(Trends Wide) — Theodore John Conrad reported to work as a bank teller in Cleveland. At the end of his shift, the then 20-year-old stole $ 215,000, put it in a paper bag and disappeared, according to authorities.
That was in July 1969, and he stole the equivalent of $ 1.7 million today in one of the largest bank robberies in the city, the U.S. Marshals Service said.
Now, more than five decades later, the federal security agency announced Friday that it had identified the man considered one of the most wanted fugitives in the country.
Conrad had lived in Boston since 1970 under the name Thomas Randele, according to authorities. In another dramatic twist, his home was close to where the movie “The Thomas Crown Affair” was shot. In the original film, the protagonist steals more than $ 2 million from a Boston bank.
“A year before the Cleveland bank robbery, Conrad became obsessed with the 1968 Steve McQueen film,” the US Marshals Service said in a statement. “The movie was based on a bank robbery for sport by a millionaire businessman, and Conrad … bragged to his friends how easy it would be to get the money out of the bank.”
Decades of chasing clues across the country
Conrad’s alleged robbery took place on a Friday. The bank did not know that the money had disappeared from the vault until Monday, when he did not show up for work. Then the case went cold.
For decades, investigators have tracked down Conrad’s whereabouts in various states, including California, Hawaii, Texas and Oregon. His case was featured in “America’s Most Wanted” and “Unsolved Mysteries.”
After years of investigation, federal authorities traveled to Massachusetts last week and confirmed that he was leading a quiet life under a fictitious name in Boston. As part of their research, they compared his documents from the 1960s to paperwork he had completed under Randele’s name, including a 2014 bankruptcy filing in federal court in Boston.
He died of lung cancer in May of this year in Lynnfield, Massachusetts, the United States Marshals Service said. He was 71 years old.
A father and son helped solve the mystery
One of the key investigators in the case was Peter J. Elliott, an American sheriff from northern Ohio whose family lived near Conrad in the late 1960s.
“This is a case that I know very well. My father, John K. Elliott, was a career sheriff in Cleveland from 1969 until his retirement in 1990,” he said. “My father never stopped looking for Conrad and always wanted to close the case until his death in 2020.”
Some of the documents discovered by the elder Elliott played a role in confirming Conrad’s identification, the son said.
“I hope my father is resting a little easier today knowing that his investigation … brought closure to this decades-long mystery,” said the younger Elliott. “In real life, everything doesn’t end like it does in the movies.”