'Barefoot' stumbles into San Juan record books; largest property-crime restitution ever

Camano Island
Camano Island's Colton Harris-Moore, aka the 'Barefoot Bandit', snapped a self-portrait using a digital camera which authorities later recovered at one of his supposed island hideouts.
— image credit: File photo

Grouped together, his exploits arguably are one-of-a-kind.

Yet there's another dubious distinction that can be pinned on Whidbey Island's most notorious native son. One that the so-called “Barefoot Bandit” earned in the aftermath of a two-year crime spree in San Juan County.

Under the sentence handed down in an Island county courtroom in mid-December, Colton Harris-Moore was ordered to pay an amount of restitution that exceeds that of any other convicted property-crime felon in San Juan County. The 20-year-old former international fugitive pleaded guilty to 17 different felonies in San Juan County, all considered property crimes, and was ordered to pay a total of $272,648 in restitution.

As far as property crimes go, that’s the single largest restitution sum that Randy Gaylord, now in his 16th year as county prosecutor, can recall.

“It is the largest property restitution case ever,” Gaylord said.

Larger monetary awards have been handed down in San Juan County, however, but those were of a “civil” nature.

For example, an Orcas Island couple was awarded $4.2 million in damages six years ago in one of the largest civil judgements ever handed down in superior court. That award followed in the wake of a criminal case in which an Orcas Island man was convicted of vehicular assault after colliding head-on into the couple’s car in 2000 on Crow Valley Road. Court-ordered payments from a decade-old felony assault case resulted in well over $100,000 in restitution to resolved personal injury claims by the victim, Gaylord noted.

In addition to 17 felonies in San Juan County, Harris-Moore also pleaded guilty to 16 felonies committed in Island County, where the criminal cases filed in each of the two neighboring counties were consolidated and ultimately resolved, and where a collective sentence was handed down Dec. 16 by Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill.

In the San Juans, the single largest restitution award, $135,267, goes to Avemco Insurance, a Maryland-based aircraft insurer. Avemco carried coverage on an airplane heisted from the tarmac of the Orcas Island airport and that Harris-Moore later crashed landed in a field on the Yakima reservation, located east of the Cascades in south-central Washington state. He escaped the rough landing unharmed.

The owner of that plane, Bob Rivers of North Bend, a radio personality and part-time Orcas resident, was awarded $47,021 in restitution as well. Harris-Moore was ordered to pay $27,600 to Global Aerospace, a California-based aircraft insurer, and to pay Eastsound’s Island Market $11,550 for damages.

An Orcas Island couple was awarded $10,500 in restitution from a theft and break-in and a San Juan Island couple, whose boat Harris-Moore swiped from its moorage on Cape San Juan, was awarded $7,900.

Though terms of a federal plea bargain prevent Harris-Moore from personally profiting from the telling his story, he is expected to pay the court-ordered restitution from proceeds from book or movie deals. His total amount of restitution is estimated at $1.3 million.

Harris-Moore is slated to be sentenced in federal court in Jan. 27, where, prior to his Dec. 16 appearance in an Island County courtroom, he pleaded guilty to seven crimes, including bank burglary, interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft and being fugitive in possession of a firearm.



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