One of the 15 most wanted fugitives in the country might have blown his cover while attending a Los Angeles Dodgers game.
The US Marshals have asked for the public to help them identify a man who might be a fugitive on the run for the last 18 years. They think he sat behind home plate at a Dodgers-Red Sox game in 2016, where he was captured on TV when the game aired.
According to The New York Post, Joe Ruffo is a computer salesman from Brooklyn who swindled banks and financial institutions out of $353 million in the late 1990s. He was meant to serve a 17-year prison sentence for his crimes, but he disappeared on the date he was supposed to go to jail in 1998.
Ruffo was last seen at an ATM in New York City. Poice then discovered his vehicle at JFK Airport, where he disappeared to who-knows-where. The Post also said he made out with $13 million in his escape.
Fast forward 18 years to 2016. Ruffo’s cousin, Carmine Pascale, is watching the Dodgers-Red Sox game when a face sticks out to him from the crowd behind home plate.
“I’m watching and right behind home plate, they did a close-up of the batter and there’s Johnny. And I said, ‘Holy Christ, there he is!’” Pascale told ABC News. “And I immediately called the Marshals. I froze the frame, kept it right in front of me.”
Deputy Marshal Pat Valdenor couldn’t deny the similarity between the man on screen and Ruffo, who would be 66 years old now. He contacted the Dodgers’ risk management chief Michelle Darringer to see if she could help track down the man in the stands.
The US Marshalls Ask the Dodgers to Help Them Track Down the Fugitive
“It does look like him. It could be him. So that was my starting point. That was the lead that I got,” Valdenor said.
When he reached out to Darringer, all she remembers is “Our receptionist called me saying, ‘There are US Marshals here. They want to see you.’ I do remember them telling me that he was one of the most wanted persons. … It was a tip that this person had been at the game and they needed to try to confirm that.”
It should’ve been easy enough to track Ruffo’s ticket — except he wasn’t the original ticket holder. The person who bought the Dodgers ticket gave it away, so the man seen on TV remains a mystery.
“It does get frustrating,” Valdenor said. “Especially every time you get a name, you think that this is gonna be it. Or at least one step closer. And in this particular case — every name I got, every name I checked off is one step further away.”
Deputy Marshall Danielle Shimchick understands the feeling. “The ones that are the worst are when you have no resolution. That’s what bothers me, is that you just don’t know, is that him or not? The Dodgers footage, is that him? Is that Ruffo? Or is it not?” she told ABC News.
But in Pascale’s mind, there’s no doubt that the man captured on the footage was his cousin.
“Hiding in plain sight. Brazen, confident. ‘They ain’t gonna get me. Catch me if you can,’” Pascale said.