Fugitive Who Pulled Off Cleveland’s Biggest Bank Heist Identified Over Half Century Later
The case was one of America's oldest unsolved bank robberies and may have been inspired by the film "The Thomas Crowne Affair."
Theodore John Conrad stole $215,000 from the Society National Bank, where he worked as a bank teller, in 1969, the U.S. Marshals said. Conrad did not return to work at the bank after making way with the money and was never caught, authorities said.
Conrad went to work July 11, 1969, and treated it like a normal day but when his shift ended, the then-20-year-old walked out with $215,000 in a paper bag and disappeared, NBC News reported.
The amount of money he took would be worth the equivalent of just over $1.7 million in 2021, according to CBS News.
Authorities both at the local and federal level had been searching for Conrad ever since, with leads sending the U.S. Marshals office to Washington D.C.; Inglewood, California; west Texas; Oregon and Honolulu, Hawaii. However, he was never found.
For 52 years, the case remained open until last week when investigators were able to piece the puzzle together and identify Conrad.
U.S. Marshals said that Conrad left Ohio following the heist and lived in a Boston, Massachusetts, suburb since 1970 as Thomas Randele.
Investigators from Cleveland matched documents that Conrad completed in the 1960s with documents Randele completed, including documents from when Randele filed for bankruptcy in Boston Federal Court in 2014. Thanks to other information obtained over the years, authorities were able to positively identify Thomas Randele as Theodore J. Conrad, U.S. Marshals said in a statement.
The location and name he picked following the heist may be tied to a film that Conrad was obsessed over: the 1968 Steve McQueen film “The Thomas Crown Affair.” The movie was based on a Boston bank robbery and Conrad saw it more than a half dozen times, investigators said.
“From there he bragged to his friends about how easy it would be to take money from the bank and even told them he planned to do so,” U.S. Marshals said in a statement.
“Thomas Randele” died of lung cancer in May 2021 in Lynnfield, Massachusetts. His birthdate was listed as July 10, 1947. Conrad’s real date of birth was July 10, 1949, and Conrad would have been 71 at the time of his death.
Peter J. Elliott, United States Marshal for Northern Ohio, was the son of late Deputy U.S. Marshal John K. Elliot, who spent much of his career until his retirement in 1990 trying to crack the case. He issued a statement saying, “My father never stopped searching for Conrad and always wanted closure up until his death in 2020. We were able to match some of the documents that my father uncovered from Conrad’s college days in the 1960s with documents from Randele that led to his identification.
“I hope my father is resting a little easier today knowing his investigation and his United States Marshals Service brought closure to this decades-long mystery. Everything in real life doesn’t always end like in the movies,” he added.
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