A 17-year-old youth sought by Florida authorities for allegedly faking his own death by shark attack in a $100,000 life insurance fraud has been arrested in the Lomita area while driving erratically in a stolen car, authorities said Tuesday.
Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Joe Eubanks said Jeffrey Justice, of Fort Pierce, Fla., "attracted the attention" of a deputy, who spotted the youth driving across the center line on Pacific Coast Highway early Monday.
The youth was stopped, arrested and booked on suspicion of possessing narcotics after a small amount of rock cocaine was found in the car.
Charges of grand theft auto and use of stolen credit cards were added when it was learned that Justice was wanted in Florida for the theft of the 1984 Pontiac Trans-Am he was driving. The car had been reported stolen by his girlfriend, Cindy Heen.
As it turned out, Florida wanted him for violating probation and conspiracy to commit grand theft in the phony shark attack that had prompted a massive ocean search off St. Lucie County there.
Justice was being held in a county juvenile facility in Downey awaiting extradition proceedings, Eubanks said.
According to St. Lucie County sheriff's officials, Justice took out two life insurance policies naming Heen as beneficiary. He then rented a boat Sept. 5 with Mike Kinster, a friend. Kinster returned alone, claiming that Justice had gone into the water and had been devoured by a shark.
After a Coast Guard search costing $14,000, Kinster confessed that the shark attack had not occurred, officials said. Kinster said he had let Justice off at a bridge, where he had been picked up by the girlfriend.
Heen said she had not known about the insurance policies and subsequently urged Justice to turn himself in. Instead, she said, he took off in her car.
Pat Justice, the boy's mother, said in Florida that she was glad her son had been caught so that he would stop running.
"I intend to help him any way I can," she said. She added that she could not support "anything he's done," but would stand by him.