Once in a while, a fugitive out there manages to slip through the cracks, even while the police hunting them.
Such is the case of a man by the name of John Ruffo, a New York businessman who, presently, has been on the run for 23 years following his involved in a monumental and well-publicised fraud scheme.
Indeed, that is a lengthy amount of time to evade capture, so much so that Mr Ruffo has now officially been on the loose longer than the prison time he was sentenced to.
But, in a recent turn of events, investigators in the United States believe they may have a lead on the criminal after they spotted a man at a baseball game who looks strikingly similar to the fugitive at hand.
And now, they are asking the public to offer assistance to see if they can identify the man.
So, Who Is John Ruffo?
Back in the 1990s, Mr Ruffo was convicted following his association with a US$350 million bank fraud scheme.
After his capture, he was sentenced to 17 and a half years in jail.
Nevertheless, after his release on bond, Mr Ruffo decided he preferred not to turn up to prison to complete his sentence.
While this should never have been an option to begin with, since that day, Mr Ruffo has not been seen.
And, as a result, the US$13 million of the money that was defrauded has never been retrieved.
Why Was Mr Ruffo’s Investigation Suddenly Revived?
The investigation surrounding Mr Ruffo was recently revived after the criminal, in October 2021, became the subject of an ABC News Investigates podcast titled, Have You Seen This Man?
The podcast highlighted the suspicion that the man, who would now be 66 years of age, attended a baseball game on 5 August 2016, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.
At the event, a man seated behind the home plate with a strikingly similar appearance to Mr Ruffo could be seen in the footage of the game.
“He was sitting behind home plate approximately four rows up and wearing a blue shirt. A video clip from the game confirms a white balding male with a moustache, wearing a blue shirt, seated several rows behind home plate,” US Marshalls Service said in a recent statement.
At the time, investigators managed to track down the person who bought the seat tickets, but it still failed to get them any closer to identifying the man in the blue shirt.
Police said public help in identifying the man was “vital” and said Ruffo would likely be using a fake name.
Mr Ruffo features on the US’s 15 Most Wanted list.
In the Marshals’ news release from a few years back, it was stated that Mr Ruffo “is known to be computer savvy and enjoys fine wines, gambling, and nice hotels.”
He is reportedly also lactose-intolerant, while known to be a great storyteller – “someone who liked to stretch the truth and had a desire to impress others”.
Mr Ruffo has also been labelled a “master manipulator”.
Meanwhile, the criminal is known to have had several international connections, with interest specifically in Italy and Aruba.
Before this potential sighting at the baseball game, Mr Ruffo had not been seen since 1998, when a confirmed sighting put him at an ATM in New York on his way to J F Kennedy Airport.
He had rented a car then parked it in the long-term bay before fleeing to an unknown destination.
Now, a reward of $25,000 is being offered to anyone who provides information that leads to his arrest.
As most people would reason, if you’re being held in lawful custody – that is, if you’ve been arrested and detained in a way that is authorised by the law – it is against the law to escape.
And if you do escape, or merely attempt to escape, the maximum penalties are harsh.
If you are in NSW, the law on escaping lawful custody is reflected in section 310D of the Crimes Act 1900, which states that it is against the law to escape lawful custody – or to simply even attempt to do so. This carries a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.
Furthermore, this section also makes clear that it is against the law to fail to return to lawful custody at the end of the period for which you have been released in the case you have been temporarily released. This carries the same maximum penalty of up to 10 years in jail.
Interesting facts: it is easier to appeal from the local court to the district court than it is appealing from the district court to the supreme court in Australia. Speak to one of our appeal lawyers Sydney based for a confidential chat.