HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a ploy that sounds like it came out of the movie "Argo," the FBI tried to lure a music producer charged with bilking Kauai residents out of $1.2 million back to the United States by making up a phony recording deal. And now the FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the man's arrest.
Peter Heckman, 63, is wanted by the FBI after he fled Hawaii in 2007, shortly before a federal grand jury in Honolulu indicted him for fraud. The FBI believes he's now living in Bali, Indonesia.
"The idea that this guy is somehow living comfortably overseas, using money he stole from the people of Kauai to launch a recording industry business is absolutely insane. He needs to be in prison and he needs to be in prison now," said FBI Special Agent Tom Simon, who's been working the case since 2010. "The idea that a German national can come here to Kauai and take advantage of the people of Hawaii is not something that we here in the FBI Honolulu office can live with. This guy needs to be caught."
Simon said two years ago, he was able to track Heckman to Bali where he operated a recording studio and had launched a record label. Heckman was producing recordings for musical artists in the Philippines and Indonesia, Simon said.
Agents tried to lure him to Saipan in March 2010 with the promise of a lucrative contract with a fake band called "Frenzie."
"Unfortunately in this situation, Heckman was pretty smart. He knew that if he set foot in the United States, he'd be arrested before he even got through airport security. So he never showed," Simon said.
Heckman called at the last minute and said he was "sick" and couldn't make it, Simon said.
Indonesia has no extradition treaty with the United States, so the FBI cannot arrest him there.
In the Hawaii case, the FBI said Heckman ran a "failing" recording studio in Kapaa on Kauai and stole $1.2 million from about a dozen local investors who were promised 10- to 15-percent returns in just a few weeks.
"What the people of Kauai did not realize as they were giving him millions of dollars is that the whole thing was just a Ponzi scheme. There was no actual money being produced by Heckman's business. He was just taking money from one investor and creating the illusion of investment returns by paying another investor," Simon said.
The feds want to know if anyone in Hawaii or around the world knows where Heckman is.
"Heckman lived on Kauai for a number of years. We don't know who he still knows in that community and who he still may be in touch with. We also know that he has a child in New York City and he may have some contact with the baby's mother there," Simon said.
A German national, Heckman speaks with a German accent, is 5' 7" tall, weighs about 200 pounds with grey hair and blue eyes. He often uses the first name "Hans" and sometimes spells his last name "Heckmann" with two n's to mask his true identity while marketing his recording production services, the FBI said.
In one album by the Filipino group KAOS, he is listed as H.P. Heckmann, the album producer and recorded the songs at his studio, Raining Heart Studio, in Bali, according to a web site featuring his work.
Another of his bios lists him as: "Audio Engineer (Mixing & Mastering), Producer, Composer, Arranger and Theatrical Show Designer."
Heckman's bio also said, "showcasing a quite eclectic mix of musical and visual collaborations over the past thirty-five years in the entertainment industries - ranging from early 80s German Pop (Neue Deutsche Welle) and European Electronica to modern World Music compositions and Ethnic Jazz productions.... and everything in between. The songs are examples of personal projects/productions as well as previous mixing/mastering works for a variety of international clients."
The FBI is publicizing its $10,000 reward using Twitter and Facebook.
"Really what we're hoping to do is to use the power of social media and the press to get the word out there that this guy is wanted by the FBI," Simon said.
The statutory maximum penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison per count. Heckman was indicted on seven counts of wire fraud in the Kauai investment scheme.
Anyone with any information on his current location is asked to call the Honolulu FBI at (808) 566-4300.