The 50-year-old secret of a kind father: he was also a fugitive
Just before Thomas Randele passed away, his wife of nearly 40 years asked his golfing friends and colleagues from dealerships where he sold cars to come to their house.
They came together to say goodbye to a guy they called one of the nicest people they’ve ever known – a dedicated family man who sprung from his daughter, a golfer who never broke the rules, a friend to so many that a line stretched outside the funeral home a week later.
By the time of their last visit last May at Randele’s home in suburban Boston, cancer in her lungs had taken her voice out. So they all left without knowing that their friend with whom they had spent countless hours exchanging stories had never told them his biggest secret.
For the past 50 years, he was a wanted fugitive in one of the biggest bank heists in Cleveland history, living in Boston under a new name he created six months after the heist of the summer 1969. Even his wife or daughter did not know it before he told them in what authorities described as a deathbed confession.
How he was able to leave a family behind and create a new life – while avoiding a father and son from the US Marshals Service who never gave up their hunt – has only just been reunited.
Ted Conrad quickly realized that security was pretty loose at the Society National Bank in Cleveland after he started as a cashier in January 1969.
He told his friends, “It would be so easy for me to go out with all kinds of money,” Russell Metcalf, his best friend from high school, said in an interview with The Associated Press. They thought he was blowing smoke when he called him back several times.
Then just a day after his 20th birthday in July, Conrad walked out at closing time on a Friday with a paper bag full of $ 215,000 from the safe, loot worth $ 1.6 million. dollars today.
By the time the missing money was noticed the following Monday, Conrad was flying across the country. Letters to his girlfriend showed he had stopped in Washington, DC and Los Angeles within the first week.
In a letter, he mistakenly thought he could come back in seven years when the statute of limitations expired. But once charged, that was no longer true.
Conrad apparently cut off contact with his entire family, including his three siblings and parents, who were divorced. Some of the family eventually assumed he was dead because so many years had passed, said Matt Boettger, whose mother was Conrad’s older sister.
His mother, he said, was more than relieved to learn that his brother had lived a happy life. “She thought she would go to his grave and never know it,” he said.
The bank robbery in 1969 did not gain the attention of the nation, or even the city of Cleveland. Everyone was focused on Apollo 11’s historic flight to the moon that week.
But for John Elliott, an American Deputy Marshal, it was personal. He and Conrad came from the same side of town. Elliott took his family to the ice cream shop where Conrad worked. They shared a doctor.
The problem was, Conrad’s lead allowed him to vanish, and he was disciplined enough not to slip up. The last credible sighting was in October 1969, when a couple from Cleveland visiting Hawaii met a man who they later realized looked a lot like Conrad.
Elliott traveled across the United States in search of Conrad and even after his retirement in 1990 he came to the office pretty much every week and bent over files, said his son, Pete Elliott, now the tallest. United States Marshal in Cleveland, who inherited the Conrad hunt nearly 20 years ago.
Her father died in March 2020 before investigators gathered details of Randele’s obituary and signatures from her past. Then, in November, Randele’s family confirmed that just before his death, he told them his true identity and what he had done, Elliott said.
âIt always stuck in my father’s mind,â he said. “We kept this case going because it was important to my father.”
Why Conrad stole has been analyzed endlessly.
âIt wasn’t about the money. He always wanted to impress people, âsaid Metcalf, his high school pal, who remembered how Conrad stole a deck of cards just to prove he could. “He was not afraid.”
Investigators believe it was inspired by the 1968 film “The Thomas Crown Affair,” about a bank executive who ran away with $ 2.6 million and turned the heist into a game.
Conrad saw the movie at least six times and copied Steve McQueen’s character, driving sports cars and drinking premium alcohol, according to friends.
After the real-life flight to Cleveland, Conrad ended up in the Boston area, where much of the movie was shot. It’s a good possibility that he chose his new first name “Thomas” based on the film, Elliott said.
“He modeled his whole life after the film,” he said.
The man known as Thomas Randele was born in the first week of January 1970, investigators have found in recent weeks. That’s when Conrad walked into a Social Security Administration office in Boston, applied for an ID number under his new name, and made himself two more years, Elliott said.
At that time, it was not uncommon to wait until adulthood, so his candidacy raised no alarm bells. With a new ID card, he was able to open a bank account, create credit and create his new life, Elliott said.
During the 1970s, Randele worked as a pro golf assistant, teaching at a country club outside of Boston and later becoming his manager. He spent a few winters golfing in Florida, according to his obituary.
He also met his future wife soon after arriving in Boston. They married in 1982.
Around this time, he started working in the automotive industry, selling Land Rovers and Volvos in a handful of dealerships until his retirement after almost 40 years.
It was a job that put him in front of dozens of strangers every day.
What is not yet clear is what happened to the money. The Marshals Service is investigating whether it lost it early on due to bad investments.
While Randele and his wife, Kathy, lived most of their years in a pleasant suburb of Boston, they filed for bankruptcy in 2014. Court records showed they were then owed $ 160,000 in debt. credit card and had few assets.
His wife told Cleveland.com in November that her husband is a great man and that she is still in mourning. She declined interview requests.
No one would have guessed that Randele, who was 71 when he died, was someone who was trying to hide from the authorities.
Among the many people he became friends with over the years was an FBI agent in Boston, Elliott said.
He never backed down from anyone on the golf course or in auto showrooms where he kept a set of clubs and swung his 7 iron when sales were slow.
“He was just a gentle soul, you know, very polite, very well spoken,” said Jerry Healy, who first met Randele at a dealership in Woburn, Massachusetts, where they have spoken daily for years.
The two were part of a group of five or six car salesmen who have remained together for much of their careers. None of them, Healy said, have ever suspected anything like this in Randele’s past.
âIt never occurred to us, and it’s a half-dozen guys who are not easy to cheat,â he said.
His former colleagues said they had never heard Randele say bad things about anyone or raise his voice. They all said he was the best golfer they have ever known. Everyone wanted him by their side when there was a tournament.
He was not a heavy drinker and never made side bets while playing, said Bob Van Wert, who first met Randele while playing golf and then worked with him later.
They remembered that he could always control his emotions and rarely got angry, even on the course, where he had such a nice swing that he once beat Hall of Fame golfer Johnny Miller at an event. charity, recalls his former boss.
Matt Kaplan, who ran two dealerships where Randele worked and golfed with him every Sunday morning for many years, called him the definition of a gentleman.
âThe only way it makes sense is that at that age he was just a kid, and that was kind of a challenge,â Kaplan said. “It’s not like he’s become a professional bank robber.”
âIf he’d told us when, I don’t think we would have believed him because he wasn’t that kind of guy,â he said. “The man was different from the child.”
In the first few days after Randele’s identity was revealed, his friends couldn’t believe it. But now in hindsight, there are a few things that make sense.
How he still had a beard. Photos of him wearing black sunglasses on the golf course. His reluctance to talk about where he grew up or his extended family.
âYou know, all the years that I’ve known Tommy, I’ve never heard him mention a sister, mother, brother or father. It was sort of generalized, âHealy said.
“You could never take anything away from him,” said Brad Anthony, another close friend. “I thought to myself maybe he had a bad childhood and didn’t want to talk about it.”
Still, he said it was almost impossible to believe. âIt seems so out of character for the Tom I knew,â he said.
All of his friends have agreed that what happened a long time ago has not changed how they feel about him.
âThe man I knew didn’t suddenly change because of something he did a lifetime ago,â Healy said. “He was a good man, he was my friend and I think of him no less today than before all of this came out. And I would love to go play golf with him.