The FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list began in 1950 after a news reporter asked the bureau for the names of the “toughest guys” it wanted to capture. The resulting story generated so much publicity, J. Edgar Hoover, then director, decided to launch the most wanted program.
Since then, 501 fugitives have made the list, which requires that they committed serious or dangerous crimes and that national publicity would help apprehend them. The bureau has caught or located 471 of them — well above a 90% success rate.
The current 10 Most Wanted includes some shady characters, including a man who has graced the list for 30 years, the longest of any fugitive.
We wanted to tell their stories.
Jason Derek Brown
In November 2004, Brown, then 35, allegedly shot and killed armoured car guard Robert Keith Palomares outside a Phoenix, Ariz. movie theatre. He allegedly fled with $US56,000.
Brown didn’t start as a hardened criminal. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, he embarked on his required mission trip to France in 1988. While there, he wrote letters to his family of his desire to follow the Mormon lifestyle, Paige Williams wrote in her book about Brown, “The Ghost.”
When he returned, he moved back to his hometown, Laguna Beach, and got married. But his attitude shifted after his father, rumoured to have criminal links, disappeared in 1994. He left his wife and developed an interest in luxury cars, women, and alcohol and club drugs, according to Williams.
He was last seen in August 2008 at a stoplight in Salt Lake City by a former friend.
“With the commonness of his name and how he looks like a surfer dude in California, we’ve had more tips (about this) fugitive than any other on America’s Most Wanted,” lead agent on the case Lance Leising told the Daily Mail.
In fact, Brown, looks so much like Sean Penn, the FBI has mistakenly apprehended the actor’s body double — twice, according to The Daily Beast.
Brown’s Most Wanted poster calls him an “avid golfer.”
Actually, Leising thinks Brown’s capture could happen during a round. Family have said that “golf is the one thing that Brown will continue to do no matter how much he tries to hide,” Leising told Golf Digest.
William Bradford Bishop, Jr.
The most recent addition to the Most Wanted list, William Bradford Bishop, who would now be 77, allegedly killed his entire family in 1976 after finding out he’d been passed over for a promotion.
A former State Department official, Bishop allegedly bludgeoned his mother, wife, and three sons (age 5, 10, and 14) to death. The only one spared was the family dog.
The alleged murders occurred in Bethesda, Md., but police say Bishop transported the bodies to Columbia, N.C., where he buried them in a shallow grave and lit them on fire. He then abandoned his car in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and disappeared.
Bishop, who’s Yale-educated and speaks five languages, was spotted in Europe as recently as 1994, the Associated Press reported.
Montgomery County, Md. Sheriff Darren Popkin has spent his entire career searching for Bishop. “I remember it like it was yesterday,” he told NBC. “To know what those boys went through, it still gnaws at me.”
Numerous times before the horrific murders, Bishop reportedly wrote in his journal of wanting a “freer life,” Popkin told the New York Daily News.
William Robert Fisher
After Bishop, Fisher stands accused of one of the most gruesome crimes of all the Most Wanted criminals — killing his wife and two children.
In April 2001, neighbours heard Fisher and his wife, Mary, fighting after she discovered he’d been having a second affair, Fox News reported. Investigators speculated his wife planned to leave him, and that he’d rather kill than see his family destroyed.
Fisher’s children, Brittney, 12, and Bobby, 10, were also at home that night.
The next day, he allegedly shot his wife and chased down his children to slit their throats. Then, he allegedly lit a match in front of the open gas stove, effectively blowing up their house in Scottsdale, Ariz.
And then Fisher disappeared. Ten days later, authorities found the family vehicle in the mountains near Payson, Ariz. with the family dog and a Raiders hat inside.
Fisher made the Most Wanted list in 2002. The FBI continues to receive thousands of tips, both nationally and internationally, agent Mark Hoffman told Fox News in Phoenix. The bureau believes Fisher, now 52, has likely changed his appearance to avoid capture.
Alexis Flores allegedly kidnapped and killed 5-year-old Ariana DeJesus, a Philadelphia girl who went missing in July 2000.
Looking for work in the Philadelphia area before the girl went missing, Flores identified himself as “Carlos” and told people he was from Honduras. He found shelter in the same building where the young girl lived. Then he vanished.
A few days later, police found Ariana DeJesus’ body in that apartment building in Philadelphia.
Initially, the FBI circulated a wanted poster for “Carlo” or “Carlos,” last seen with the girl.
Seven years later, the FBI’s Philadelphia field office received word that an Arizona convict’s DNA matched the sample taken at the scene of the crime in Philadelphia. The inmate’s name was Alexis Flores, and he served time for forgery before being deported back to Honduras in 2005.
Flores, believed to be 31 now, was immediately placed on the Most Wanted list.
In March 1998, Urbina allegedly beat and sexually assaulted a Chicago woman. She escaped, and police caught Urbina, according to ABC Chicago.
After posting his $US7,000 bond, Urbina allegedly raped and killed a second woman, Gabriella Torres, 22, in October that year.
Torres had brought her car to the garage where Urbina worked, and police later found her burned body in the trunk.
Added to the Most Wanted list in 2012, Urbina was last seen two years ago. He came to the U.S. illegally from Mexico, his birthplace, and may have returned to Durango. In 2006, the Mexican Federal Magistrate signed a provisional arrest warrant for him.
“I would consider him a very vile person, a very dangerous person, and if he’s in Mexico or Texas or Arizona, he’s a threat to any individual down there,” Robert Grant, special agent-in-charge of the FBI’s Chicago office, told ABC. “The sooner we can apprehend him the better we will be.”
Glen Stewart Godwin
Godwin is on the run after escaping from prison — twice.
