Could you pull it off if you had to? Could you go on the run with a new identity? if you were wrongfully accused (or, you know, rightly accused) of a crime and wanted to avoid going to trial?
Consider how many government and private databases contain your data, and how many ways you’re being tracked, Consider how many cameras there are on the planet, how do you survive with a new identity? A current fugitive provides a pointed narrative of life on the run using a new identity.
We spoke with one of the perpetrators. Last year, a man named “Jack Baker” was arrested and charged with a felony before disappearing with a New Identity. How? To put it another way, let’s say this: It wasn’t without its difficulties.
My boss accused me of stealing a large sum of money from the office.
It’s not like I robbed a bank or anything, but the crime I was accused of isn’t the kind of stuff they make movies about (that would come later). In my office, we had a blast. We drank beer, played music trivia, flew and crashed quadcopters, and even got up early to visit the casino and the shooting range. I was well-liked, and the other people present were also well-liked. Perhaps that’s why no one noticed the $54,000 missing for so long.
I was the office manager for a Maryland firm with a sizable procurement budget. So, when it was finally discovered that the company had issued tens of thousands of dollars in purchase orders for equipment we didn’t have and never desired, the most obvious suspect was one person. The cops showed up at my door with two warrants: one to search my home for unidentified computer equipment and the other to arrest me.
“If you’re proven guilty, you’re looking at 25 years,” a lawyer told me after I posted bail. I stated, “I did not do it.” “The disparity seemed obvious to me. I told the accountants about it, but they assumed everything had been ordered before I arrived…”
He explained, “This was ordered on your behalf.” “You’re the prime suspect for them. You might be able to beat it, but you can expect to be locked up for at least six months while we wait for a proper trial and investigation. Right now, you have the option of going to trial and receiving a harsh punishment, or you can let me negotiate a settlement with you that would result in a light sentence.” In the end, I went with the third choice. Running definitely turned me into a criminal if I wasn’t one before.
A month later, I received a call informing me that I would be arrested later that week in order to secure my appearance at trial. This was the point at which I made the decision not to go through with it. I’d take off. What if I merely disappeared for a while? I reasoned. Allow the heat to subside, and when I returned, I could begin a new life with a New Identity — one in which I would live apart from my wife and son but spend evenings with them. Perhaps, over time, we’ll all migrate out of state, and the authorities will lose track of us.
I informed my wife that I was departing. I left a note at home, together with my wallet and phone, describing a “suicide” plan that contained detailed specifics about money I’d hide for her. After that, I departed. In the following weeks, I pretended to be someone else using my New Identity.
I learned what information is required to obtain a “replacement” Social Security card and went about obtaining one for a stranger in Florida who was the same age and race as me (I’m not going to walk you through the procedure because I’m not teaching you how to be a successful fugitive here). Following that, I visited Georgia. Obtaining a state ID was a simple matter of Photoshopping the necessary supporting documents (bills, etc). I didn’t apply for a passport because it would have taken too long, not because security was too strict, and with that, I had a New Identity.
Despite this, I had everything I needed to function as someone completely different. Allowing me to remain undetected would have sufficed…After that, I robbed a bank that was already insolvent. I learned how to rob a bank in the same way I learned how to fold a fitted sheet: by searching the internet for instructions. (Did you know that it’s best to do it when there are a lot of people there?)
Now I was in North Carolina, and I went to a few other banks to see what they had to offer. Before taking off on the first, I must have circled 20 times and parked five times. It was impossible for me to complete the task. It was a stand-alone bank with a plaza behind it, and getting to the car was a 200-yard race. Those on those websites would have remarked, “That’s not good.” However, I came and saw a bank in a strip mall that appeared to be ideal. I scribbled the following message in my car: “Have a good day. You’ve been prepared for this. There will be no alarm clocks or dye packs, and everyone will see their children tonight. Smile. In front of me, count out all the 50s and 100s. Smile. It is covered under insurance. Calm, but not slow. I guarantee I won’t be staying here long.”
I got in line and handed the note to a teller once inside. She gave a friendly grin. She then started counting backward from 50 to zero. Then I asked her to run it through the counting machine; her willingness to do so indicated that there was nothing hidden in the cash. She handed it to me with an envelope on the side. I turned down the invitation. I walked out to my car, pocketing the money.
Of course, they caught me on camera, and my image appeared in news headlines potentially exposing my new identity. I had passed the state boundary in three minutes, though. How often do you hear of robberies that have occurred outside of your native state? Nonviolent and non-serial robberies, in particular? That’s exactly what I expected. Later, I returned the rented car and left the haul in it, which totaled roughly $6,000. I did all I said I would do in my suicide note. So far, everything seems to be going swimmingly.
If you cross the border into Mexico, no one seems to mind.
