You can't escape to Mexico with your millions.
Or so it seems for Stephen Michael Cohen, a former Rancho Santa Fe resident accused of stealing a pornographic Web site and illegally making millions of dollars from it.
Cohen, 57, was living in Tijuana. He was arrested yesterday by Mexican authorities while applying for a work permit. They turned him over to U.S. officials, who had an arrest warrant signed by a San Jose judge.
He is being held without bail and is scheduled to appear in federal court in San Diego today, said Tania Tyler, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service, which tracks down fugitives.
"It's good that justice is served," said Gary Kremen, who battled Cohen for years over the sex.com Web site. "It actually says something about border cooperation."
After spending six years and $4.5 million in legal fees, Kremen persuaded a San Jose federal judge to award him a $65 million judgment against Cohen, who, the court found, had hijacked the domain name.
The Web site is primarily a bulletin board with ads for other Web sites offering sexual content, and at times has generated up to $1 million a month, Cohen said.
After the judgment was issued, Cohen failed to appear in court and, in 2001, a federal judge issued an arrest warrant charging him with contempt of court.
The warrant orders Cohen to remain imprisoned until he returns $25 million, which the judge said was illegally transferred out of the country.
Since then, according to court records, Cohen has been living in Tijuana.
Through the courts, Kremen had obtained several of Cohen's assets in the United States, including a Rancho Santa Fe mansion.
He says that, with interest, Cohen now owes him $82 million.
In addition to owning sex.com, Kremen was the founder of match.com, a dating Web site he has since sold.
Cohen's 21-year-old daughter, Jhuliana, was arrested in June after trying to smuggle marijuana into the United States through the San Ysidro border crossing. She is scheduled to be sentenced Monday.
Kremen has sued her as well, accusing her of allowing her father to put various business interests in her name, including ownership of a large Tijuana strip club.
This isn't Cohen's first time in custody.
In 1993, he was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison after he was convicted of bankruptcy fraud in San Diego federal court.