ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. - A millionaire fugitive on the run since December could be back in the Tampa Bay area.
Private investigator Phil Klein, who has been searching for John Stanton III for five months, says three credible tips led him to Zephyrhills. Stanton went on the run in December after a judge ordered him to serve five months and 29 days in jail for failing to pay millions of dollars worth of alimony and child support.
Once worth more than $250 million, Stanton claims he could not pay up because he is bankrupt. Stanton even filed bankruptcy in federal court, but failed to show up to three separate hearings. The judge then issued a warrant for his arrest.
"He ditched his kid and he ditched his wife," said Klein. "You don't do that to kids."
Stanton's 14-year-old son is sick and is unable to undergo proper treatment because his mother is without insurance and money.
While on the run, Stanton and his Zephyrhills-based business partner have filed three separate documents with the Security and Exchange Commission for three separate companies they want to publicly trade. On the documents, Stanton is listed as a key stockholder.
"It is amazing to see how he works. It is amazing. He is a very smart man," Klein said.
Klein told ABC Action News he learned through informants Stanton carries around a suitcase full of cash. Avoiding a paper trail, Klein explained how Stanton goes into local big box stores or convenient stores and buys Visa and American Express gift cards--often putting thousands of dollars on the cards at a time. Klein said after the cards run out of money, Stanton tosses them.
Authorities have frozen Stanton's bank accounts, notified INTERPOL, placed him on the no-fly list and suspended his driver's license.
Klein believes Stanton is getting around by private jets and is using disposable cell phones.
"I can't wait to meet him, and I will meet him," Klein said.
Klein is keeping watch over a home on Bernadette Drive. The home is owned by one of Stanton's business partners. The only location he is watching is a rundown auto shop less than a mile away. That auto shop is listed in documents filed with the SEC as the headquarters of Bulova Technologies Incorporated. Papers filed with the SEC in January state the company is involved in aerospace and defense. Stanton is also listed as a key stockholder.
"This is a front," Klein said.
Klein plans to continue his hunt overnight and will start knocking on doors and passing out wanted fliers with Stanton's picture Tuesday. Klein invited ABC Action News on his stakeout because he feels media pressure will help flush Stanton out.
"We need the public's help. We need to end this," Klein said.
Klein believes Stanton is carrying a gun and would not hesitate to hurt someone. If you see him, do not go up to him or confront him. Instead, call 911 immediately.