Did champion boat racer from the Shore fake his death?

Andrew Biddle, an experienced powerboat racer who disappeared when his pontoon boat apparently hit a buoy and then slammed into a jetty at the southern tip of Longport.

LONGPORT, N.J. - Authorities are suggesting that a champion powerboat racer, declared missing following a crash of his pontoon boat late last month, may have staged the accident to evade theft charges.

Egg Harbor Township police said Friday that a report that Andrew Biddle had planned the incident to "avoid prosecution" is a scenario that "must be considered."

That announcement followed a story by the Atlantic City Press citing a police flier, apparently not intended to go public, that reportedly stated: "It is believed Biddle is alive and well and on the run."

Township police, in a statement, said the correspondence was "intended for law enforcement purposes only." Requests for further information were not returned.

Biddle operated Professional Boat Sales, located in the township, alongside his partner in business and sport, Tracy Blumenstein, who also faces theft-related charges.

The search for Biddle, a 44-year-old Egg Harbor Township resident and two-time national powerboat champion, began the night of July 20, after his boat hit a buoy and crashed into a jetty in Longport. Biddle was said to be returning from a dinner at a waterfront restaurant in Somers Point. A survivor, Justin Belz, 23, of Marmora, who swam to shore, was interviewed by authorities.

The night after the crash, following an 18-hour search that covered more than 60 miles, the Coast Guard called off the effort.

A number of criminal complaints this year against Biddle and Blumenstein, provided by the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office, allege they conned customers.

In May 2013, according to one record, they sold a boat and trailer for $17,000, plus taxes and fees, through the company and never provided the owner of the property with compensation. Another filing states that in 2012, Biddle sold a motor as new even though it had been used for more than 150 hours.

The pair are also accused of failing to provide a pontoon boat to a man who paid a $20,000 deposit for it in March 2013.

Blumenstein was arrested in February at the Atlantic City Boat Show, following a months-long investigation, in the alleged "fraudulent sale of a boat," and charged with issuing bad checks totaling $33,000, police announced at the time.

Calls to the business went unanswered Friday.

The characterizations of the duo are a steep departure from the ones in the boating community, where they were revered as Team Livorsi and Team Pro Boat.

In 2012, the pair won the P1 Superstock USA championship series, a powerboat competition. The following year, they won again and also proved victorious in a United Kingdom championship.

On Facebook, a page dedicated to Biddle's safe return had garnered more than 800 "likes." A moderator urged the public not to jump to conclusions.

Detectives, however, are "obligated to investigate and prosecute Mr. Biddle for the aforementioned criminal acts," the police statement read, "until Mr. Biddle's whereabouts are officially determined."


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