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Michael Benge Friday, 18 November 2011 11:07 TWEET COMMENTS 0

Running In Place - Page 3

It is public record that Engle, on October 6, 2010, was convicted of 12 counts of bank, mail and wire fraud related to two real-estate loans. But Engle, along with friends, family and acquaintances familiar with the case, are shocked that the case existed in the first place, and by its premises. And they mourn the fact that someone who does so much for others will be taken out of circulation.

"I am so angry," says his ex-wife, Pam Engle, with whom he maintains a close relationship. "It's upsetting that the banks get bailed out and they are coming after the consumer."

"This case is bogus, and it is not over," says his father, Richard Engle of La Quinta, California, a longtime real-estate broker, who attended every minute of the six-day trial and is intimate with every detail of the case. "We are protesting to the Department of Justice, anybody who will listen."

Engle was initially investigated for tax evasion. I ask him what he was actually convicted of? "Basically, I'm going to prison for allegedly overstating my income on a loan application," he says.

Dunlap and other sources, including local Greensboro newspapers, suggested that Engle may have used the loans to help fund the feature-length film Running the Sahara, which was produced and directed by Academy Award winner James Moll and executive co-produced by actor Matt Damon (who also narrated the film) and Jim Van Eerden, who led the project's investor group.

Engle emphatically says that not a single penny of his own money went into financing RTS, which had a final budget of over $3 million. The net equity of the loans, he says, was around $140,000. "We couldn't have gotten past day two of the Sahara expedition on that," he says. "It's hurtful that Running the Sahara is tainted at all, because of all the great people involved."

"There is a rumor circulating that Charlie helped fund the expedition and film with his money," says Van Eerden of the Helixx Group, when contacted about the accusation. "That is simply not true. We funded Running the Sahara with third-party investment. Charlie was paid a fee as expedition leader along with the other runners."

So, it was with mixed skepticism confusion and anticipation that I had traveled to Greensboro to meet the enigmatic Engle.

LIFE OF ADVENTURE

While Engle grew up an athlete, running a 4:40 mile in high school and playing quarterback on the football team, he always incorporated running into his life, including through his 20s and a hellish 10 years as an acute drug and alcohol addict. In the late 1990s, when he was in his 30s, he embarked on a fast-track "career" in adventure racing and extreme ultrarunning, swapping his substance addiction for another. After a string of marathons in the early 1990s, Engle one day watched a Discovery Channel documentary on the Eco-Challenge/British Columbia adventure race, and that was it.



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