tv Treasure Hunt MSNBC October 15, 2011 11:00am-12:00pm PDT
♪ ♪ it was a childhood fantasy. search for treasure on the high seas, then he met someone to help him follow his dream. >> he looked like a pirate. he looked like a treasure hunter. >> they embarked on unimaginable adventure. >> never in my wildest dreams could i have had such an adventure. >> remote jungles, war zone o dives looking for sunken
treasure. >> could have probably a couple hundred tons of gold. >> gold or fool's gold? his quest would take a frightening turn. his dream betrayed, stolen. >> i didn't care how long it took, how much money it cost, how risky it was, but i was going to find him. >> would he find what he was looking for in this hour, "treasure hunt." ♪ ♪ ♪ there was once a boy who loved to read fabulous tales of buried treasure, bold any silver lost at sea, pirate stories danced in his head. he was, as little boys can be, smitten, in love with make believe and adventure. >> for my 7th birthday my parents threw a pirate-themed birthday party and maybe that was the beginning of it. >> little boys grow out of things, of course, but carl rile, that's his name, never
could quite let it go. the.see of that unlived life. but reality is rarely quite so grand as the dreams of little boys. and carl became a high school teacher in pasadena california, a soft-spoken man, something of a loner who kept his dreams to himself, but he never forgot the little boy's fantasy. a fantasy that would become real and then turn into something else, something closer to obsession. this is a story about following your dreams to find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. it's also the story of a flip side, when friendship becomes betrayal and when hope gives way to revenge. now that's an adventure. it's about a mild-mannered teacher from southern california who finds himself on shipwrecks in the south seas. who goes from parent-teacher
meetings to meetings with muslim rebels and international police forces. >> i never could have anticipated what the next five or six years would bring. never in my wildest dreams. i've had more adventure than i could have had in ten life times, probably. >> be careful what you wish for. >> that's true. >> it all began one day in 1909 at an adventure lecture given by this man, a real-life treasure hunter. >> he was there. >> very confident, a swagger and i can picture him with a parrot on his shoulder and a patch over his eye. >> for a man like carl, this was amazing. here was someone who shared these hopes, who lived them. >> he looked like a tough character. he looked like a pirate.
stand standefer. stories of gold asleep in the deep, stories from central mark to the south pacific, it was a magic connection carl had been looking for since boyhood. >> he was fascinating. probably the most fascinating person i ever met. >> two years later in 1992 the treasure hunter approached carl with a plan. standefer wanted to dive in the sunken world war ii japanese hospital ship like this one in the newsreel. >> the hospital ship complete with crosses and all of the international insig ni abu officers of the seventh fleet smelled a rat. >> not only was there ammunition on this trip, but treasure, too. treasure they supposedly plundered in from southeast asia during the war. >> it was upwards of billions and billions of dollars. >> act facts? >> ar facts. gold bars, thousands of gold bars, tons of gold.
