A Texas couple who fled the country with their seven children following indictment in an agricultural fraud scheme has begun serving 87-month sentence in federal lockup. The court also ordered 44-year-old Donald Winberg and his wife, Karlien, 33, to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution to victims of their scam. The story gained international notoriety after the Winbergs disappeared one year ago while awaiting trial in Denver.
Prosecutors say the family bought a boat in Galveston, which they promptly ran aground; dramatic footage of the rescue of their young children riveted viewers. The Winbergs, who had given false names to authorities, proceeded to sail a second boat to the Bahamas. Several months later, a Louisiana couple recognized them from news reports and tipped off police. In April 2015 – a year after their initial arrest – both Winbergs pleaded guilty to wire fraud. In a series of emails stretching back to 2010, the duo claimed to own property in Idaho and Texas where they grew hay, straw, corn, potatoes, and other crops. They assured would-be victims that they successfully shipped thousands of tons of agricultural products a year and proceeded to request payment in advance. The Winbergs never made a single delivery.
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