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Canadian fugitive wanted on murder charges caught in Florida

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • John Boulachanis, 37, was arrested in Miami, the U.S. Marshals Service says
  • Canadian authorities say he shot a man in the head in August 1997
  • The hunt for him picked up this spring, two years after he was seen in New Jersey
  • Besides murder, he is wanted on fraud, arson, conspiracy and drug trafficking charges

(CNN) -- A Canadian fugitive is in police custody, nabbed 14 years after and more than 1,600 miles from where authorities say he gunned down a man in cold blood.

John Boulachanis, 37, was arrested Thursday in Miami, according to a news release issued Saturday by the U.S. Marshals Service.

According to a website run by Quebec's provincial government, in August 1997 Boulachanis and an accomplice lured Robert Tanguay to a sandpit in the Rigaud region in the western part of the province between Montreal and Ottawa. There, Canadian authorities allege that Boulachanis used a .22-caliber firearm and shot Tanguay several times in the head.

The victim's body was buried and wasn't discovered until September 2001. The accomplice was eventually arrested, but the primary suspect -- Boulachanis -- remained at large.

He was spotted in New Jersey in 2009, the U.S. Marshals Service said in its statement, citing the Surete du Quebec homicide squad. But he fled before he could be definitively identified and arrested.

Last April, Canada's Interpol branch requested fresh assistance from their American counterparts, based in Washington, for help in tracking down Boulachanis. Investigators determined a month later that he had eluded capture "by assembling a complex labyrinth of intentional disinformation, telephone numbers, addresses, financial accounts and postal boxes in Canada and the United States," according to the U.S. Marshals statement.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police notes on its website that the 5-foot-9, 155-pound man assumed a host of aliases over the years, including John Athanassopoulos, John Smith, Konstaninos Georgakopolous, John Papas and John Russo.

Besides first-degree murder, Boulachanis is accused in Canada of fraud, arson, narcotics trafficking, conspiracy and weapons-related offenses. He is also wanted in Franklin County, Virginia, on a felony fugitive warrant and on three counts of obtaining money under false pretenses.

"The arrest of Boulachanis shows that, no matter how far this fugitive ran, he couldn't escape the coordinated, international effort to apprehend him," said Geoff Shank, from the U.S. Marshals Service's investigative division, in a statement.