the japanese buried part of it in caves and they loaded on to hospital ships and one that he found off the coast, on the bottom of the ocean. a keen fortune hidden below the surface. >> it was in a protected harbor in the northern philippines. he wouldn't tell me the location. it was in shallow water and his research indicated that it could have probably a couple hundred tons of gold. to prove that carl had the goods, his appearances on philippine tv. it would be many, many years and millions of dollars. >> even a story on cnn. >> up to 177 major sites of japanese treasure. >> then dennis said the magic words. would carl like to come? would he ever. >> carl teaching overcrowded
classes out of these trailers was hooked. dennis said it was just one thing. he would need about $3,000 from carl to help pay for the expedition, a lot of money for a part-time teacher and not a lot to make this dream come true and spend time with this incredible man. >> i was picturing myself in the philippines diving and scouting around for treasure. carl's father rudy knew all about his son with a head full of impulsive ideas and he'd spent most of the boy's life trying to keep carl's two feet on the ground. >> i felt he was too hard on me and didn't give me as much freedom as i wanted and so i think i probably went off in the other direction a lot more than i would have. >> carl's father warned his son to focus teaching, to save his money, but that had little appeal to carl. he went off, venice, asia. >> i'll never forget the feeling as we cut into the harbor and it
was like treasure island. it was all clean, clouds. i can't believe this is happening. it was leike a dream come true. carl onboard a hunt for treasure, but does a man on his side have something to hide. >> he said this guy is going to take you. [ male announcer ] these are volunteers... our neighbors putting their lives on the line. and when they rely on a battery,
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teacher karl ryll had just taken a dream-like turn. >> one day, i'm teaching in california. and then, a couple of days later i'm diving on a ship that supposedly has $500 million to $1 billion in gold. >> reporter: ryll dreamed, as a child, of sunken treasure. and now he was on board a real-life expedition. guest of standefer. he paid standefer $3,000 to take
part, a small fee compared to the untold riches aboard a sunken japanese hospital ship. what was it like to look down and see that wreck there, knowing what might be inside it? >> oh, it was -- i was like a kid in a candy store. >> reporter: as karl and other expedition investors waited, divers scoured the hospital ship wreck, they brought up artifacts, cups and dishes. but no gold. karl says he didn't care. he knew it was risky. >> we didn't find anything especially valuable. but all that stuff is considered artifacts. and very intriguing. i mean, this was my first shipwreck. >> reporter: all that mattered was he was on a real treasure hunt with a friend who lived the life karl wanted. >> money would have been nice but i got into it for the sense of adventure. i'm like, this is what i always wanted to do. and this guy is going to make it happen here. >> reporter: the next summer, 1993, karl was back in the philippines with dennis. and this time they dug up
supposedly rare dragon jars, ancient pottery, found on a remote, volcanic island. >> the site was very interesting. they had maybe 20, 25 jars recovered by the time i got there. but they weren't what i expected. they were these kind of earthen clay, brown-type jars. they were -- >> reporter: pottery. >> yeah. they were like alien pots, is the best way i can describe them. >> reporter: the look of the jars wasn't the only surprising thing about them. they also turned out to be not ancient, but worthless. standefer claimed his contacts had cheated him. once again, karl returned home empty-handed. did it ruin your faith in this man? >> no, it didn't ruin my faith. but it made me a little more cautious. i began to realize he might be a poor manager of money. but then, so am i, obviously. >> reporter: by the end of 1994, karl says he spent almost $15,000 on his trips with
dennis, about a year's salary as a part-time teacher. but treasure hunting and dennis standefer were magnets for karl. >> he's one of the greatest storytellers i've ever met. i mean, you know, if a pigeon was landing on the roof, he could make it sound like the air force was coming. >> reporter: karl visited the philippines and dennis again in 1995. and then, two years later, when karl was on the verge of yet another trip, his father, now dying of emphysema stepped in to warn his son again. he pointed out that karl had no guarantees from standefer. no protection. >> he told me up front that -- he said, this guy is going to take you. >> reporter: you didn't believe him? >> no. >> reporter: your own father? >> you know, it's kind of a rebellious thing, i guess. >> reporter: karl told his father, treasure hunting isn't a world of guarantees and protection. it's about trust and friendship. and dennis, he knew, was the real thing. >> he wasn't just somebody that
