52 years later, obituary helps solve case of one of ‘America’s Most Wanted’
A year before the bank heist, Ted Conrad had become a little obsessed with “The Thomas Crown Affair”
Tom Randele was dying, but he had to confess something to his family first.
He hadn’t had an affair. He didn’t have another family in a far-flung state. He hadn’t dreamed of living another life.
No, Randele’s secret was of a different sort.
First off, Thomas Randele wasn’t Thomas Randele at all. His real name was Theodore “Ted” Conrad, and he’d been one of the most-wanted fugitives in America for more than a half century.
On Friday, July 11, 1969, a 20-year-old Conrad went to his job at Society National Bank in downtown Cleveland, the U.S. Marshals Service said in a Friday news release. He worked his shift, just like normal. Then, at the end of the day, he stuffed a paper bag with $215,000 — equivalent to more than $1.7 million today — and left for the weekend.
By the time his colleagues reported to work Monday morning, noticed he hadn’t shown and realized the money was missing, Conrad had a two-day head start on law enforcement, the release said.
Investigators learned that, the year before the heist, Conrad had become a little obsessed with “The Thomas Crown Affair,” a movie in which Steve McQueen plays a millionaire businessman who hatches a scheme to rob a bank because he’s bored. Conrad had seen it some half-dozen times and bragged to his friends how easy it would be to steal money from the bank where he worked. He even told them how he’d do it.
“He was a darer, so to speak,” U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott told the New York Times. “After seeing that movie, I believe he thought, ‘Hey, what if I do this and get away with this?’ I really think it was a challenge for him to be able to do it.”
After the heist, federal investigators chased leads in D.C., Texas, California, Oregon and Hawaii, the Marshals said in the release. Conrad was featured on true crime TV shows, including “America’s Most Wanted” and “Unsolved Mysteries.”
None solved the mystery of Conrad and the missing money, even as the months turned to years, and those years stretched into decades.
Then, things started to come together. U.S. Marshals investigators in Cleveland matched documents Conrad had filled out in the 1960s with more recent ones completed by Randele, including those he filed in 2014 during bankruptcy proceedings in Boston federal court, the release said. After Randele died of lung cancer this past May, some of the information in his obituary also jibed with what investigators knew of Conrad: Their dates of birth and parents’ names were similar, and their alma mater and place of birth matched.
“When people lie, they lie close to home,” Elliott told the Times.