Robert Arcieri, Longtime Phoenix Fugitive Who Faked His Own Drowning, Arrested In California

Authorities later this morning will announce the surprise arrest of a former Phoenix businessman who faked his own drowning a quarter-century ago as police closed in on him in an alleged murder-for-hire scheme.

Law enforcement sources tell us that Robert Arcieri was arrested yesterday at his home in Palm Springs, California, after Maricopa County grand jurors returned an indictment that included the 1984 attempted murder-for-hire case and numerous other felonies. 

The 72-year-old man waived extradition and was flown to Phoenix, where he had his initial appearance a few hours ago.

Arcieri is being held in lieu of $5 million cash-bond only, and will be arraigned June 8 at the Maricopa County Superior Court.

Present at the arrest was former Phoenix police detective Larry Flick, who investigated Arcieri for alleged criminal wrongdoing in the early 1980s, and Marianne Ramirez, a current detective assigned to the city agency's Cold Case squad.

James Keppel, who heads the criminal division of the Attorney General's Office, was the original prosecutor on the Arcieri case when he was with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

He tells us, "It came in as a tip, and Phoenix PD followed it up. Apparently Mr. Arcieri had been living in Palm Springs for quite awhile. It's been a long time."

Detective Flick long had suspected that Arcieri's alleged death by drowning in January 1987 had been staged. Arcieri, a nephew and two friends were a fishing trip on the Colorado River when he apparently fell overboard and disappeared.

Stating the obvious, his body never was found.

Flick said in an early 1990s episode of Unsolved Mysteries that Arcieri had been "looking at spending the rest his life behind bars, resulted in making some hard choices. And that was either facing them or feigning his death, and I believe he took the latter. Every indication I have is that he did not drown, and he is alive today."

Flick was on the money, speaking of which our sources tell us that Arcieli's family members collected more than $700,000 in life-insurance benefits after their loved one's "death."

Arcieli and three other men faced numerous charges back in the 1980s, including the murder-for-hire scheme (the alleged victim was a onetime Arcieli business associate), robberies, burglaries and other counts.

Two of the onetime defendants plea-bargained at the time and served time in prison. The two are expected to testify against Arcieli if his case goes to trial.

Charges against a third man were dismissed shortly after the original indictment.

Arcieli at the time owned a Phoenix pretzel company, but also allegedly was the mastermind of a robbery/burglary ring that netted hundreds of thousands of dollars in property from residences--some owned by acquaintances of his.

But prosecutors dropped the charges against him to allow investigators to dig deeper into the case, fully expecting (according to Jim Keppel) to refile.

We will update this blog item later.

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