i was doing business with. i considered him a friend. >> reporter: so, karl ignored his father. he was utterly wrapped up once more in something he considered a dream come true. and in the summer of 1997, he found himself in the philippines again with dennis standefer. while karl was abroad, his father's health already weakened by emphysema continued to deteriorate. and shortly after karl's return to the u.s., his father died. >> i feel like the last couple of years i had with him were somewhat stolen. >> reporter: he needed you. >> yeah. and i should have spent more time with him. i mean, i was working full time. but i would find time to go to the philippines and i didn't -- i should have gone over to see him more. >> reporter: deep in grief, karl began to feel it might be time to leave the dream behind. but then, just as before, the treasure hunter reached out with
a can't-miss opportunity. >> he e-mailed me that he had found this kris. >> reporter: kris? >> kris is a muslim knife. had an ivory handle and had golden silver inlay in the sheath. i saw a picture of it. it looked great. >> reporter: the kris, dennis told karl, had to be worth $10,000. but he let karl have it for a mere $1,000. dennis' gift, if you will, to make up for the money karl had already lost. so, karl sent the money and he sent it gratefully. then dennis e-mailed him again and said, he met some muslim rebels in the southern philippines. and they told him about a sunken ship which contained platinum bars. and if karl would send him a few thousand more, he would go after those bars and both of them would make a lot of money, certainly make up for the money karl lost and then some. already burned and battling death, karl tried to resist. but the treasure hunter proved
too persuasive. karl gave standefer nearly $10,000 this time. he maxed out his credit cards. >> i just kind of took a deep breath. and said, dennis, this thing better be what you say it is. because if this isn't, this is going to put me over the top. and i don't know how i'll get this money back. >> reporter: and he said? >> he said, there is no way that anything can go wrong with this. >> reporter: but something did go wrong. soon after karl sent the money, standefer disappeared. and that muslim knife, the kris, that dennis had promised? when karl finally received it, it was indeed attractive and finely carved. but not silver. and there were no jewels. so, karl had it appraised and discovered it was essentially worthless. karl, devastated, was wracked with guilt, haunted by what he did and didn't do for his own father, reliving those stolen years over and over again in his mind. how could he have been so
foolish? >> i was so angry that i couldn't even speak. to think what this guy had done to me. >> reporter: eager to find answers, karl tracked down kirk shaffer, a california diver who worked for standefer and had also given him some money. shaffer says he never got paid back. and when he heard karl's story, the diver was ready to talk about dennis standefer. >> i never saw him find anything. even gold. look, most of the time it was running around, looking for things that he could tantalize investors with. >> reporter: shaffer told karl that standefer was a con man who had fooled newspapers and tv. the key, kirk says, was that the cons always had a kernel of truth. the japanese did hide gold on some hospital ships. and there were dragon jars. but, shaffer claims, standefer never had any intention of going after them. >> he seemed to be much more interested in just keeping the game going.
>> correct. >> reporter: than in actually finding any treasure. >> exactly. >> reporter: the artifacts karl had seen from the various ships and digs? according to kirk, they were planted there by dennis himself. it is called salting the site. it was, it now seemed, the teacher all a big lie. the adventure, the dreams come true, the friendship with dennis standefer. for that, karl, completely overtaken by his dreams, had left his own father behind, in his time of need. ever want to be able to say you were right, dad, after all? >> yeah, i would. i never had that opportunity. >> reporter: what do you do about a thing like that? >> i took it out on myself a lot. i mean, i was depressed. and then it became, you know, more of an anger because i felt that standefer had taken advantage of the situation. he knew the situation with my father. >> reporter: he felt crushed and betrayed.
