Contracts of those sales —worth a total of $4.385 million—were executed for six of these properties, and the money, Mr. Arntsen claimed, was placed in an escrow account at Crowell & Moring on behalf of Mr. Punch.
Then things get a tad screwy: Mr. Arntsen admitted that he transferred the money into his own Citibank account, and that he invested some of it in a separate and unrelated business deal. Understandably bothered, Mr. Punch ordered his lawyer to retrieve the money, or at least what was left of it.
On September 13, Mr. Punch escorted Mr. Arntsen to a local Citibank branch, where the latter withdrew $1.842 million in bank checks. A trip to a Wells Fargo branch followed, and Mr. Arntsen withdrew another $43,000, which he subsequently handed to Mr. Punch. Mr. Punch, however, insisted that Mr. Arntsen still owed him a round-figured $2.5 million.
“He went through this whole convoluted story,” Mr. Punch told a Reuters reporter last year. “He had to go to Hong Kong to get the money back, and he wanted me to go to Hong Kong with him.”
The next day, Mr. Punch arranged to meet Mr. Arntsen at a downtown location, where Mr. Punch had secretly arranged a sting in coordination with law enforcement officials. Unbeknownst to Mr. Punch and the law, Mr. Arntsen had already absconded to Philadelphia by car, Chicago by air, and finally Hong Kong, also by air, obviously. The trip, Mr. Lewis later argued before the court, had been planned well in advance, for an unrelated business matter not tied to his alleged escape.
Meanwhile, at the scheduled meeting downtown, a car arrived at the meeting spot and was seized upon by the authorities in waiting. The driver was pulled out and it suddenly became clear: Mr. Arntsen had employed a decoy, Ms. Jacobs claimed.
Mr. Punch did not return a phone call or an email request for comment late Friday night.