I got many burner phones as well as Visa gift cards. A dark-net email address was generated for me. I purchased a Greyhound ticket to Atlanta and slept in a hotel under a new identity. My hotel room for the night was 404, which made me laugh. I used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, an online marketplace for programmers, to make money. However, because there was a lag in payouts, my funds were depleted soon. I ended myself sleeping on the sofas of kind people I met in the city for a couple of nights. You can see how this could have gone horribly wrong right away: the more people you engage in your escape, the more people who know your new identity, the greater the chance that someone would become intrigued and look you up.
Then, while using a TOR browser to surf Facebook (going over a flurry of “I love yous,” “please come home,” and “the FBI came seeking for you” messages from my wife), I found an old girlfriend who joyfully purchased me a bus ticket to the Midwest and put me up in her condo. She didn’t ask any questions when I told her it was husband trouble. I spent Thanksgiving there, and while slathering sauce on my turkey-day pasta, I finally gave in and used an online service to phone my family. We were both crying, and I told them that I was fine.
I considered going to Mexico as winter approached. You’ve probably seen criminals in movies talking about it as if Mexico is some kind of wild wasteland where anyone may disappear. In actuality, their extradition is as robust as that of any other state in the United States. There’s a good chance I’d be apprehended. It was solely a financial decision; the cost of living is far lower, and my Mechanical Turk paychecks would stretch further. I boarded a Greyhound and traveled south, crossing the international bridge and crossing the Rio Grande on foot. My identification was not even checked, my new identity worked perfectly.. Perhaps they are less concerned about immigration going that way.
Even if you’re only staying for a few days, you’re required to obtain a “tourist card,” but the requirements are relaxed within a few miles of the border, as they were in Juarez, where I stayed. Money talks in Mexico. When police discovered cocaine on me, 200 pesos (about $10) was sufficient to resolve the situation. I noticed a man working transit the next day with a sign on his motorcycle that stated no se acceptan morditas, which means “we don’t accept bribes.” If a country has to erect a sign stating that it does not accept bribes, it fucks accepts bribes.
It Was A Lot More Difficult To Return Across The Border.
After a few more months of online labor, I sank into a funk, or “ex-pat depression,” as they call it. Back in the United States, Donald Trump’s poll numbers began to rise. If my plan was to cross the border illegally again, I didn’t think President Trump would make it any easier. It was time to carry out the second element of my plan, which was far less realistic. I could have strolled straight up to the official border crossing with my forged identification. After all, I was a citizen, and what makes a citizen attempting to get home suspicious? What if they detected a problem and ran the ID? It was impossible for me to take the chance. It had to be an “off-the-record” crossing.I met a guide who helped folks with similar situations through a mutual friend. In a bar, we met up. My laptops, clothes, and my entire existence were all in a large bag. A rope was everywhere in his. For comparison, here’s how the border crossing looks from the American side (El Paso):
He explained, “I’m going to wrap something around your underarms.” “You shimmy your way to the top of the pedestrian bridge by shimmy-ing up that light pole. After that, you jump down on the pedestrian sidewalk-blocking fence. Jump over the wire sensors for jumpers on the count of three, and you’re set to go.”
I said, “Holy sh*t!” “No. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no” There has to be a different solution. There was, but only at a cost, and for the time being, this was all he had. Again, based on the first option, “another approach” could have easily been “We grab a catapult and fling your ass into Texas.”
We waited five hours for a train to pass by and hide their view of the bridge since border patrol agents were parked there. I placed a rope around my chest and stood on my guy’s shoulders, climbing a light pole, in full daylight, as hundreds of people passed by every minute. “WE HAVE A JUMPER,” said the border patrol at the checkpoint. They were aware of my existence. They’d obviously done so. I leaped over the edge.
The agent yelled at the white, American-looking man in front of him, “Why are you running?” I mumbled something about leaving my fiancée off at the bus stop and how I was running late for a meeting. He asked, “Do you have an ID?” I gave him my real ID since I didn’t want to be caught with a fake ID and maybe face terrorism charges.
I was already on the verge of losing my rope deposit.
I made one last-ditch effort, my heart sinking. As I previously stated “For the record, I was born in [name of specific city and county] and graduated from high school there! Believe it or not, I am not a citizen.” Only a true American, I reasoned, would treat a border officer with such contempt. “You guys come up behind me like I’m some kind of criminal every fucking time I’m running somewhere in this goddamned town. For God’s sake, I served in the army!” (I presented the credentials, which proved to be true.)
The arrival of a supervisor was anticipated. I pretended to be filming what was happening by tapping on my phone. “You’re free to go,” the supervisor remarked after a few moments of looking me in the eyes. I got my ID, put my belongings in my pocket, and pretended to contact someone: “I’m sorry for the delay. Sorry for any inconvenience this has caused. Did the sirens go unnoticed by you? For me, that was it. I must have a Mexican appearance.” Then I vanished around the bend and started running again.