but this time, he was not alone. with kirk's help, he reached out to other investors. among them, george rombach, accountant and lawyer, who says he invested $30,000 for himself and clients with standefer. >> he's absolutely a danger to civilized society. no question in my mind about that. >> reporter: rombach says, that like karl, he was taken in by a smooth operator. he told tall tales very well. your impressions of the man the first time you saw him? >> first time i saw him they were not favorable. he's very affable. and very shortly, i almost felt guilty for my first reaction. >> reporter: and there was gene hasenbeck, computer engineer. he tells us he gave dennis $127,000, all of his and his parents' savings. >> i lost my -- everything. i'm living in a small, ten-by-ten room now to this day, just renting a small room. >> reporter: all these men
started out investing small amounts of money, just for the fun of it. but they insist standefer kept them on the hook. kirk shaffer says dennis knew just how. >> it is alluring to think that you can go and you can find some treasure. and people do do it on a rare occasion. >> reporter: they want to believe. >> they want to believe, exactly. >> reporter: karl tracked down more investors and spread the word about what he says standefer did. he was determined to shut dennis down. so, you wanted to make sure everybody knew he was a crook. >> yes. i wanted to cut off his money supply. and it is like, okay. then what is he going to do? >> reporter: in the meantime, you went back to teaching and getting your life in order. >> yes, i went back to teaching. >> reporter: he quietly went back to his quiet pasadena life. and that would have been the end of the story of dennis standefer and karl ryll. the teacher was through with the treasure hunter and never thought he would see or hear from him again. then, one day in early 1998, that was a knock at the door of karl ryll's south pasadena
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out tens of thousands of dollars, his childhood dreams destroyed, california teacher karl ryll was now warning others about treasure hunter dennis standefer. a man he says who conned him, betrayed him, at the very time karl's father was dieing. >> my main goal was to make sure no one else got ripped off by him. and so, i figured i could at least do that. >> reporter: using e-mails and phone calls, ryll contacted everybody he could find connected to the treasure hunter, a blitz designed to cut off standefer's money supply. >> i was finding people that went back 30 years that he had ripped off. >> reporter: convinced his efforts had succeeded, karl sunk slowly back into an otherwise ordinary life, believing his bitter experience with standefer
had finally come to an end. but then, a knock at his apartment door. it was a police detective. and he had with him this piece of paper, an anonymous fax, charging karl ryll with keeping large amounts of date rape drugs in his apartment. >> and the fax also said i was giving these to my female students in my classroom. >> reporter: could you think of a more serious -- >> no. i'm not tenured. and any hint of any impropriety whether it's true or not, i mean, that would follow you the rest of your life. >> reporter: career would be over? >> yeah. >> reporter: karl says as soon as he saw that fax, he knew who it came from. what did you think as you read that letter? >> i was shaking. because i'm, like, i knew right away standefer did it. i told the police, i know who did this. the police questioned karl, searched his apartment, left without finding any evidence.
livid now, karl traced the fax to a hotel in malaysia in the south pacific. and registered there, an american named dennis standefer. >> i never anticipated he would do something like that. you know, he was trying to destroy everything i worked for my whole life, my reputation, my job. >> reporter: this was all no surprise to diver kirk shaffer who worked with standefer and had also allegedly given him money. that kind of fax, kirk says, is an old dennis trick. >> one of dennis' favorite terminology was called the nasty-gram. what would happen is that anybody that started to stir up any trouble or any pressure, of course, they were automatically the enemy. and that's where the nasty-grams went. >> reporter: when karl told other investors about this fax, he learned the same thing had happened to one of them, too. george rombach had once complained to standefer about
not getting any return on his investment. and soon, rombach says, investigators from the navy got a fax from standefer. that one accused george of smuggling naval artifacts. >> the first time after that communication went out, i was detained coming back into this country and strip-searched, and my luggage turned inside-out for about 2 1/2 hours. >> reporter: investigators also searched george's home office, filled indeed with maritime artifacts but ones he owned legally. the investigation was dropped. just as the pasadena police dropped their investigation against karl ryll. but then, karl asked the detective to go after standefer. and then where did it go from there? >> he said i understand your situation and sympathize with you. but he said there is really nothing we can do. we have murder cases here we can't solve. he said, i'll be happy to take a report. but there is nothing we can do. this guy is overseas somewhere. think about it. >> reporter: karl did think about it.
