After stealing $350 million and going on the run, a fraudster may have been spotted at a baseball game after 23 years.
John Ruffo took part in one of the most preposterous frauds in US history and was sentenced to 17-years in prison, but vanished before he was due to start serving time.
However, a possible sighting of the Brooklyn computer salesman has since occurred, as US marshals believe they have spotted him in footage from a LA Dodgers game that took place in 2016.
In 1998, Ruffo teamed up with a former executive from the Phillip Morris tobacco company and pretended to be working on a way to create smoke-free cigarettes. Claiming that his compute firm was sourcing computers for the project, Ruffo scammed banks out of $350 million and tried to invest into Wall Street to pay back the bank loans but also make a profit.
However, due to not having enough experience in the field, the plot was uncovered and he and his partner were arrested. After disappearing before he was set to serve time, Ruffo was named as one of the US marshal’s 15 most wanted fugitives and has been on the run since November 1998.
Following the sighting, the US Marshals Service have since stated that they are looking for the ‘public’s assistance to identify’ the attendee. According to the report, he ‘strongly resembles’ one of their most wanted fugitives.
They note how ‘$13 million of the money was not recovered’ when Ruffo disappeared and that Ruffo is the subject of an ABC News Investigates podcast called Have You Seen This Man, too.
In September 2016, USMS investigators in the Eastern District of Virginia received a tip indicating Ruffo had attended a Boston Red Sox/LA Dodgers baseball game on Aug. 5, 2016, and that he was sitting behind home plate approximately four rows up and wearing a blue shirt.
A video clip from the game confirms a white balding male with a mustache, wearing a blue shirt, seated several rows behind home plate.
It details that the seat was narrowed down to ‘Section 1 Dugout Club, Row EE, Seat 10’ and states that police have also identified the person who bought the seats. However, due to not being able to identify the man pictured in the blue shirt, the investigators are now requesting public assistance, calling the public’s help as ‘vital’.
They noted how if the man pictured was Ruffo, he was ‘likely using an alias’ and that the last official sighting of him took place on November 9, 1998, at an ATM in New York.
The search for Ruffo has extended worldwide, with ‘hundreds of leads’. The report concluded by informing the public of Ruffo’s ‘extensive international connections through his time as a New York businessman’. It references a particular interest of Aruba and Italy, due to them being locations the fugitive has previously visited.
The report describes Ruffo as ‘computer savvy, […] enjoy[ing] fine wines, gambling, and nice hotels’. ‘He is reportedly lactose-intolerant, […] known to be a storyteller, someone who liked to stretch the truth and had a desire to impress others. He has been called a master manipulator,’ it states.
As of 1998, the fugitive was 5 foot 5 inches and around 170 pounds.
Anyone to provide any information that leads to Ruffo’s arrest will be rewarded with $25,000, according to the report.
Members of the public are ‘urged to contact the nearest USMS District Office, the U.S. Marshals Service Communications Center at 1-800-336-0102, or submit a tip using USMS Tips’.