The US Marshals have confirmed that an LA Dodgers fan is not John Ruffo’s most wanted criminal after investigators managed to track down the man and take fingerprints in the crowd during a 2016 baseball game.
The man, whose real identity has not been revealed, was ruled out Thursday as the fugitive who has spent the past 23 years on the run from a $350 million bank fraud scheme and is on the agency’s 15 Most Wanted list.
The confirmation came just two days after authorities asked for help identifying a man sitting in the stands during the televised match on August 5, 2016.
The man bore a “strong resemblance” to the wanted criminal, with Ruffo’s own cousin first reporting the tip to authorities in September 2016.
The US Marshals have confirmed that an LA Dodgers fan (left) is not the most wanted criminal John Ruffo (right)
Investigators managed to locate and fingerprint the man in the crowd during a 2016 baseball game (seen in the blue shirt)
A relative of the person who sat four rows behind home plate during the 2016 Boston Red Sox and LA Dodgers baseball game contacted the US Marshals on Tuesday night. ABC news.
They told investigators it was their relative in the image and not the 66-year-old fugitive.
To confirm the man’s true identity, investigators traveled to meet him in person.
They took his fingerprints and did a background check, which ruled him out completely.
“US Marshals in Eastern Virginia and Central California counties have confirmed the participant’s identity and determined that he is not John Ruffo,” the US Marshals said in a press release.
The agency announced this week that, in September 2016, investigators were tipped off about a man who closely resembled Ruffo who was seen in footage of the game that aired on TV.
Ruffo’s cousin told ABC News that he first reported the possible sighting after seeing a familiar face in the crowd.
Authorities this week asked for help in identifying the man who sat in the stands on August 5, 2016 and bore a ‘strong resemblance’ to the wanted criminal
“I watch and they took a close-up of the batter right behind home plate and there’s Johnny,” he said.
‘And I said, ‘Holy Christ, there he is. And I immediately called the Marshals. I froze the frame, held it right in front of me.’
The footage shows a white, balding man with a mustache and a blue shirt sitting four rows behind home plate.
Investigators restricted the seat to Section 1 Dugout Club, Row EE, Seat 10 and tracked down the person who bought the tickets for the seats.
However, the investigation stalled as it turned out that the tickets had changed hands several times, leading to the US Marshals pleading for help from the public.
Ruffo was convicted of $353 million bank fraud and sentenced to 17 and a half years in prison in 1998, but fled with $13 million
Ruffo, now 66, was convicted in 1998 of one of the largest bank fraud scams in US history.
The former computer salesman set up a fraudulent scheme to defraud US and foreign banks out of $353 million.
He was sentenced to 17 and a half years in Virginia but was released on $10 million bail and ordered to report to a federal prison in New Jersey in November.
Ruffo never showed up and has been on the run ever since — with an estimated $13 million in funds never recovered from the scheme.
The last confirmed sighting of the fugitive was the day he was due to report to prison when he was caught on surveillance footage withdrawing money from an ATM in Queens, New York City.
Investigators found a rental car he was driving parked at John F. Kennedy Airport.
While there have been numerous sightings of Ruffo over the years, none have been confirmed and none have been more promising than the Dodgers’ lead.
The last confirmed sighting of the fugitive was the day he was due to report to prison when he was caught on surveillance footage withdrawing money from an ATM in Queens, New York City (above)
Ruffo on the surveillance footage. Investigators found he was driving a car that he parked at John F. Kennedy Airport
The US Marshals believe that Ruffo is using a new identity and has previously used numerous aliases known to the US Marshals, including Joseph Ruffo, John Russo, Jack Nitz, Bruce Gregory, John Peters and Charles Sanders.
He is five feet and six inches and weighed about 170 pounds in 1998.
He is described by researchers as a ‘master manipulator’ and a storyteller who ‘liked to spread the truth’, with a ‘desire to impress others’.
Researchers added that he is lactose intolerant, computer literate and enjoys fine wines, gambling and nice hotels.
It is likely that Ruffo lives abroad as he has strong international business connections, had traveled to Aruba in the past and had a fondness for Italy.
US authorities are offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to his arrest.
Ruffo’s case is the subject of an ABC News podcast series Have You Seen This Man.
The US Marshals Most Wanted poster for Joh Ruffo. While there have been numerous sightings of Ruffo over the years, none have been confirmed