With no prior records, he robbed and stabbed a local drug dealer, Kim LeValley, dozens of times in California in 1987, according to Slate. He then filled the body with explosives in an attempt to blow up the evidence.
Sentenced to 26 years for that brutal killing, Godwin escaped Folsom State Prison in California shortly after he got there. He’s actually the only person to ever do so. He reportedly slipped through a manhole, climbed down several hundred feet, and then paddled a raft, left by an accomplice, to the American River.
Later that year, Mexican police arrested Godwin for drug trafficking in Puerto Vallarta. He went to prison in Guadalajara where he allegedly murdered another inmate in April 1991 and escaped five months later. He was added to the Most Wanted List in 1996.
Ravelo’s name has become almost synonymous with Barrio Azteca, a criminal enterprise in Texas with ties to Mexico.
He’s a known gang captain and has helped turn Ciudad Juarez into a hub of violence that’s one of the most dangerous cities in the world, the Los Angeles Times reported. Ravelo is allegedly a hitman for the powerful gang.
“He is at the highest rank you can get,” lead special agent on the case Samantha Mikeska told the Times.
Barrio Azteca is responsible for numerous massacres in Mexico and Texas and, more recently, assassinations at the U.S. Consulate. Some speculate Ravelo was directly involved in the latter.
Authorities think Ravelo, added to the list in 2009, has drastically altered his appearance to avoid capture. He may have shaved his head, undergone plastic surgery, and even altered his fingertips, according to CNN.
Victor Manuel Gerena
On Sept. 12, 1983, Gerena, a Wells Fargo guard, allegedly stole $US7 million from the company branch in West Hartford, Conn., The Courant reported. Having just completed a money pickup, Gerena allegedly pulled a gun, injected two of his own co-workers with a sedative, hopped into a rented Buick with the money, and disappeared.
The robbery, whose codename was agila blanca (“white eagle”), was the largest in U.S. history at the time (and still the second). But it had much larger implications, too: bringing the issue of Puerto Rican Independence to the national stage.
By the next year, the FBI suspected a group of young militants from Puerto Rico, Los Macheteros, planned the whole heist. Formed in the late 70s, the group had been agitating for political freedom for Puerto Rico ever since and likely stole the money to fund their operation.
Even the date held significance. Pedro Albizu Campos, a staunch Puerto Rican nationalist who attempted to assassinate Harry Truman, was born on Sept. 12.
The case officially closed in 2012 when the group’s leader, Norberto Gonzalez Claudio, was sentenced to prison, according to The Courant. Only Gerena and about $US80,000 are still missing.
Jose Manuel Garcia Guevara
In 2008, Guevara allegedly broke into the mobile home of Wanda Barton, 26, in Lake Charles, La. He allegedly raped her and then stabbed her to death in front of her 4-year-old stepson.
Years later, the woman’s husband opened up about the murder.
“I called my wife and she didn’t answer. I figured she was in the shower or still sleeping. So I called back a few minutes later and my son answered the phone and said that his mummy was on the floor in the kitchen and she wasn’t moving,” Barton told KPLCTV.
Guevara then bought a one-way bus ticket to Dallas, according to Slate. The bureau thinks he may be in Mexico but also speculate he could have entered the U.S. again using false documents, according to his Most Wanted poster.
Added in 2013, Guevara reportedly lived in the U.S. illegally, next to the Bartons. While his crime is a sordid one, he had no prior record and doesn’t seem to have continued his life of violence.
Between 1993 and 1998, Mogilevich allegedly participated in a $US150 million scheme to defraud thousands of investors in a Canadian company based just outside Philadelphia. The company, YBM Magnex, supposedly made and sold magnets — except it didn’t.
Indicted in 2003, Mogilevich, now in his early-to-mid-60s, fled. The FBI notes he holds a Russian passport and potentially Israeli, Ukrainian, and Greek ones, too.
In 1998, the Village Voice uncovered hundreds of previously classified FBI and Israeli intelligence documents. They place Mogilevich, also known as “Brainy Don,” as the leader of the Red Mafia, a notorious Russian mob family.
On top of his defrauding days, the FBI believes Mogilevich is involved in weapons (possibly of the nuclear scale) and drugs trafficking, contract murders, and International prostitution. The list goes on and on. He also served as the chief of Inkombank, a Russian financial institution accused of money-laundering. But the government can’t charge him with any of these crimes officially. They happened off U.S. soil.
“He’s the most powerful mobster in the world,” Monya Elison, one of Mogilevich’s partners in a prostitution ring who claims he’s her best friend, told the Voice.
Leonid Derkach, the former chief of the Ukrainian security service, even claimed Mogilevich has close ties to Putin, according to the International Business Times.
Added to the list in 2009 for fraud, RICO conspiracy, false filings with the SEC, and a slew of other white collar crimes, according to this Most Wanted poster, Mogilevich has laundered money in 27 nations across the globe.
BONUS: Juan Elias Garcia
Garcia’s life leading up to his alleged crime sounds like West Side story turned even more tragic. As a member of the MS-13 gang, he allegedly had a relationship with a 19-year-old named Vanessa Argueta who had ties to a rival gang.
After receiving threats from his enemies, Garcia, 21, and a few other MS-13-ers allegedly picked up Argueta and her 2-year-old son, drove them to a wooded area in Long Island, N.Y, and shot them both, execution-style in the back of the head.
In October 2012, the U.S. Department of the Treasury named Ms-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, a “transnational criminal organisation” — the first gang to achieve such status. The group started with Central-American-born inmates in California prisons in the 80s and spread back to El Salvador through deportations. The gang has known ties to drug, human, and arms trafficking.