LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — An Australian investment banker accused of attaching a fake bomb to a teenager’s neck as part of an extortion plot once worked for a company with ties to the victim’s family, according to federal court documents released Tuesday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Dave Whalin on Tuesday ordered 50-year-old Paul “Doug” Peters jailed pending an extradition hearing set for Oct. 14 in Louisville.
The FBI arrested Peters on Monday without incident at his ex-wife’s house in a well-heeled suburb near Louisville.
“The police have obtained information that Paul Douglas Peters was formerly employed by a company with which the victim’s family has links,” authorities said in an 11-page arrest complaint unsealed Tuesday.
The document does not elaborate on the statement or any other existing relationship between the suspect and the victim or her family.
Peters, shackled at the ankles and wrists, made a brief appearance in court with his lawyer, Scott Cox. His ex-wife, Debra Peters, sat alone in the front row, weeping quietly.
Paul Peters showed no emotion and spoke quietly to his attorney. He glanced briefly at his ex-wife.
“I will tell you that he will contest these charges” in Australia, the attorney told reporters outside on the courthouse steps following the hearing.
Cox said that Peters is an attorney and an investment banker in Australia and owns his own company, but he didn’t elaborate. Peters makes his living in investment banking, Cox said.
Peters and his ex-wife divorced in 2007 and have three school-age children together, Cox said. He didn’t know how long they had been married.
“She’s in shock,” Cox said of Peters’ former wife. “This is hard on her and her children. … She’s not involved in any respect to this, at all.”
Cox said he did not know yet if Peters would fight extradition to Australia.
In the complaint, authorities show a trail of clues leading to Peters, including credit card charges and computer IP addresses. Three days after Peters took a one-way flight from Sydney to Louisville on Aug. 8, a Louisville FBI agent spotted him in the backyard of his ex-wife’s house, the complaint said.
The complaint also gives vivid details of the frightening Aug. 3 incident in a wealthy Sydney suburb for Madeleine Pulver, the 18-year-old daughter of Internet executive William Pulver. It does not describe a motive or say more about any relationship between the suspect and the family, other than Peters’ previous job.
It says the teenager was studying for her high school exams in her bedroom when she saw the intruder walk in carrying a black aluminum baseball bat and wearing a striped, multi-colored balaclava over his head. The man told her to sit down and no one would get hurt.
The girl sat on her bed and the intruder placed the bat and a backpack next to her. She noticed he was holding a black box. He forced the box against her throat and looped a device similar to a bike chain around her neck.
The man locked the box into position around her neck and placed a lanyard and a plastic document sleeve around her neck. It contained a hand-written note with demands and the email address and a USB digital storage device.
The man started to walk away, and the girl asked him where he was going.
“The man responded by saying, ‘Count to 200 … I’ll be back … if you move I can see you I’ll be right here,” she told authorities, according to the complaint.
He then left, taking the baseball bat and the backpack.
Bomb technicians, negotiators and detectives rushed to the scene. Neighboring homes were evacuated, streets were closed and medical and fire crews waited nearby. Pulver spent 10 terrifying hours chained to the device before the bomb squad was able to free her. She was not hurt, and the device was later found to contain no explosives. Australia’s prime minister said the event resembled “a Hollywood script.”
Australian authorities determined that a Gmail account linked to the incident was established on May 30, 2011, from an Internet Protocol address linked to a Chicago airport. Travel documents obtained from immigration authorities showed that Peters had been at the airport that same day.
The Gmail account was accessed three times on the afternoon of Aug. 3, almost two hours after the hoax device was placed around the teenager’s neck, the complaint said.
The first access took place at 4:09 p.m. from an IP address registered to Kincumber Library. Surveillance video captured a man matching the suspect’s description at the library around the same time. The next two were at 5:25 p.m. and 5:51 p.m. on the same day, from an IP address registered to the Avoca Video Store stop in New South Wales.
The arrest complaint said he left Australia on a one-way flight from Sydney to Chicago on Aug. 8 and then flew to Kentucky the next day. Peters is an Australian citizen but has lived in the U.S., including Kentucky. He’s a father of three who was educated at The Scots College in Sydney.
The normally tranquil subdivision of Heather Green near La Grange, about 30 miles northeast of Louisville, was taken aback at the sight of armed SWAT members descending on their neighborhood.
A neighbor who refused to give his name told The Associated Press that his two daughters were at home doing homework when the SWAT team “came in heavy and hard” to the house next door.
“We had guys with machine guns in our back yard,” he said, though no shots were fired.
He and his wife estimated that Doug Peters had probably spent about six months out of the last two years at the house. They didn’t know him or his ex-wife very well but said that they were both congenial. Peters had been involved in various businesses, but authorities would not elaborate on what they were.
The Pulvers were relieved to hear of the arrest. William Pulver described his daughter as “a bright, happy young woman who for reasons we still don’t understand had her life turned upside down going through this dreadful experience.”
William Pulver was once the president and CEO of NetRankings, a pioneer in tracking online exposure and readership for companies advertising online. He left after the company was sold to ratings giant Nielsen in 2007. He is now the chief executive of Appen Butler Hill, a company that provides language and voice-recognition software and services.
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