Back in 2016, it was thought a man sitting behind home plate at a Dodgers game was one of the most wanted men in the world. As it turns out, United States Marshals no longer think that to be the case.
Believing the man to be John Ruffo, a relative thought they spotted him on television sitting snuggly behind home plate at a 2016 Dodgers game. U.S. Marshals believed this to be the case and pursued it. For reference, John Ruffo was a computer salesman who cheated banks and other financial institutions out of a staggering $353 million in the 90s. Meant to serve 17 years in jail, he disappeared before he could live out his sentence in 1998.
ABC recently published a podcast about the case, bringing it back into the spotlight. However, TMZ Sports reports the suspected fan is not the fugitive. Nope, the man behind home plate was just a sports fan who happened to look like one of the most wanted people in the country.
How Did the John Ruffo Misunderstanding Happen?
Being falsely accused of being a wanted fugitive isn’t something that happens every day, so how did this poor man get mistaken for John Ruffo?
Back in 2016, Ruffo’s cousin, Carmine Pascale, was watching a Dodgers-Red Sox game. While viewing it, a face behind home plate became recognizable. “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 saw the resemblance between the two men. He then contacted Dodger’s risk management chief Michelle Darringer to help track the man down. “It does look like him. It could be him. So that was my starting point. That was the lead that I got,” Valdenor said.
Darringer recalled the event, saying “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 wasn’t quite so easy to track the supposed Ruffo’s ticket, as he wasn’t the original ticket holder. The ticket buyer gave it away, complicating matters. “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.”
Up until recently, Marshals and Pascale were convinced the fan was Ruffo, with the latter saying the fan was taunting law enforcement. Looks can be deceiving, it seems.