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Brian Laundrie's federal arrest warrant isn't directly related to Gabby Petito's murder, but it will likely give authorities a boost in their search for him

INSIDER logo INSIDER 9/24/2021 insider@insider.com (Cheryl Teh)
A screenshot from the Moab City Police Department footage of Petito and Laundrie on August 12 2021. MCPD © Provided by INSIDER A screenshot from the Moab City Police Department footage of Petito and Laundrie on August 12 2021. MCPD
  • A federal arrest warrant has been issued for Brian Laundrie on the unauthorized use of a debit card.
  • While the warrant is on charges unrelated to Petito's homicide, this could potentially boost law enforcement's chances of nabbing him.
  • According to the DOJ, anyone protecting or harboring Laundrie could face jail time.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The federal arrest warrant issued for Brian Laundrie isn't directly related to Gabby Petito's murder, but it could boost law enforcement's chances of finding him anyway.

Remains in Wyoming found earlier this week were confirmed to be Petito, and her death was ruled a homicide. Separately, her fiance, Brian Laundrie, has disappeared and been declared a person of interest in the case.

The warrant outlines charges related to the unauthorized use of a Capital One debit card for purchases valued at $1,000 or more from August 30 through September 1, per a grand jury indictment. At press time, Laundrie had not been charged with Petito's homicide.

Insider spoke to Diane Birnholz, a former federal prosecutor and law lecturer at UCLA, who noted that Laundrie's outstanding warrant gives law enforcement the ability to lawfully arrest him.

"Brian Laundrie was indicted by a federal grand jury in Wyoming on a fraud charge involving the unauthorized use of a debit card. A warrant was issued for his arrest as a result of the indictment. Any law enforcement officer, including Special Agents from the FBI, may lawfully arrest Laundrie based on this warrant," Birnholz told Insider.

"Having an outstanding federal arrest warrant in the system means that if law enforcement were to stop or pull over Laundrie for any reason and check his identification, they should be alerted to place Laundrie under arrest and to contact the FBI immediately," Birnholz added.


Video: Divers join search for Gabby Petito’s fiance Brian Laundrie (NBC News)

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In Florida, where the search is currently on for Laundrie, authorities may only arrest a person without a warrant when there is a reasonable belief that they committed a felony or where there is probable cause. With a warrant now out for Laundrie, law enforcement officials who spot him can make an arrest.

Additionally, anyone thinking of protecting Laundrie may also now be discouraged from doing so. According to the Department of Justice, it is an offense to harbor or conceal anyone for whom an arrest warrant has been issued. Anyone who tries to prevent Laundrie's arrest could also face jail time, per the DOJ.

"While this warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr. Laundrie, the FBI and our partners around the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito's homicide," FBI special agent in charge Michael Schneider wrote in a statement on September 23. "We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr. Laundrie's role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI."

Speaking to CNN anchor Anderson Cooper on September 23, John Walsh, host of investigative crime show "In Pursuit," said he was "surprised" that it took so long for the arrest warrant to be issued.

"There is no other person of interest. There is no other suspect. They found her body, so I thought it would be issued sooner," said Walsh, who previously hosted "America's Most Wanted."

In a statement to Insider, Steve Bertolino, the Laundrie family's attorney, said: "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."

Bertolino added: "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."

Separately, the North Port Police Department have been hunting fruitlessly for Laundrie in the vast Carlton Reserve in Florida, employing sniffer dogs, drones, and swamp buggies. The NPPD tweeted on September 23 that the ground search in the reserve was halted for the day, adding that it would be "back at it Friday."

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