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Chapala police collar U.S. fugitive

July 15, 2013

A fugitive who had been hiding out in Lakeside for several months was arrested by Chapala police this week and extradited to the United States.

Kenneth James Stopkotte, who had been on the run since April when he skipped court cases for theft and domestic abuse, was detained outside the Chapala Wal-Mart on Friday, July 12, following a tip-off to the local police headquarters at 2 p.m.

Stopkotte, a former swimming coach at an Indiana high school, was first identified by San Antonio Tlayacapan resident Jack Simon, a fellow swimming coach who had known him since 1988.

“I was in Magaña restaurant on the east side of Ajijic when Stopkotte walked in. He kind of smiled at me and then turned his back on me for the rest of the time he was there. I was about 85 percent sure it was him,” Simon told the Reporter.

Aware that Stopkotte was wanted in the United States, but unaware of the severity of the charges, Simon called his former assistant coach and the suspect’s estranged wife, Rebecca Stopkotte.

“He never seemed like that kind of person to me at all,” Simon said, but he grew angry when he heard that Stopkotte had abused Rebecca, a long-term friend of his. She revealed that the U.S. Secret Service was investigating her former husband and that he had skipped a bail bond worth 50,000 dollars. She then informed the bail bondsman, which led to the police tip-off and Stopkotte’s eventual arrest.

Commandant Ramon del Arco Del Arco told the Reporter that Stopkotte appeared nervous when approached by officers. He initially gave his name as Bruce Richards, but his appearance closely coincided with the photos shown on a wanted poster issued by the Williamson County Tennessee Sheriff’s Department, which a local resident had previously given to the chief.

Stopkotte, who was known as Jack to several members of the expat community, was held at the Chapala police station while his real identity was confirmed. He was then turned over to National Migration Institute (INM) officials in Guadalajara and extradited to the United States the following day.

Stopkotte’s local address was given as Calle Raul Ramirez #66 in the Raquet Club subdivision, San Juan Cosala. According to information on the poster, Stopkotte was last seen in U.S. territory on March 25, when he was spotted in Brownsville, Texas driving a red 2013 Jeep Wrangler with Texas plates J2270C, hauling a cargo trailer, and accompanied by “his beloved Lab Dalton.” That vehicle was seized and impounded by Chapala police.

According to reports in the U.S. media, Stopkotte is being held in Harris County Jail in Houston, while awaiting extradition to Tennessee, where he stands accused of stealing 98,454 dollars from 15 churches. He was arrested on February 20 but did not show up for his court case on April 9, leading a Tennessee judge to issue a warrant for his arrest.

The Secret Service also filed a warrant to seize at least one of Stopkotte’s bank accounts, with records indicating that he had stolen 172 checks from church mailboxes and deposited them into his own account from August 20 to November 6, 2012.

Stopkotte, who has a checkered past, served as the swimming coach at Fishers High School in Indiana from 2006 until 2010, when he was accused of stealing 17,000 dollars in pool rental money, although the charges were eventually dropped in March 2012. He missed another court appearance on April 12 of this year, having previously pleaded guilty to separate charges of domestic assault against his estranged wife, theft of over 1,000 dollars and making false reports to the police.

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One Comment leave one →
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