Federal Judge Issues Arrest Warrant for Brian Laundrie
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Federal Judge in Wyoming Issues Arrest Warrant for Brian Laundrie

Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito appear in an image released by the North Port, Fla. Police Department.

Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito appear in an image released by the North Port, Fla. Police Department.

The FBI announced early Thursday evening that a federal judge in Wyoming issued an arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie, the boyfriend of 22-year-old homicide victim Gabby Petito. The alleged offense is not a homicide charge, but it is the first official accusation of wrongdoing brought against Laundrie in an investigation that has garnered nationwide attention.

“While this warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr. Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito’s homicide,” FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said in a news release. “We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr. Laundrie’s role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI. No piece of information is too small or too inconsequential to support our efforts in this investigation.”

The warrant disseminated by the FBI indicates that Landrie is wanted for an alleged violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1029(a)(1). However, the actual indictment — which was made public nearly an hour after the FBI announced the news — actually charges Laundrie with violating a closely related yet entirely separate federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1029(a)(2). The statute reads:

Whoever . . . knowingly and with intent to defraud traffics in or uses one or more unauthorized access devices during any one-year period, and by such conduct obtains anything of value aggregating $1,000 or more during that period . . . shall, if the offense affects interstate or foreign commerce, be punished[.]

Under the relevant federal law, an “unauthorized access device” is “any access device that is lost, stolen, expired, revoked, canceled, or obtained with intent to defraud.” To “traffic” in an unauthorized access device means to “transfer, or otherwise dispose of, to another, or obtain control of with intent to transfer or dispose of” such a device.

The punishment is “imprisonment for not more than 10 years” and a fine of up to a quarter-million dollars, the statute says.

According to the indictment, Laundrie used a Capital One debit card and a PIN to access more than $1,000 between the dates of Aug. 30 and Sept. 1.  The document says the alleged debits occurred “in the District of Wyoming and elsewhere.”

The indictment was filed Wednesday at 2:10 p.m. in Wyoming, but it was not unsealed until Thursday.

Other federal court documents unsealed Thursday evening say federal prosecutors immediately moved to detain Laundrie pending trial — if and when he is found.  They listed a “[s]erious risk” that he would flee and a “[s]erious risk” of “obstruction of justice” as among the reasons why Laundrie was eligible for pretrial detention.  They also listed the necessity of the defendant’s appearance in court and the “[s]afety of any other person and the community” at large as reasons to lock him up.

Gabby Petito’s family reported her missing on Sept. 11, saying they received an “odd text” from the young woman in late August while she was on a cross-country trip with her fiancé Laundrie, 23. Petito was reportedly last spotted at the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Police in North Port, Florida, where the couple lived with Laundrie’s parents, said that Laundrie returned there with their van back on Sept. 1.

Gabrielle Petito's van.

Gabrielle Petito’s van.

Laundrie has not spoken with investigators, authorities said. An attorney for his family reportedly said that he recommended Laundrie not speak to authorities.

The Petito case escalated last weekend. On Sunday, the FBI found a body in Wyoming which they said matched Petito’s description. The next day, a coroner confirmed that the remains belonged to Petito and that she was the victim of a homicide. The FBI raided the Laundrie family home the same day.

According to cops, Laundrie’s parents came forward last Friday, telling officers they had not seen their son since Tuesday, Sept. 14.

Police body cam footage from Moab, Utah showed local officers responding to suspected domestic incident on Aug. 12. Based on statements from the couple and a witness, they determined Petito struck Laundrie and that Laundrie grabbed her face. Laundrie construed this as the result of minor relationship problems stacking up. Cops had them split up for the night.

The FBI specifically said it wished to hear from anyone who used the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area between Aug. 27 and Aug. 20, from anyone “who may have had contact” with Gabby Petito or Brian Laundrie, or anyone who “may have seen their vehicle.”

The FBI is accepting tips and photos at tips.fbi.gov, fbi.gov/petito, and phone calls at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

K9 searching for Brian Laundrie

Authorities in North Port, Fl. released this photograph of a police K9 used in the search of Brian Laundrie.

Florida authorities have spent days searching the nearby Carlton Reserve, where authorities say the 23-year-old Laundrie left a week ago for a hike. On Facebook, police issued a lengthy statement about their search across “vast and unforgiving” terrain.

A weekend ground search and aerial search Monday of the 25-thousand-acre preserve has yet to yield any answers, but we must press on.

Please be aware, the Carlton Reserve is a vast and unforgiving location at times. It is currently waste [sic] deep in water in many areas. This is dangerous work for the search crews as they are wading through gator and snake infested swamps and flooded hiking and biking trails.

Drone footage of search for Brian Laundrie

Drone footage shows the search for Brian Laundrie through what authorities describe as Florida’s “vast and unforgiving” Carlton Reserve.

Posting updates of their excursions daily on YouTube, authorities have used K9s, swamp buggies, drones and other tools in an attempt to find Laundrie. Authorities announced that they have concluded their search for the evening on Thursday, finding nothing.

“We will be back at it Friday, same time,” spokesman Josh Taylor told reporters.

Conveying the scope of the search, Taylor estimated that around “75 personnel from 16 different agencies” were on the ground Thursday. Authorities used four swamp buggies, he added.

Read the federal court documents below:

Matt Naham and Adam Klasfeld contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: this piece began as a developing story and has been updated substantially since its initial publication.

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University.  He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now a Senior Editor for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only.  You should not rely on it for legal advice.  Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.  This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.  Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.