Virginia stockbroker Clyde B. Pitchford Jr., who is accused of financing a flamboyant life style by embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from his clients, surrendered yesterday to FBI agents at a Dupont Circle hotel after a three-month international search.
The disappearance of Pitchford, 31, from a New York hotel in February unraveled a tale of alleged embezzlement and embarrassed high-ranking members of Richmond society who had been involved in business and social dealings with him.
Pitchford, an account executive with E.F. Hutton & Co. at the time of his disappearance, telephoned the FBI office in Richmond yesterday afternoon and said he wanted to surrender, but told the agent who answered the call, "You've got to come over by 2, because I'm checking out of here."
Agents from the Washington field office arrived at the Dupont Circle Hotel at 2:25 p.m., and Pitchford surrendered without incident.
David C. Eberhart III, the Richmond prosecutor who has stalked Pitchford since he vanished, said Pitchford was calm as he ended his three months as a fugitive.
Eberhart said Pitchford was "composed, in a navy blue suit and a red tie, and had two valises with him." Carson Dunbar, a spokesman for the Washington FBI office, declined to say what was in the valises, except to note that he did not have a substantial amount of money with him.
John Holmes, general manager of the Dupont Plaza, said the agents entered the hotel quietly, went to Pitchford's room, and then walked out with him.
"We didn't know which one Pitchford was and which ones the agents were," said Holmes. "They all wore business suits. Unless you knew something was taking place, there was no disruption to the hotel."
Dunbar said the FBI had been searching for Pitchford in the Washington area because the stockbroker "had numerous acquaintances in the D.C. area." The search also had led law enforcement agents to the Caribbean island of Barbados and eight American cities.
Until his disappearance, Pitchford, a bachelor, was a pillar of Richmond society, giving generously to charities and living a lavish life that included driving expensive cars, flying to London to buy tailor-made suits, and investing in restaurants, real estate and championship horses.
But the moment he disappeared, his house of cards caved in. A half dozen Virginia banks filed actions seeking to recover nearly $1 million in largely unsecured loans. One bank repossessed his Rolls-Royce.
E.F. Hutton fired Pitchford shortly before he was indicted on charges of embezzling money from his customers' accounts, and a federal bankruptcy judge appointed a trustee to oversee his affairs.
Spokesmen for two of Pitchford's business partners, Virginia State Sen. A. Joseph Canada Jr. (R-Virginia Beach) and former Olympic equestrian Hugh Wiley of Palmyra, Va., said last night that they were relieved Pitchford had been found.
"It's quite a surprise," said Wiley's wife, Serena. "I'm sure Hugh's glad he's alive." In Norfolk, Pitchford's father, Clyde B. Pitchford Sr., said, "I feel better, but you don't know what's coming."
Among 11 indictments against Pitchford are charges that he forged the names of Canada and Wiley on documents that he used to secure bank loans in Virginia and Florida.
Pitchford is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Jean F. Dwyer here this morning. He was held last night in the central lockup of the D.C. police department. If he waives extradition, he could be returned to Richmond later today