Fugitive Couple, 7 Kids Caught After Tourist IDs Them, Feds Say

PHOTO: Donald Brian Winberg and Karlien Richel WinbergGalveston County Sheriff's Office
Donald Brian Winberg and Karlien Richel Winberg

A couple and their seven children are now in the custody of the FBI in Miami after they were spotted in the Bahamas and recognized as fugitives facing charges in a years-old wire-fraud case, federal authorities said.

The bizarre case, which started with alleged fraud involving hay in Colorado, led investigators to a sailboat that had run aground in Texas and, eventually, to a tipoff by a U.S. tourist in the Bahamas.

Donald and Karlien Winberg were charged last year with 15 counts, each relating to an alleged wire fraud scheme officials said they ran in Colorado that involved selling hay and corn that was not theirs to unload, authorities said.

They were indicted in April 2014 and entered a not guilty plea before violating their bond conditions in October by not reporting to probation and not reporting to the court for trial, their former attorney and federal authorities confirmed to ABC News today.

During the ensuing investigation, authorities said they traced them to a sailboat shipwreck in Galveston Bay, Texas. At some point after they stopped appearing in court in Colorado in October, they had purchased the sailboat in Texas, authorities say.

A federal official told ABC News that the couple ran the boat aground and "had to walk back to shore with their money" and their seven children. Because the ship was stuck on a remote sandbar, they were able to avoid the authorities who only later linked them to the ditched boat after it was found.

The Winbergs then bought another boat and made their way to the Bahamas, authorities say.

Authorities were only alerted to the fugitives this week after some Americans, whom the federal official would only identify as being from the southern United States, recognized the couple in connection to the wire fraud case and alerted Bahamian police, officials said.

The police asked for their identification and, when the couple refused to give them any, they were taken into custody where authorities were able to determine that they were wanted in Colorado, officials said.

Bahamain officials voluntarily deported the family back to the United States and they were taken into FBI custody as soon as they stepped off the plane in Miami Thursday, authorities said.

Donald Winberg, 43, and Karlien Winberg, 33, were both scheduled to appear at a hearing in Miami this morning and they are expected to be sent by the court to Colorado to face charges, though no timeline has been set, authorities said.

Authorities say social services in Florida has taken custody of the seven children, and their ages have not been released.