Friends' Shock as Hiker is Identified as Fugitive Wanted for Embezzling $9 Million

To those who knew him in Virginia, he was just a guy named Bismarck who sometimes stayed at a modest guest house on the Appalachian Trail.

But he was really James Hammes, a federal fugitive accused of bilking nearly $9 million from the Cincinnati Pepsi bottling plant where he worked. He has pleaded not guilty.

His friends told INSIDE EDITION they had no idea he was a wanted man.

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Dentist David Milner hiked across three states with the bearded, shaggy-haired man.

“He’s a fantastic hiking companion. He knows the trail … he’s almost a sage,” Milner said. “Even looking back, there was nothing that I could say seemed odd.”

“Bismarck” was a familiar face on the majestic path that runs 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine.

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He walked the trail for six years, often staying at the Montgomery Homestead in the tiny hamlet of Damascus, Virginia.

But his luck ran out earlier this year, when federal agents caught up with him after a true-crime series ran a story about the fugitive accountant who left behind a wife and a daughter living in Kentucky.

“He was a thrill seeker,” said his former sister-in-law Jane Ryan.

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