SEATTLE – A Seattle man accused of defrauding individuals and banks of millions of dollars has been named to the U.S. Marshals Service’s “15 Most Wanted” list.
The U.S. attorney’s office on Tuesday also announced it had filed a complaint and unsealed a 1998 indictment against James R. Rowe, 39. In those documents, Rowe is charged with bank fraud, wire fraud, impersonating a deputy marshal and a U.S. Customs agent and being a convicted felon in possession of firearms.
Rowe has been known as Steven D. Heitman and Kevin Holloway, among other aliases. He also has passed himself off as a Navy SEAL, a U.S. Army Special Forces officer and a New England Patriots football player, the marshals service said.
Described as armed and dangerous, Rowe “is skilled at assuming new identities, and will more than likely move his operation and continue to commit crimes against our community,” said Chief Deputy Marshal David Miller.
The IRS and FBI also are investigating him.
Using the Heitman alias, Rowe won backing from a Microsoft executive to build a chain of three ski shops in the Seattle area. He also operated a Seattle car dealership. He disappeared in March, leaving behind a wife of one year who said she also was duped.
Heitman, who died in 1980, was a classmate of Rowe’s at Seattle’s Ballard High School. Using that alias, Rowe began working at a Bellevue sports shop in 1998, where he met Dale Watanabe, an avid skier and customer who worked for Microsoft.
When Rowe wanted to start his own ski shop, Watanabe wrote a $40,000 check to become a partner, the Eastside Journal reported earlier this month. Nordic Sports Haus opened in late 1998 in Seattle, followed by a Woodinville store in March 1999 and the February 2000 purchase of Goodsport in Seattle.
Watanabe and fellow Microsoft executive Ron Hosogi bought Sports Cars International in Seattle for several million dollars in October 1999. Rowe, using the Heitman alias, became a partner in that business.
The U.S. attorney’s office said Rowe persuaded Towne Bank of Woodinville to loan several million dollars to buy and operate the businesses.
“Everyone was a victim in this,” Watanabe told the Eastside Journal. “He’s totally to blame.”
Rowe is charged with two counts of bank fraud and one count of wire fraud in a scheme to defraud individuals and banks. The indictment, originally filed under seal May 27, 1998, accuses him of three counts of false statement in obtaining a firearm, three counts of impersonation of a federal agent and two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The complaint alleges Rowe began converting money and property from the Seattle-area businesses for his personal use.
In October 1999, he transferred $140,000 from a Sports Cars International account at Towne Bank to the Mirage Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, then withdrew the money, the complaint said.
He also is accused of obtaining a 1998 Lotus Esprit with a Towne Bank loan and a 2000 Mercedes CLK 430 that he stole from an investor, then selling the vehicles to a dealership for nearly $115,000 and pocketing the money in late March. Around that time, he also obtained a loan from First Heritage Bank of Snohomish for $80,000, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
He left town March 27, the same day he sold the Mercedes. He was last seen in a Las Vegas casino on or about March 30.
Nordic Sports Haus and Sports Cars International subsequently filed for bankruptcy protection, the U.S. attorney said.
The earlier indictment alleges that Rowe, as Kevin Holloway, impersonated federal agents and made false statements in efforts to obtain firearms in Seattle in 1994.
The Marshals Service said Rowe is also sought for investigation of burglary in San Diego, Calif.; counterfeiting in Denver; larceny in Lakewood, Colo.; probation violation in Arapahoe, Colo.; and larceny in Adams County, Colo.
He was convicted of bank fraud in federal court in Southern California in December 1993, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Rowe is 6 feet tall, 230 pounds, with reddish-brown hair and blue eyes. He often wears a goatee, expensive jewelry and has a Navy SEAL tattoo on his left shoulder, the Marshals Service said.
Conviction for bank and mail fraud affecting a financial institution carries a maximum sentence of 30 years. The firearms counts carry a maximum sentence of 10 years, and the impersonation counts three years.
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