NEW YORK, DEC. 27 -- Former New Jersey state senator David Friedland, who faces seven years in prison for fraud, was returned to the United States today, ending two years on the lam that began when he faked his death while scuba diving.
The Hudson County Democrat arrived aboard a Pan American flight from Zurich at Kennedy International Airport and waved to reporters as he was escorted past a phalanx of U.S. marshals who were waiting to take him to the federal correction facility in Manhattan.
"I'm glad to be back," the smiling, tanned and trim Friedland said. "It's good to back in the United States, but I'm worried about my life."
Friedland faces trial on other fraud charges that carry a potential sentence of 150 years in prison. He was to be arraigned Monday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.
Friedland, who resigned in 1980, was captured earlier this month on the Maldive Islands south of India, where he apparently had spent the past year while leading a posse of federal agents on an international fugitive hunt.
Friedland, 50, disappeared on Labor Day in 1985 in a staged scuba diving accident in the Bahamas. The disappearance happened two weeks before he was indicted for defrauding a union pension fund and three weeks before he was due in court seeking a reduction in his seven-year sentence on a 1980 conviction for an earlier swindle involving the same fund.
In the past two years, federal agents tracked Friedland through Kenya to Venice, the French Alps, Hong Kong and Singapore. He apparently lived on money he had stashed away, said John C. McGinley, special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark office.
Friedland rose to No. 1 on the U.S. Marshals Service "15 most wanted" list early this month, McGinley said.
Authorities released few details of Friedland's arrest in the Maldives. McGinley said officials there apparently became suspicious of the man traveling as Richard Smith Harley, believing him to be "a fugitive from somewhere." McGinley said Maldives officials were cooperative despite their lack of an extradition treaty with the United States. Friedland was not technically extradited, but was deported for traveling under a false passport.