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Houseboat’s Owner Appears at FBI Office

<i> From Times Staff and Wire Reports</i>

The owner of a houseboat where Andrew Phillip Cunanan was found dead voluntarily appeared at FBI offices Thursday and answered questions about the case, the agency said.

Torsten Reineck, 49, the owner of a gay club in Las Vegas, is being sought by German authorities on fraud charges, but the FBI said the warrants would be executed only if he were arrested in a nation bordering Germany.

At an FBI news conference in Washington earlier in the day, Deputy FBI Director William J. Esposito said the agency wanted to determine, among other things, whether Reineck had any relationship with Cunanan. No details of the interview were released.

Reineck operates the Apollo Spa and Health Club a few blocks east of the Las Vegas Strip, according to the Clark County Business License Department. The small club is open to men only, by membership.

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A prosecutor in Leipzig, Germany, said Thursday that a Europewide arrest warrant is outstanding for Reineck, 49, who is wanted on fraud charges involving up to $111,000.

The German newspaper Bild has reported that Reineck also is under investigation for evasion of nearly $280,000 in taxes. But Leipzig State Prosecutor Norbert Roeger declined to confirm the tax evasion allegations, citing a continuing investigation.

Esposito told the Washington news conference that he did not know whether the owner and Cunanan had a prior relationship.

A manager at the club, who declined to give his name, said Thursday that he had never heard of the name Reineck and knew the owner as Torsten Matthew “Doc” Ruehl. Media reports in Germany said Reineck has used the name Dr. Matthias Ruehl in the United States.

The club manager said he has contact with the owner by fax and telephone, both directly and through intermediaries.

He said the owner “travels around the country and spends most of his time in Europe.”

The Nevada Business License Department said Reineck’s license, issued last August, lists him as a resident of Miami Beach. The Nevada secretary of state’s office lists Friedrich Ewald as secretary and treasurer of the Las Vegas club. Both have the same Miami Beach address.

Police were unsure how long Cunanan had been staying at the houseboat in the wake of the July 15 killing of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, one of five people Cunanan is suspected of killing in the last three months.

A woman who identified herself as a friend of Reineck’s in Miami Beach said there was no chance that the German businessman knew Cunanan.

“Torsten Reineck is not gay. The opening of the bathhouse was just a business opportunity for him,” Brigitte Andrade said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” She said she presumed Cunanan just saw an empty houseboat and broke in.

Reineck’s mother, who still lives in Hamburg, was quoted by German publications as also saying that he isn’t gay. “He has always lived with women. He had lots of women. He can’t have anything to do with this thing,” she said.

Jay Vaswani, owner of India Sweets and Spices next to the spa, said he saw Reineck on Tuesday and described the owner as a German man who drives a car with Florida license plates.

Some additional details about Reineck were gleaned from various German publications:

Reineck was born in June 1948 in the river-port city of Hamburg. He studied to be a mechanic but then went into business in 1975, buying a nude-dancing revue place called the Alcazar.

The club later went bankrupt, but 1989 brought a big opportunity: the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Reineck went to Leipzig, a German trade center, where he created a chain of slot-machine parlors and bought a brewery called Leo Pilsner. For a time he appeared ostentatiously successful in the impoverished former East Germany, delivering beer to 300 taverns, wearing a Rolex watch and diamond pinky ring and driving a costly white Excalibur.

But the good times didn’t last, and the brewery went bankrupt.

On top of that, authorities allege that from 1989 to 1992 Reineck hadn’t paid any taxes and charged him with tax evasion. Reineck was also reportedly charged with fraud, coercion, failure to pay rents and selling liquor without a license.

In November 1992, just as his trial was supposed to start, he disappeared from Germany.


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