>> i made a decision that day that i was going to find him. and i said i didn't care how long it took, how much money it cost, or how risky it was. but i was going to find him. and i was going to have him locked up. >> reporter: a pasadena history and english teacher on a manhunt for an alleged international con artist? sounds like another boyhood story. though not the kind of adventure karl dreamed about as a child. this adventure tale had now become something else to karl ryll, a grown man's story of revenge. it was an impulsiveness, almost an obsession that drove karl to chase his dreams with dennis standefer in the first place. and now, those very qualities would serve a much more serious purpose and propel karl ryll on a much more different kind of hunt. >> he was trying to destroy my reputation, my career. and i couldn't tolerate that. coming up, karl ryll's quest
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msnbc now. i'm lori wilson. thousands showed up on the national mall today. the march led by the reverend al sharpton is meant to build support for president obama's jobs plan. occupy wall street rallies have spun up around the world. in italy, police fired tear gas and water canons after some smashed windows and torched cars. michele bachmann has vowed to build a border fence if elected. now back to "treasure hunt." ♪ ♪ okay, dennis. you want to play? you want to play? let's play. >> reporter: after six years of adventure, high school teacher karl ryll was no longer hunting for sunken treasure.
he was now on a hunt for revenge, against dennis standefer, someone he says who took thousands of dollars from him in a treasure hunting scheme and then tried to silence him by faxing career-ending allegations to karl's school district. >> he thought this would probably finish me off. >> reporter: instead? >> it had the opposite effect. >> reporter: on the surface, teacher ryll seemed no match for the well-connected, wily standefer. other investors, like george rombach and gene hasenbeck, said they, too, had been burned by the treasure hunter were worried. karl was becoming a friend, they told him, leave it all behind, move on. >> i didn't think karl had much of a chance. dennis has obviously been doing this for a long time. >> reporter: did you, gene? >> i tried to talk him out of it. i said, karl, you're at a low point here. you don't have the money to be throwing after this. >> reporter: and karl began to have second thoughts himself. how would he do this? where would he even start?
if anyone was elusive, it was standefer. but then, through a tip from the growing network of ex-investors, karl met a man named harold karaka. harold said he knew all about dennis. >> he could sell that same piece of ice cube to the eskimo more than once, which is evident by the number of victims that were victimized more than one time. >> reporter: karaka says standefer took him for over $12,000, promising valuable asian artifacts. he never delivered. and now, karaka was angry. >> i told karl i made a promise to dennis that he decided not bring back my money that i would do whatever was necessary to go after that money and collect it. >> reporter: and he knew how to do it because this man, allegedly conned by dennis standefer like the rest, is a private investigator in los angeles. and in his business, karaka couldn't afford to let standefer get away. >> i didn't want my reputation to be soiled by an individual like this. and it wasn't the money. on my part, the loss of the money was less critical.
>> reporter: karl and karaka joined in a hunt for standefer. their plan was to catch him at his own game by posing as wealthy investors with cash to spend. so, they sent him e-mails under false names, hoping he would reveal where he was. standefer, however, was a clever man. he responded to the e-mails all right, but said very little about himself. about the only thing that karl could figure out was he was somewhere in the southern philippines. still, in april of '98, with not much more to go on than that, the two men flew to the philippine capital, manila. >> we had some contacts in the national police there. and they had some contacts that were out in the remote areas where dennis, we thought, hiding and they thought they had seen him recently. >> reporter: the men went to the southern philippine islands, dangerous areas controlled by bands of muslim rebels. but karl and karaka say the rebels welcomed them because dennis standefer had also
apparently conned the muslims, promising them riches in exchange for free safe passage through their territory. >> he was going to dive and get all the riches from the ships. but he needed to get away, re-establish himself and then come back and make them all rich. so, they did all this for him. and then, he disappeared on them again. >> reporter: the rebels helped karl and harold track standefer throughout the remote southern philippines and archipelago of nearly 400 small islands. many of them uninhabited. >> as we progressed from village to village, our impression at the time was we were one village behind him all the time. >> reporter: now even as the two were closing in, they began to realize that, well, even if they did catch dennis standefer, there was no way to know for sure they could get him to spend time in jail. karl realized that his father's repeated warnings about standefer had been right. there were no guarantees, nothing they could think of, that would stick in court. >> i was getting frustrated. i didn't really have anything solid. and i -- i was just picturing myself going over there.