Anyone can go missing if they’re willing to give up everything and start over with a new identity.
I’m currently in the United States, with no indication that I’ll be detained. I’m still scraping by, doing little jobs here and there to make ends meet. In the town’s immigrant neighborhoods, I hang around and drink. Those who are familiar with that aspect of my life refer to me as Gringo Mojado (essentially, “white illegal immigrant”). It was as simple as having $400 in your pocket and strolling near a kitchen at a nearby restaurant to find a place to stay. With a quick Hola and an inquiry like, “Who has a room to rent?” I was able to move in right away. There were no other inquiries.
If any portion of this story makes me sound like a criminal genius, I have to admit that the system’s apathy had a role in my success thus far. When I was on the run following my “suicide,” I used my own bank account. I had no choice because Amazon wouldn’t pay me any other way. I even used my own debit card (albeit with a little more forethought, I would have chosen an account without a six-dollar international ATM fee).
“It’s only $6? I mistakenly believed I was the bad guy.”
Even my taxes were submitted under my true name this spring. Months had gone since the bank heist, I’d lost faith in my invulnerability, and I figured I didn’t need another tax evasion penalty on my record. Those leads, though, appear to have gone unfollowed. They also didn’t look into the last two people I saw on the night of my disappearance, both of whom knew my burner phone’s number.
Maybe they didn’t give a damn, or maybe they learned that in most situations, they could just sit tight and wait for the fugitive to resurface. How many people have the ability to throw away all they care about in an instant, including their family, friends, work, and home? In retrospect, my original idea to rejoin my family and make things work was absurd.
Yes, that’s correct. When I got back to the country, I tried calling my wife. Her phone number was no longer the same. My emails went unanswered by her. She filed for divorce and sold the house, according to what I’ve found online. That six-month wait for a trial now doesn’t seem so bad, but I still have my new identity and I still have options with it.
Occasionally, I consider turning myself in and attempting a plea bargain. Then make an attempt to see my son once he reaches the age of eighteen. Alternatively, I may return to Mexico or another Central American country. It’s less expensive, and I don’t have anything that makes it worthwhile for me to stay here. A little over a year ago, the man I used to be died. It wouldn’t feel right even if I used my own name again. I’m not the person I used to be or the person I ever wanted to be now that I have a New Identity.
To protect the source’s privacy, identifying information and their new identity in this article have been changed.
If Life in Prison Looks Good, Running to Mexico is a Smart Idea.
I believe I am qualified to offer the following non-legal and inexpert advice after speaking with some of the city’s finest criminal attorneys and spending a significant amount of time reading stuff on the Internet: Texans guilty of capital offenses who are considering fleeing south or north should carefully consider the following factors:Advantage: It’s a good strategy to avoid being put to death. The disadvantage is that it is a surefire way to be convicted.
At work are two fundamental ideas. The first is extradition: Mexico, Canada, and most other countries that oppose the death penalty will not extradite someone to a country that does unless the receiving country agrees to remove the death penalty from the equation. So if you’re that person and you leave, you’ve got an entire country working for you to get the US to pledge not to kill you or else they won’t extradite you.
The second factor, on the other hand, is older and maybe more important. The word “flee” is a significant concept here. Fleeing is generally regarded as a strong indicator of guilt. “I believe there may even be verses in the Bible regarding that,” says Tom Mills, a top Texas criminal defense lawyer. As a result, the law clearly prohibits extradition to countries that use the death penalty. The Bible issue, as well as the fact that all of this extradition matter is governed by international law, which we would conceive of as semi-foreign law, rather than Texas law, would be disadvantageous. Things can get sticky once you get back to Texas, even if it’s only the hat you bought in France, much alone a murder investigation.
If you accept to be extradited at some point, Mexico or Canada may lose their influence in securing an assurance from the US that you will not be executed. Even if you don’t agree and Mexico or Canada fulfills the U.S. pledge, there have been occasions where defendants returned to the United States and American authorities claimed they had discovered fresh capital charges that were not covered by the international agreement. You could argue that this is a form of deception. However, keep in mind that most murders are considered state crimes, so you’ll have to present your case in a Texas court. Make certain that your international agreement is written down. English is used. Do not appear in a Texas courtroom with a document written in a language other than English.
When you make two blunders, according to David Finn, another prominent criminal defense lawyer who has worked with extradition, scurrying to Mexico starts to appear a lot less sensible. 1) Enlist the assistance of your parents (Ethan Couch), or 2) Avoid being a Mexican. Couch, an affluent adolescent who got drunk and murdered four people in a car accident, had his mother drive him to Mexico. It’s worth noting that the child gave up his struggle against extradition and opted to return voluntarily, perhaps to assist his mother. You may recall that she got herself into more legal difficulty than he did, being accused of assisting a fugitive and obstructing justice.
