SPOKANE — A former financier of the Aryan Nations who disappeared from northern Idaho after being charged with drunken driving nearly five years ago has been arrested in New Mexico, a federal spokesman said.
R. Vincent Bertollini was arrested Wednesday by the FBI in Santa Fe, N.M., almost five years after fleeing a drunken-driving charge in Bonner County, Idaho.
Bertollini, 67, was arrested at a Santa Fe check-cashing business, said FBI Agent Norm Brown, a spokesman for the Inland Northwest Joint Terrorism Task Force, which tracked him.
The FBI obtained a federal warrant, alleging unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, against Bertollini shortly after he failed to show up in July 2001 to stand trial on his third drunken-driving charge in two years.
He will be returned to Sandpoint, Idaho, where he faces the possibility of one to 10 years in prison if convicted of drunken driving.
“We believe that he has been living in the Santa Fe area for months, if not years,” Brown said.
There were reports that he had fled to Ireland, Costa Rica or the Virgin Islands, but the FBI said Wednesday that agents have found no evidence to suggest he ever left the country.
Bertollini caught the eye of the FBI’s regional task force, which tracks foreign and domestic terrorist activities, because he was a significant financial contributor to the Aryan Nations.
Bertollini and Carl E. Story set up a two-man racist organization known as the 11th Hour Remnant Messenger. In 1999, Bertollini drew only 33 votes in a run for mayor of Sandpoint on a racist platform.
His organization established a racist Web site and mailed out thousands of pamphlets, videos and posters espousing Aryan Nations and similar Christian Identity white supremacy doctrine.
After Aryan Nations founder Richard G. Butler lost his 20-acre compound north of Coeur d’Alene in 2000 after a $6.3 million civil judgment, Bertollini made the down payment on a house for the aging racist.
Butler continued running his operation from that home in Hayden, Idaho, until his death in 2004.