Federal official Jeff Andre was vacationing at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom near Orlando last month when he spotted a man who looked familiar.
The man resembled Quashon Burton, 31, who authorities say went on the run in New York City last November after allegedly using fraudulent documents to obtain coronavirus relief aid.
A criminal complaint alleged Burton stole the identities of at least four people to get nearly $150,000 in government loans aimed at struggling businesses during the pandemic.
Andre was familiar with the suspect. As an inspector with the United States Postal Inspection Service, he was involved in the case and had signed Burton’s arrest warrant.
And, in an incredible stroke of luck, the fugitive he’d been looking for in New York appeared to also be vacationing on the same day at the same Florida theme park.
Andre sprang into action.
Andre alerted Disney World security, who in turn notified the local Orange County Sheriff’s Office. And so began a process that ended with Burton behind bars – all because of the two men’s overlapping vacations at “the happiest place on Earth.”
A 2021 criminal complaint – signed by Andre – laid out the details in the case against Burton.
Burton was indicted on federal charges last December, including theft of government funds, conspiracy to steal government funds and aggravated identity theft.
In its complaint, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York accused him of stealing victims’ identities to receive the fraudulent loans and alleged he attempted to convert some of the funds into postal money orders.
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“The defendant used fraudulent email accounts, fake identification documents, bank accounts and bank cards in the names of other individuals … in a manner that created a complex web of identities that made his crimes difficult to investigate,” federal court documents said.
In an email to CNN, Burton’s attorneys, Lauren Di Chiara and Harvey Fishbein, declined to comment or give information about his plea.
An arrest warrant for Burton was issued in November last year, and law enforcement officials went to his last known address in Brooklyn. He was nowhere to be found. They returned to the home twice and spoke to Burton’s mother, who told them her son would not be surrendering, federal court documents said.
For months Burton allegedly used fake identities, including during his visit to Disney World, making it difficult to track him down, authorities said.
But on October 20 at around 3:05 p.m., Andre recognized him at Animal Kingdom and notified Disney security that there was a fugitive in the park. Disney authorities then alerted the county sheriff’s office, telling them that Burton had left the park and was waiting at a nearby bus stop with two family members.
A deputy approached him at the bus stop and asked for identification, and Burton questioned why he needed to provide it, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said in an incident report.
When the deputy tried to handcuff Burton, he stiffened his arms and refused to cooperate, and the deputy took him to the ground and secured him, the incident report said. Burton was charged with resisting an officer without violence.
Even after fingerprints confirmed his identity, he insisted he was not Burton, federal documents said.
Burton has since been transferred to federal custody. Federal prosecutors have argued against his release on bail, saying he “poses an extreme risk of flight.”