yeah, he committed a lot of fraud. he did this to me, did that. lock him up. i don't think that would have gone over too well. >> reporter: and then, to make matters worse, the trail went cold. dennis standefer slipped away. but back in los angeles, diver kirk shaffer, who worked with standefer, remembered a box the treasure hunter left behind months before. shaffer dug it out of storage. and what he found inside would set karl ryll on a very different path. in the box, shaffer says, were photos of standefer with someone who appeared to be an underaged filipina girl. photos suggesting a romantic relationship. >> the girl, she had no mother and father. she was being raised by her grandparents. and somehow they got connected. i think it was through correspondence and they met. >> reporter: in 1999, during a school break, karl headed back to the philippines alone.
his mission, find the girl from the photos and find out how old she was. this search would be different than trying to prove some fraud charge. but for karl ryll, there was no turning back. kirk shaffer told him where in the southern philippines dennis would hang out. after a few days of asking questions and passing around her photo, karl found the girl. she was now 20. but was underage, she said, when the relationship with standefer began. and beyond being too young for a relationship with an adult, she said, something happened to her that could land dennis in far deeper trouble. she claimed she had been sexually assaulted by standefer five years earlier. and now, she wanted to press charges against him for rape. karl took her to the local prosecutors office. >> he heard the story. and he said, i'll file charges against this guy for rape. >> reporter: karl had now uncovered something about dennis standefer far more grave than anything he had been pursuing. and he could have dropped out at this point and let police handle it from here.
but karl pushed ahead, feeling he had to do this himself, convinced that only he could find standefer. >> and an investor told me that dennis will tell you he's going up north if he's going south. it's always misinformation. >> reporter: ryll called harold karaka, who began working the phones and e-mail. and seemed to hit paydirt. >> we tracked him through malaysia, through the hotels he ripped off there by not paying his hotel bills or phone bills. >> reporter: the bills and other documents like this were clear evidence that standefer had been there. but the trail was cold once again and was going nowhere. until one more victim heard about karl's hunt. and called him from jakarta, indonesia. like the philippines and malaysia, a nation in the south asia sea. >> he called me and said, he's over here. he said, i didn't see him. but i missed him by about two hours but i got a business card. it says dennis austin.
that's his middle name. >> reporter: it could be another near-miss. standefer could be long gone once again. or he might still be in jakarta. this might be karl's last best chance to end his two-year hunt. by this point, he says, his time with dennis and the search for him had cost him more than $30,000. he didn't have much cash left. just enough for one more shot. should he take it in jakarta? there was only one way to find out. karl ryll had to go to a country where he knew no one, and had no contacts at all. and if he found the man he was looking for, what could he do? and what might happen to him? coming up, karl ryll hits the streets of jakarta. had standefer slipped away again? >> i had pretty much given up. i thought, it ain't going to happen. [ horn honks ]
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running out of money and time, high school teacher karl ryll headed to jakarta, indonesia, tracking down one, last lead on treasure hunter and alleged con man dennis standefer. unlike the philippines, few people here spoke english. and in the summer of 1999, indonesia was in the midst of rebellion. americans were outsiders, often unwelcome in a nation battling internal strife. >> it was not a safe place for americans. it was very dangerous. so, i was a little apprehensive going in. i wasn't sure what to do. >> reporter: armed only with a letter from filipino prosecutors, karl went to the jakarta office of interpol, the international police agency. >> they heard my story. and they took me to several departments.
