NORTH PORT, Fla. - Brian Laundrie is now officially a wanted man. While police previously classified him only as a missing person of interest in Gabby Petito’s disappearance, the FBI now says there is a warrant out for his arrest.
The FBI says Laundrie, 23, has been indicted by a grand jury on charges "related to Mr. Laundrie’s activities following the death of Gabrielle Petito."
In documents released by investigators, the FBI says Laundrie will be charged with intent to defraud for one or more unauthorized uses of a Capital One Bank card, between August 30 and September 1, taking more than $1,000. The indictment does not say specifically to whom the cards belong.
"While this warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr. Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito's homicide," The FBI said in a statement. "We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr. Laundrie's role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI."
Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino responded to the FBI's arrest warrant, telling Fox News, "It is my understanding that the arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie is related to activities occurring after the death of Gabby Petito and not related to her actual demise. The FBI is focusing on locating Brian and when that occurs the specifics of the charges covered under the indictment will be addressed in the proper forum."
Shortly before the FBI's announcement, a North Port law firm announced it would offer $20,000 for information leading to Laundrie's location, adding pressure to anyone who may have information about the case.
Legal analysis of Laundrie indictment
The indictment against Brian Laundrie is a single count and says he committed fraud by using a debit card to take out more than $1,000. Legal analyst and defense attorney Anthony Rickman says the charge is simple, but it becomes a significant piece in a large puzzle.
"Putting the pin number in, he had no permission to do it, he used her credit card without her consent,"Rickman said, although the indictment does not specify it was Gabby's card Laundrie used.
Rickman suspects that for the act of using someone else's credit card to become part of an indictment in a case of this magnitude, prosecutors are using the charge to further establish a timeline for both Gabby and Brian. Her phone's last text was sent August 27. Brian returned home sometime September 1.
The indictment says the card was used on August 30.
"When you use a card, use an ATM, there's a camera associated with it. We will see his image when he is using that card. That's going to help law enforcement," Rickman said.
The arrest warrant that accompanies the indictment says Brian Laundrie has to go before a US magistrate without unnecessary delay. While it's still unclear whether anyone will be charged in the death of Gabby Petito, which has been ruled a homicide, there is now a charge he has to answer for.
"And that means when they get him, he goes right to a judge?" FOX 13's Evan Axelbank asked Rickman.
"Right to a judge, right into custody, no ifs, ands, or buts," Rickman responded.
Search for Brian Laundrie continues
Laundrie has not been seen in over a week. Law enforcement has been combing a 25,000-acre preserve near his North Port, Florida home based on information from his parents regarding his last known location.
Laundrie's parents told police their son left Tuesday, September 14 to go camping at Carlton Reserve. His parents told investigators they went to the reserve Wednesday and saw their son's car there, but not Brian. They returned the next day and brought his vehicle home.
The Laundries then reported Brian missing the following night.
After Brian was reported missing, the search at Carlton Reserve began. Agents also removed carloads of possible evidence from the Laundrie home.
Brian Laundrie's silver Ford Mustang was returned from police custody to his parents Thursday, who then left their home for several hours, with a police escort.
Laundrie's parents have remained silent as the search for Gabby, and then the search for their son stretched on. Speaking only through a New York-based lawyer, the family said early on it would ‘remain in the background’ as the search for Gabby got underway.
The family of Gabby Petito has maintained that the Laundrie family knows more than they were willing to say, stating through their lawyer "We believe you know the location where Brian left Gabby. We beg you to tell us. As a parent, how could you let us go through this pain and not help us? As a parent, how could you put Gabby's younger brothers and sisters through this?"
Gabby's remains were discovered in Grand Teton National Park in the following days. A preliminary autopsy found her manner of death was homicide, but her cause of death was still being investigated.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to submit tips at: www.fbi.gov/petito
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