For years, the US Marshals have been on the lookout for an ordinary Brooklyn computer salesman who committed one of the country’s most heinous bank frauds before making a daring escape in 1998. When John Ruffo vanished, he was about to begin serving a 17-year prison sentence for defrauding banks out of more than $350 million.
John Ruffo is one of the most dangerous con men in history, having not only been convicted as a white-collar criminal but also being considered a master manipulator. After all, as revealed in Hulu’s ‘Have You Seen This Man?,’ he masterminded one of the most monumental bank frauds in US history before disappearing with no trace, sparking a massive manhunt.
So, if you’re curious in his strange past, devious deceptions, perplexing transgressions, abrupt flight, or possible current whereabouts, here’s everything we know.
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Who is John Ruffo, and where Did he Come from?
John Ruffo was born in November 1954 to a working-class family in Brooklyn, New York. He showed early on that he had the potential to achieve great things, as indicated by his scholarship to New York University.
That’s why the graduate’s decision to leave United Computer Systems LLC and start his own company, Consolidated Computer Services, was unsurprising (CCS). Things began to turn around for John in 1993, when he was approached by Edward Reiners, an entrepreneur and former executive at Philip Morris, with a one-of-a-kind proposal.
The scam in question entailed approaching a number of banks in an attempt to raise millions of dollars for “Project Star,” a fictional top-secret research project aimed at developing smoke-free cigarettes. Not only did the two rely on Edward’s historical ties to Philip Morris to make their claims credible, but they also claimed that John’s computer company would be providing the necessary gear.
As a result, they were able to defraud about $350 million (equivalent to around $633 million in 2022) from numerous banks around the region in less than three years.
According to sources, John always paid the interest on the loans on time to avoid suspicion, but their scheme went apart in early 1996 due to a discrepancy in the fake paperwork they utilised.
They were apprehended by the FBI after a sting operation, and it was discovered that in addition to investing on Wall Street to become a high-roller, John also spent the money on exquisite wines, gambling, and lavish hotels. John was a “storyteller, someone who loved to stretch the facts, and had a need to impress others.” He enjoyed travelling and was computer smart.
John was charged with 150 counts of bank fraud, money laundering, wire fraud, and conspiracy. Thus his bail was set at $10 million to reflect the gravity of his crime.
He was later found guilty and sentenced to 17.5 years in federal prison, but he was released on bail until the start of his term, which began on November 9, 1998.
Rather from going to the New Jersey prison that day, John rented a car, drove to Queens to give in his ankle monitor (as planned), then went to a nearby ATM to withdraw roughly $600 in cash before flying to JFK. Despite being a flight risk, he was not escorted, which effectively allowed him to park his car in a long-term parking lot and vanish.
John Ruffo engineered one of the most outlandish frauds in U.S. history: a $350 million swindle.
Then he disappeared.
On Thursday, the global fugitive manhunt for John Ruffo comes to @Hulu. https://t.co/F1jwqX41wu pic.twitter.com/IAFKFCVL8p
— ABC News (@ABC) March 22, 2022
What Happened to John Ruffo? Is He Still Missing?
Since the day CCTV cameras recorded John Ruffo taking money from an ATM in Queens in November 1998, there have been no verifiable sightings of him.
The US Marshals received a tip in 2016 that he was in Los Angeles for a Dodgers game in early August, but it was later clarified in 2021 that the man enjoying baseball from about four seats behind home plate was not John, but someone who looked remarkably similar.
John is currently on the US Marshals’ 15 Most Wanted Fugitives list, with officials believing he may be hiding out somewhere in the world, especially given his known ties to the Caribbean, South America, and Europe.
There have previously been links between the “master manipulator” and Italy, Greece, and Switzerland, but he has never been found. The service has classed John, who is 67 at the time of writing, as “armed and dangerous,” and he has previously used identities such as Jack Nitz, Bruce Gregory, John Peters, and Charles Sanders.
For any information leading to the arrest of the convicted hustler, a reward of up to $25,000 is being given. Please do not hesitate to contact the police if you have any information on his case or whereabouts.
You can reach out to the US Marshals Service Communication Center at 1-800-336-0102, leave a tip at 1-877-WANTED2 (926-8332), submit information on the agency’s website, or contact the nearest district office or US Embassy/Consulate directly.
The $13 million that has never been recovered is thought to have facilitated John Ruffo’s disappearance, despite the FBI freezing all of his known assets and bank accounts following his arrest.
John Ruffo swindled banks out of more than $350 million and was due to start a 17-year prison sentence when he vanished. The U.S. Marshals labeled Ruffo one of their 15 most wanted fugitives and have provided @ABC unprecedented access to their manhunt. https://t.co/ZWnWP0msyp
— ABC News (@ABC) August 11, 2021
“Have You Seen This Man?” is a three-part Hulu Original limited series launched on March 24. According to ABC News, the series, which ABC News Studios created, found new clues that could aid in the search for the missing computer engineer and businessman.