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Fake Death, Real Prison

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In November, Julius “Butch” Nesbitt was handed a 12-year prison sentence three years after he was believed dead. Prosecutors say he faked his death while boating in 2007 to avoid charges of selling oxycodone in South Carolina.

U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said Nesbitt staged an accident while free on bail. He cruised his 32-footer into the bay, abandoned ship, and left behind his wallet, fishing gear, and personal effects. He even left the engine idling.

According to the AP,  Nesbit’s mother and family believed he was missing or dead “Prior to fleeing, [he] had taken steps to prepare for his flight such as transferring property out of his name and even attempting to secure a birth certificate and social security card in his deceased brother’s name,” said Nettles.

USCG rescuers deployed helicopters and boats looking for his body. Although searchers concluded Nesbitt had drowned, U.S. Marshals considered him a fugitive. They caught him less than a year later in Terre Haute, Indiana.

“He was caught with...counterfeit money, newspaper clippings from South Carolina related to his disappearance, identification cards with...the name of a close friend, and stolen vehicles from South Carolina,” Nettles said.

A first-time drug offender, Nesbitt could have gotten off with a relatively lenient sentence. But in faking his death, he committed several felonies, including grand theft auto, counterfeiting, possession of illegal firearms, and causing a USCG search when no help was needed. Along with the 12-year prison sentence, Nesbitt was ordered to pay more than $170,000 in restitution to the U.S. Coast Guard.