we signed complaints. and they told me exactly what needed to be done. >> reporter: back in los angeles, the other investors who first told karl not to go after dennis were now firmly behind him. they understood why this hunt seemed to possess karl, take him over. >> dennis probably made the mistake of hitting at the core of karl's character. and my observations, he's a very honorable man. and he couldn't let that go unchallenged. >> reporter: but in jakarta, as so often before, the question cropped up again. where to look for dennis standefer? police thought they would start in the antique district of jakarta. karl and his home video camera went along. and it turned out that, yes. a lot of dealers in this part of town were quite familiar with an american named dennis. >> dennis, no title. just nickname. dennis. >> reporter: they knew him only as dennis. karl says he recognized that as
an old standefer trick, one that had already led to many dead ends in karl's hunt. never give out any personal details. >> he's very suspicious. he won't give out any information about himself. they didn't even know his last name. >> reporter: and maybe this is just another dead end. as police listened in, an antique dealer phoned this dennis. and the two of them had a conversation in indonesian. as far as karl knew, dennis standefer didn't speak a word of indonesian. >> so, i couldn't believe it was dennis he was talking to. >> reporter: you thought maybe you had the wrong guy. >> i wasn't sure. i said you're speaking indonesian. he said, well, he understands money. >> reporter: the next day, police working undercover traced the call to this neighborhood. there they found this woman who said she was the girlfriend of an american named dennis. she even showed detectives where he lived. >> this room he kept his stuff in here. >> reporter: back in the antique
district later that day, karl and police hid and waited to see if standefer would show up that day. did they have the right man? was he even still in town? or he did slip through karl's fingers again? and then, video camera rolling, police caught this shaky glimpse of what karl ryll had waited two years to see. dennis standefer, just a few yards away. police then spent the next two days setting up a sting, posing as import/export agents. they arranged a meeting with standefer through contacts in the antiques district. when the big day came, karl was told to wait for word in his hotel room. >> they had three cars set up with surveillance. i had to go back to the hotel. i was hoping i could be there and videotape it. but i had to go to the hotel. and he was supposed to arrive at 2:00. >> reporter: the appointed hour passed. >> 3:00 comes. 3:30, nothing. i had pretty much given up.
it's just -- it ain't going to happen. i was ready to give up. i said if they don't get him today, i'm out. >> reporter: as time ticked by, karl became convinced that dennis had escaped once more. >> i was due back at school in about ten days. i was out of money. i was frustrated. and i just -- >> reporter: maybe you should just give up this whole -- >> i said, this is enough. i mean, this was important to me. but i did give it a real good shot. i gave it an honest shot. >> reporter: over a year of near misses and phantom sightings like some big foot always on the move. and all this flashed through karl's mind as he waited. how would this end? coming up, would standefer get arrested or get away? >> i really wanted to sit down and confront him. and say, you know, why did you do this? can i help you? yeah, can i get a full-sized car?
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by the summer of 1999, pasadena high school teacher karl ryll had spent more than a year trying to track down treasure hunter dennis standefer, hoping to face-off against a man karl says betrayed his friendship and took his money. >> i really wanted to sit down and confront him. and say, you know, why did you do this? you didn't need to do this, you snow. >> but now, broke and waiting by the phone, in a jakarta hotel room, karl began to think he would never get that chance. police had set up a sting to capture standefer. it was supposed to go down hours ago and yet karl had heard nothing. it seemed it was over. but not quite. >> i got the call. they got him. >> karl ran to the police station, but was too late to confront standefer. he was already inside. so karl gave his video camera to one of the officers who then taped standefer as he casually
joked with and charmed detectives and played to the camera. but when police refused to let him go, standefer finally got angry. he strongly denied the charges, blaming fellow americans out to take his treasure and his life. >> i had some trouble with some americans, they tried to kill me, they hired local people. >> police allege standefer's visa papers were not in order. and used that to lock him up on the spot. and then two days later as standefer was led from his police station holding cell to the jail, karl ryll finally got his chance to go face to face with dennis. >> i hope you enjoyed it. >> standefer repeated allegations from the infamous fax, the one that started karl ryll on his hunt in the first place. >> i reported him to the fbi. reported him to the fbi for selling drugs.
