After 52 years of searching, the Feds catch bank robber

Theodore John Conrad, A.K.A. Thomas Randele

Today I’m finishing the week on a lighter note. This is not a story with some deep insight, nor is it a rant about some nutter. Instead it is a tale that amused me and so I wanted to share it with you all because I thought it just might tickle you as well.

It concerns a guy who stole a lot of money from a bank by simply picking it up and then walking away with it all in 1969. They finally managed to find him last May.

Here is what happened.

The Robbery

Back in 1969, a young kid, age 20, named Theodore John Conrad, worked at Society National Bank in Cleveland, Ohio. His job was to go into the vault, and package up cash for delivery to branches around town. He noticed that their security was rather lax. Nobody was paying too much attention to what he was doing during the day, they just trusted him to get the job done and assumed that if anything went missing then an audit would soon reveal that.

He even explained it all to his friend Russell Metcalf when having lunch with him on the day of the theft. He pointed out that security was very lax, and that stealing the cash would be very easy. I guess Russell did not think he would actually do it. However, inspired by the 1968 Steve McQueen film The Thomas Crown Affair, this was exactly what he was planning.

He really loved that Movie. A US Marshals statement explains …

A year before the Cleveland bank robbery, Conrad became obsessed with the 1968 Steve McQueen film “The Thomas Crown Affair.” The movie was based on the bank robbery for sport by a millionaire businessman, and Conrad saw it more than a half dozen times. From there he bragged to his friends about how easy it would be to take money from the bank and even told them he planned to do so.

On Friday July 11, 1969, as he went to the vault as usual to bag up the money for delivery to branches, he also created one extra bundle of cash, then put that into a separate paper bag and simply left in on his desk. When his shift was over and it was time to go home, he picked up the bag and left for the day.

It was Friday. There would be no vault checks until the following Monday, so nobody would be aware that anything was amiss until then.

How much did he get?

It was $215,000.

That might not sound like much, but you need to remember that this was 1969. That amount gave you a great deal more bang for your buck in those days.

If you go to this link, a reference website maintained by the Official Data Foundation, then you will find an online calculator that works out how much that is worth today. It simply applies the rate of inflation. (The average rate of inflation between 1969 and now is 3.96% per year).

He stole an amount that is now equivalent to $1,620,344.28

It was, and perhaps still is when you consider the value today, one of the biggest bank robberies ever carried out in Cleveland. It earned him a place within “America’s Most Wanted” list.

What did he do when his shift was over?

He went home, packed his bags, then headed directly to the airport at 8:30pm, and was never heard from again.

What he had actually done was to just jump on a flight a couple of states over, then settled down into a new life in Lynnfield, Massachusetts. He changed his name to Thomas Randele and also bumped his age a couple of years from under to over 21. Here is his new identity, via a driving license …

Image via U.S. Marshals Service

Over the years U.S. Marshal John Elliott tried and failed to track him down. Many tips simply led to dead ends. Decades later, his son, U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott, then picked the case up and carried on.

“This was the No. 1 case in [my father’s] life,” said Elliott. “We talked about it at the dinner table all the time when I was a kid. He always said he was going to find [Conrad].”

What happened to him in his new life?

In 1982 he married a girl named Kathy then settled into domestic bliss. They had one daughter.

To make money he sold cars, and also taught golf.

Over the years he said nothing, not one word to anybody about his past.

Well, almost nothing.

He passed away in May 2021 of lung cancer. As he was dying, he finally confessed his past to his family.

I picture in my mind all of them gathered around his bed as he explains … “Hey guys, one thing I never told you is that I’m on Americas Most Wanted list for robbing a bank” … then Beeeeeeeep, as his monitor flatlines.

Stunned family members look at each other as they think, “oh shit”.

They said nothing.

It was last month, Nov 2021, that the authorities finally caught him. Well yes, “caught” is an unusual turn of phrase.

What they had done was to match the details of his Obituary to the guy they had been looking for. To be precise – This one.

It listed his birth date as July 10, 1947 when his real birth date was July 10, 1949. His parents’ first names in the obituary, Edward and Ruthabeth, and college, New England College, were the same as Conrad’s, and his mother’s maiden name of Krueger was the same as well. This looked like a hit, so they got a sample of his signature and bingo – it matched.

They turned up to interview his family, explaining, “We think your father is a guy who robbed a bank back in 1969“. They confirmed, “Oh yes, he totally did it, it was him, he told us on his deathbed“.

What happens now?

The US Marshals have stated that the family will not face charges for failing to tell authorities about the deathbed confession.

The money itself is long gone and so there is nothing to recover.

Rather obviously they can’t arrest a dead guy, but what they can now do is mark the case as resolved and closed.

Quotes

The US Marshals statement includes this quote from Marshal Peter Elliott…

“This is a case I know all too well. My father, John K. Elliott, was a dedicated career Deputy United States Marshal in Cleveland from 1969 until his retirement in 1990. My father took an interest in this case early because Conrad lived and worked near us in the late 1960s. My father never stopped searching for Conrad and always wanted closure up until his death in 2020. We were able to match some of the documents that my father uncovered from Conrad’s college days in the 1960s with documents from Randele that led to his identification. I hope my father is resting a little easier today knowing his investigation and his United States Marshals Service brought closure to this decades-long mystery. Everything in real life doesn’t always end like in the movies.

Peter J. Elliott, United States Marshal for Northern Ohio

Perhaps the best last word belongs to somebody who did not know him. A complete stranger, who read his story, found his Obituary as I did, and signed the guestbook a few weeks ago …

Further Reading

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