Katrina Defrauder Caught
Around 1 a.m. on November 9th, rangers received a report of an assault that had taken place near Government Wash.
Investigation revealed that the primary suspect was Mitchell Baria of Jackson, Mississippi, who was wanted by the FBI and listed as a "featured fugitive" on a web site run by its office in that city. Rangers searched the area but were unable to find him. Later on the next day, NPS special agents who were staking out the area received a report from the government Wash campground host that he thought he'd seen Baria walking into a nearby wash.
The park's search dog, "Onyx," and handler ranger Todd Austin, together with rangers Joel Hyzer and Stephen Dollinger, began tracking Baria from the point where he'd last been seen.
They soon found him and he surrendered without incident. He was later released to the FBI.
Baria was wanted by the FBI for his alleged involvement in a scam to defraud Gulf Coast homeowners, mostly elderly, out of more than $100,000 since 2005. The victims' homes
were damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and Baria was hired to repair them. He allegedly obtained money to repair the homes, but performed no work. Baria's search and capture was accomplished through a coordinated effort by rangers and NPS and FBI special agents. [Submitted by Eric Lisnik, District Ranger]