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Molester is sentenced for faking death

June 19, 2007|Tami Abdollah | Times Staff Writer

It started as a case of a boater believed lost at sea off the El Segundo coast, then became a search by authorities for a child molester with a motive to fake his death. On Monday, Daniel James Farinholt was brought back to court for his final curtain call.

The white-collar technology worker from Orange County was in federal court to be sentenced on two felony counts he had pleaded guilty to in March -- faking his death, which caused a search-and-rescue operation that cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars, and identity theft.

Authorities now know that Farinholt faked his death in order to avoid four pending felony sexual assault charges in 2002.

When Farinholt's empty boat, Reel'n and Rock'n, was found anchored off the shore of El Segundo with droplets of blood smeared on it in May 2002, authorities believed he had fallen overboard or killed himself during the Memorial Day weekend.

Yet two days of divers' searches yielded no body.

Eventually, authorities realized that Farinholt had missed his May 23 pretrial hearing in Orange County Superior Court on four felony counts of sexual assault on a child under 14. That was the day before he went missing.

"There was the science and the motivation," said Susan Schroeder, a spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney's office. "Basically, there was the motivation to pretend he is dead, and the science that was on the boat didn't support that" he had actually died.

Farinholt then disappeared for almost three years.

It is now believed that after abandoning his boat he swam to shore, caught a Greyhound bus and worked his way to Boise, Idaho. He assumed the identity of a transient he had met along the way, using the man's personal information to apply for a passport and start a new life.

However, Farinholt's luck soon ran out. When "America's Most Wanted" ran a segment on his case, the mother of a woman he was dating in Boise called police. On Jan. 24, 2005, Farinholt, who had been working for a Boise computer company and living under the name Donald Dudley, was back in an Orange County courthouse, extradited for the outstanding charges. More than a year later, in August 2006, he was sentenced to 10 years in state prison.

On Monday, Farinholt, dressed in a dark green prison uniform, stood in court again, this time before U.S. District Court Judge Audrey B. Collins, to be sentenced for the search-and-rescue hoax and identity theft.

"I understand the seriousness of the crimes, and the charges, and I plan to make full restitution as soon as I can," Farinholt, 46, told the judge.

Farinholt was sentenced to a year of prison for each felony count, to be served concurrently with his 10-year state sentence. Although Farinholt's total prison time will not change, he will also have to pay restitution of $29,419 to the U.S. Coast Guard and L.A. County Fire Department. After release, Farinholt must register as a sex offender.

"The bottom line here is the guy accepted responsibility for getting a fake passport and abandoning his boat," said Deputy Federal Public Defender Kim Savo.

"He's someone who has to face the consequences of his actions every day."

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