He was never charged with a capital offense despite being responsible for many deaths in a drunken driving event. However, if he had been, Mexico’s capacity to avoid the death penalty for him would have ended the moment he agreed to return home on his own. His capacity to resist extradition to the end may have been harmed by his mother’s legal difficulties, which is why you don’t want your mother with you when you become an international fugitive. Consider the following: In all of those movies, Jason Bourne never once asked his mother for assistance. He had to have his motives for doing so.
In the case of Brenda Delgado, who was captured in Mexico this weekend on suspicion of planning the murder of Dallas dentist Kendra Hatcher, Finn said she might be able to convince a judge that she fled because she was afraid and was returning home. When you’re an affluent Anglo-American kid who can’t order a pizza in Spanish, the case for returning to Mexico becomes more difficult. You may explain you were stressed and felt compelled to attend an opulent beach resort.
Mills noted that fleeing if you truly intend to leave and stay flee, is far more difficult than it appears in movies. “To know how to get a phony passport and handle money, you’d have to be highly clever, almost like someone from the CIA or Mossad.” I’m not even sure where to start looking.” If you have enough money to hire someone to do all of those things for you, Mills says, you’ll gain a new daddy for life: the person who assisted you in getting everything done owns you until one of you dies.
People who are intelligent enough to build all of those connections and figure out how to make it all work logistically are typically sophisticated enough to acquire what they want without breaking the law, according to Mills. He stated, “Most crime isn’t very smart.”
When people return home, they may not see themselves as fleeing. Delgado’s attorney, George Milner, explained that in times of danger, it’s like returning to familiar ground. Milner said he doesn’t know when his client went to Mexico with a new identity and, as a result, he doesn’t know if she had been charged with a crime at the time.
“However, she was born in Mexico.” Down there, she has family and friends. She was born and raised in that country. It’s similar to if I were to live in France and be charged with a very serious crime under French law. ‘You know what, I’m a US citizen,’ I might say if I’m not guilty. ‘I think I just need to get out of here,'” says the narrator.
So this is where I believe it all comes down to. If you did it and are facing the death penalty, go to Mexico or Canada, but Mexico has the beaches. You’ll be able to spend a few weeks at the beach before being sentenced to life in prison. All you have to do now is hope that the Americans want to extradite you, or else you’ll end up doing everything in Mexico. Learn how to order a pizza in Spanish if you flee to Mexico in the hopes of finding a safe haven. Don’t rack up bar tabs that are equal to or more than the average annual income in the area. Take your mother out of the picture.
Where can a criminal avoid being prosecuted in the United States?
R. Allen Stanford, a financier accused of defrauding investors out of $8 billion, allegedly attempted to flee the country last week without the benefit of a new identity and was easily apprehended by the FBI in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Where should an American fugitive go without a new identity, nowhere, you are going straight to jail if you don’t have a new identity to protect you.
Russia, Libya, Iran, or any of the other 90 countries with which the US does not have an extradition treaty. From the Bahamas to Israel to Zimbabwe, the United States has signed bilateral treaties pledging that fugitives will be returned to the country where they committed a crime, as well as numerous multilateral agreements promising to cooperate in the fight against terrorism and the drug trade. (A full list is available here.) Unfortunately for fugitives, this means that the majority of the developed world is closed off to them. If you want to be completely safe, you’ll have to go somewhere that no one wants to go—or where Uncle Sam isn’t friendly and with a new identity.
You could also travel to a country with a weak or extensive extradition treaty. Cuba, for example, signed a treaty with the US in 1926 but has long been a haven for American fugitives under Fidel Castro’s leadership. (After a rash of high-profile hijackings in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the two countries made an exception for hijackers.) Prior to September 11, extradition treaties frequently included “political offense exceptions,” which stated that a host country was not obligated to return a criminal who would be punished for political reasons—a provision that the US invoked in refusing to return IRA members to Ireland. Even today, some countries refuse to extradite a criminal if they believe he will face the death penalty or have his human rights violated in some way, but reliving on these legal loopholes in extradition treaties does not provide you with the protection that a new identity does.
Most extradition treaties include a rule known as “dual criminality,” which states that the crime must be illegal in both states, not just one. Marc Rich, a financier, sought refuge in Switzerland as a result of this. Switzerland would not extradite him because the crimes he is accused of—primarily, tax evasion—are not illegal there. The US refused to extradite a man who had assisted suicide in Ireland in 2007. The reason is that assisted suicide is not illegal in all 50 states.
Even in the absence of an extradition treaty, the US can apprehend a fugitive by kidnapping him—a procedure known as extraordinary rendition. (In 1992, the United States Supreme Court ruled that people abducted forcibly can stand trial.) The US can also send a “red notice” to all Interpol member countries—basically everyone—alerting them to arrest the criminal if he or she crosses a border.