after U.S. officials fingered him as Derek Sykes, who is on Interpol's most-wanted fugitive list. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Sykes was wanted on charges of involvement in a Houston-based telemarketing "Ponzi scheme" that stole $5 million from 210 investors.


Bond is a retired businessman from Bristol in southwest England who had been on a wine-tasting tour when he was arrested. He was held for two weeks despite his family's protests that he was the victim of mistaken identity.


Bond's name matched an alias used by Sykes, as did Bond's passport and description. U.S. federal prosecutors said Sykes apparently had used Bond's personal details for years, leading to the confusion.


Federal prosecutors said Bond "deserves an apology and an explanation," Reuters reported.


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