Sam Israel's girlfriend arrested

Israel may be driving an RV with New York license plate, EEN-5973
June 20, 2008 7:16:22 AM PDT
The girlfriend of fugitive money-man Sam Israel is facing up to ten years in prison. She's free this morning on $75,000 bail. 44-year-old Debra Ryan is charged with helping Israel slip away on the very day he was due to report to prison, to serve a 20-year sentence. Prosecutors say Ryan helped him fake his suicide -- parking a getaway RV near the Bear Mountain bridge, where his SUV was found abandoned.

Ryan, of Armonk, admitted to investigators that she helped Israel pack up the RV and saw him park it on a highway rest area on June 9, the day he was supposed to report to federal prison for the start of a 20-year term.

Ryan's statement is the first big break announced in the case since Israel's SUV was found with the ominous words "Suicide is Painless" etched in dust on the hood. No body was found in the river, and investigators quickly decided Israel had gone on the lam rather than report to prison.

The U.S. Marshals office released a photo of the RV, a 2007 Coach Freelander, and said the New York license plate number was EEN-5973.

"Israel may be at RV parks, campgrounds or highway rest areas," the marshals' announcement said.

It also warned he might be using the names Sam Ryan or David S.


Debra Ryan, who lived with Israel, was charged Thursday with aiding and abetting his failure to surrender, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. She appeared in federal court in White Plains before Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith and was released on the condition she post $75,000 bond by Monday.

Her attorney, Paul Davison, did not enter a plea.

Ryan fled the courthouse into a waiting cab and did not answer reporters' questions. Davison also refused to comment.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia refused to comment about whether Ryan knows where Israel is and about whether she is cooperating with investigators.

The complaint said that on the day after Israel's failure to surrender, Ryan told state police she had found a suicide note written by him and had surrendered it. But on Thursday, the complaint said, Ryan acknowledged that she had helped Israel attach a blue 2005 Yamaha motor scooter to the back of an RV and helped him pack it with his belongings.

The complaint said Ryan told investigators that on the morning of June 9, the day he was to surrender, she drove her car and Israel drove the RV to a rest area off Interstate 684, about 55 miles north of New York City. Israel parked the RV there, then drove back with Ryan to their home, the complaint said, quoting Ryan. It said nothing about what happened later that day.

Israel's GMC Envoy, not an RV, was found at about 12:30 p.m.

that day on the Bear Mountain Bridge, 40 miles north of New York.

The phrase on the hood - the title of a song from the "MASH" movie and television series - did not prevent investigators from immediately suspecting a scam.

Israel, 48, had been ordered to surrender at 2 p.m. that day to start his 20-year stretch at a federal prison in Ayer, Mass., after pleading guilty to bilking hundreds of millions of dollars from investors in his Bayou Group hedge funds.