date rape drugs. to kids. >> dennis shouted he was the victim of a false friend. >> i don't give a [ bleep ]. >> you did it. thanks, karl. >> you're welcome, dennis. you're welcome. >> how did that feel? all of that? when you got back to your hotel. >> i was shaking, actually. i was so excited. one thing he's saying, he turned me in to the fbi for buying and selling drugs to kids. he did this to me. and then in the next breath, he's saying, well, thanks for killing me, karl, my friend and my partner. he switched just like that. and that in a nutshell is dennis standefer, that's the real dennis standefer. you got the victim and the attacker simultaneously. >> weeks later, a weary and apparently disbelieving standefer was in a jakarta courtroom, charged with overstaying his tourist visa. in the meantime, filipino officials were working to get
him extradited to the philippines to face the rape charge. and back in los angeles, private eye harold karaka heard the news from karl and he flew in to jakarta to see standefer in prison for himself. >> to me the chase is the exciting part. we caught him. he was there. he was in jail. i went there to see it. >> kar a ka thought dennis migh say he was sorry, promised to change. and karaka says, dennis started out that way, sort of. >> only thing he said that he did wrong was sending those letters to the fbi about karl and the school district. and said that was the only thing i did wrong. the rest of it, i don't understand why people are upset. he says i could have got your money back and i was on the verge of doing that before i got arrested. >> then karaka said, dennis did plea for help, with an escape. >> he goes, what can you do to get me out of this? i said, i said, what do you have to offer? he said, i have the richest ship in the history of salvage. and treasure hunting.
it is just ready for the taking. and i said, well, what do you? documentation you can show me, maybe we can work something out because i wanted to see how far he would go with this. he looks at me very serious and points, it's all up here. and i said, okay, dennis, it is probably going to stay there because that's as far as we're going to go with this. >> harold karaka walked out. >> i didn't feel better when i left. but at least i knew that he was there and hopefully he wasn't going to get out. >> after spending nearly two years in a jakarta jail, standefer was extradited to the philippines to stand trial on the rape charge. we got this written statement from standefer and had a phone conversation with him from his jail cell in manila. standefer says, he's no con man. but a legitimate treasure hunter. and he's never phonied up or salted sites, he said. he said karl and his friends tried to kill him and paid off police in three countries and interpol, all to get at his platinum bars which dennis says really do exist. he claims karl had gotten money
back from him, $23,000. standefer strongly denied the rape charges against him, he said karl, carried away by vengeance, paid the woman to file false charges. when we first reached the woman by phone in the philippines, she firmly stood by her rape charge. but later in this affidavit to the court, she suddenly withdrew the charge saying she was now a wife and mother and wanted to move on with her life. and the woman also told us karl did actually give her money. about $2,500 and promised her much more if he was ever repaid himself by standefer. we asked her if dennis was paying her now to say all of this. she answered, not yet, adding, it is up to him if he wants to give. karl admits giving the woman that money, but denies any wrongdoing saying it was to help her family.
and dennis, after spending about two years behind bars, was released from a philippine jail in 2001, rape charges dropped. when we last spoke to karl, he told us dennis is a free man, rumored to be living in malaysia and that dennis has never been charged in connection with any of the fraud allegations made against him by karl and the other investors. but karl's friends say, the teacher got what he wanted nonetheless. some revenge. and not just for how he was allegedly cheated. george rombach says karl had to hunt down dennis, couldn't let go of it, because it became karl's way of dealing with the loss of his father. >> he couldn't get on with the rest of his life without setting that straight. i'm very pleased he was able to get the rest of his life back and exonerate his name. >> but maybe it all goes back to that lonely boy who dreamed of pirates and buried treasure. he went after that dream with a
passion, thought it was the answer to his loneliness, and it turned sour, he found himself a new passion, a manhunt. >> i think that's what was so hurtful, painful for me to have someone who you considered to be a friend do this to you, turn on you like this. >> karl says, yes, his single minded two-year search for dennis standefer filled up his life, but in an unexpected way. the manhunt led him to those ex-investors, cheering him on and there he found more than revenge. he found, finally, friends. >> that's one of the things that dennis standefer will never understand, the value of a friend. because he sees friends as people to use and manipulate. and i feel like i'm a much better person because i've got a lot of friends. and i respect my friends and they respect me.