A pair of con artists who fled from a Duluth prison camp had five days and nothing but open road ahead of them. The smart money had them in Mexico by now.
Instead, they were arrested early Friday at a hotel in Burnsville, where they’d apparently been holed up since walking away from the minimum-security prison Saturday.
Michael Krzyzaniak, 64, and Gerald Greenfield, 67, were arrested shortly after 1 a.m., according to the U.S. Marshals Service. They made a federal court appearance Friday afternoon and face the prospect of additional time in incarceration for their unexcused absence.
They were nabbed 175 miles from the prison at a Hampton Inn situated between Interstates 35W and 35E, near County Road 42. Although near a busy commercial area, the hotel is tucked away on a cul-de-sac.
“Tip information led investigators to the hotel where Krzyzaniak and Greenfield were located together,” the Marshals Service said in a statement. “The pair were arrested without incident.”
They had been staying at the hotel since Sunday and registered under an alias, said Laura Bourdon, a spokeswoman for TMI Hospitality, which owns and operates the hotel. They turned over a credit card number but paid for their one room with cash as they extended their stay daily.
Minneapolis attorney Paul Engh, who represented one of Krzyzaniak’s co-defendants in a 1988 case, said after the pair fled: “This guy, when he was arrested on the case I had with him, had like 10 different IDs. So he’s a master of disguise and would have no trouble traveling. He’s in Mexico.”
Instead, it turned out, Krzyzaniak and Greenfield were “quiet and not drawing attention to themselves” in Burnsville, Bourdon said.
Bryan Prettyman, owner of Ernie’s Pub & Grille next to the hotel, said he doesn’t recall seeing either of the men in his restaurant. “When I saw their pictures in the paper after they were caught, nothing clicked,” Prettyman said.
Employees at two other neighboring businesses, a PDQ convenience store and a Burger King, also said they didn’t recognize the men.
‘Put your hands up’
Early Friday morning, authorities knocked on the doors of a few rooms, awakening guests, until they found the fugitives, Bourdon said. She suspects that most guests “slept right through” all the excitement.
“Law enforcement didn’t feel that an evacuation was needed,” Bourdon said. “[The suspects] were not considered dangerous. They were not armed.”
Angela Ellis, a hotel guest from Orange, Calif., said she was awakened by loud banging and voices, seemingly right outside her fourth-floor room. “It was so loud. It sounded like it was right in our room,” she said.
The only phrase she could hear clearly was “Put your hands up,” she said.
The inmates were discovered missing Saturday night during a routine head count at the prison.
Joseph Krzyzaniak said Friday that he’s “absolutely, absolutely” relieved that his son was found and arrested without being harmed.
“That was one of our main concerns,” said the father, whose Richfield home is about 10 miles north of the hotel.
Joseph Krzyzaniak said he had no contact with his son during his time as fugitive.
Michael Krzyzaniak, of Minneapolis, has nine years to serve of a 12-year-plus term for bilking investors by promoting development projects that never happened. Among them was a resort and housing development in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., that included a Phil Mickelson-designed golf course. Another was a proposed NASCAR-style racetrack in the Elko New Market area. He pleaded guilty in 2011 to wire fraud and tax evasion.
Greenfield, of Bloomington, was serving four years for assisting a mortgage scam with the developer of the Sexton Lofts in downtown Minneapolis. He helped the developer by hiding the profits with an attorney friend in Australia. He has a projected release date of Nov. 2, 2015.
The prison camp, a few miles north of Duluth, lacks a fence and operates on the honor system.
In 1988, Michael Krzyzaniak skipped town as he faced trial in connection with a bogus scheme to sell $550,000 worth of American veteran commemorative medallions. He was arrested seven months later while walking his dog in West Palm Beach, Fla., where he was setting up another telemarketing operation.
Star Tribune staff writers Chao Xiong and Dan Browning contributed to this report.
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