Billionaire hedge-fund manager Samuel Israel III disappears on his way to prison

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The Independent US

A disgraced former New York hedge-fund manager has sparked a nationwide manhunt after apparently faking his own suicide on the day he was due to report to prison to begin a 20-year sentence for fraud.

Samuel Israel III, a billionaire co-founder of the Bayou Group, is being sought by police after his car was found abandoned on the Bear Mountain Bridge in upstate New York with the words "suicide is painless" written into the dust on its bonnet.

The authorities said that no body had been found, and that they were keeping an "open mind". Mr Israel had been due to report to prison by 2pm on Monday after being sentenced in April for his role in a scheme to cheat investors of $450m (£230m).

Bruce Cuccia, a police investigator, said that no witnesses had seen anyone leave the vehicle or jump from the bridge, 40 miles north of New York. CCTV footage was inconclusive.

Mr Israel had pleaded guilty in 2005 to charges of conspiracy and fraud. The scandal involved announcing non-existent profits and providing fake audits for companies. Bayou made millions in commission on trades that subsequently lost investors money.

Israel's girlfriend, Debbie Ryan, told police he had left home at 9.30am, saying he was going to prison. The car was discovered three hours later, moments after it had apparently been left.

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