Carjacking suspect plotted to flee country, prosecutors say
A nuclear engineer awaiting trial on carjacking charges has been confined to his home and ordered to stay away from airports after DuPage County prosecutors alleged he planned to flee to Chile in a private jet.
Michael Buhrman, 31, also must wear a tracking device and report regularly to the county probation office.
Judge Kathryn Creswell tightened bond conditions for the Coal City man this week after prosecutors said his girlfriend revealed details of his plans to jump bail.
According to court records, the 22-year-old woman told prosecutors that Buhrman said he has access to offshore bank accounts and a private jet, and planned to flee to Chile soon. She said he also recently purchased $100,000 in gold and was overheard making bank transfers.
"(Buhrman) indicated that he has 'two defense teams' who will keep seeking (court) continuances until he is ready to flee," Assistant State's Attorney Demetri Demopoulos wrote in a motion seeking higher bail.
Creswell imposed additional restrictions but declined to increase bail after Buhrman's attorney presented receipts showing his client had purchased a lesser amount of gold, contending he meant only to "diversify his retirement portfolio."
The defense also offered receipts showing Buhrman has retained legal counsel to fight for visitation with his young son, and argued that he only discussed vacationing in Chile once his case is resolved.
"He would be liquidating his accounts and taking cash with him if he was going to be fleeing the country," defense attorney Richard Blass said Friday. "He wants to stay in the states and fight this case. He had an opportunity to flee when he was given permission to leave the state in June to attend his son's birthday party, and he came right back. He owns a home here, he owns vehicles here, and he's got property here."
Buhrman, a Navy veteran and former reactor operator at Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Morris, posted $200,000 and was released from jail within 48 hours after police say he carjacked a woman in a Woodridge parking lot on May 9.
His girlfriend, whom he began dating in June, came forward after she saw a piece of mail indicating his last name was Buhrman rather than "Brennan," as he had told her, according to prosecutors. Authorities said she searched the Internet and quickly realized Buhrman was facing felony charges that could put him in prison for up to 45 years.
Buhrman is accused of hijacking the victim's 2000 Pontiac Grand Am while wielding a loaded .45 caliber handgun and wearing a "realistic" Halloween mask resembling an elderly man. Authorities said he later claimed had been on a "thrill-seeking" mission.
Buhrman, who returns to court Aug. 27, was employed by Dresden at the time of his arrest but has since been fired, a Dresden official said.
Under his new bond conditions, he can leave his home only for employment, court, and attorney or doctor visits. He has been barred from going within five miles of any airport, airfield or heliport.