As someone who has not only been convicted as a white-collar criminal but is also considered a master manipulator, John Ruffo is one of the most dangerous con men there has ever been. After all, as explored on ‘Have You Seen This Man?,’ he engineered one of the most significant bank frauds in US history before simply vanishing without a trace left behind, leading to an incredibly intense manhunt. So now, if you wish to learn more about his peculiar past, skillful deceptions, bewildering offenses, sudden flight, and possible current whereabouts, here’s all that we know.
Who is John Ruffo?
Born to a working-class family in Brooklyn, New York, in November 1954, John Ruffo always had the potential to do wonders, as evidenced by his attending New York University on a scholarship. That’s why it came as no surprise when the graduate chose to branch out from United Computer Systems LLC to establish his own firm, Consolidated Computer Services (CCS). However, things started to turn around in 1993, after John was approached by Edward Reiners — an entrepreneur and a former executive at Philip Morris tobacco company — with a scheme unlike any other.
The scheme in question involved soliciting various banks in an attempt to secure millions in the name of capital for “Project Star,” a fictitious top-secret research effort to develop smoke-free cigarettes. Not only did the duo rely upon Edward’s prior connection with Philip Morris to make their claims believable, but they also alleged that John’s computer company would be providing hardware for the same. Therefore, in less than three years, they managed to swindle over $350 million (equivalent to around $633 million in 2022) from various banks all across the world.
As per reports, John always made timely interest payments on the loans to avoid any suspicion, but their ruse still fell apart in early 1996 owing to an inconsistency on the forged documents they used. They were arrested following a sting operation by the FBI, and that’s when it came to light that apart from investing on Wall Street to become a high-roller, John also spent the money on fine wines, gambling, and extravagant hotels. He enjoyed traveling and was computer savvy; John was also a “storyteller, someone who liked to stretch the truth, and had a desire to impress others.”
John faced a 150-count indictment for bank fraud, money laundering, wire fraud, and conspiracy, leading his bail — set at $10 million — to match the seriousness of his crime. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to 17½ years in federal prison but was allowed to remain free on bail until the start of his scheduled stint behind bars — from November 9, 1998, onwards.
However, instead of reporting to the New Jersey facility that day, John rented a car, drove to Queens to turn in his ankle monitor (as expected), went to a nearby ATM to take out around $600 in cash, and then headed to JFK. Despite being deemed a flight risk, he had no escort, which practically allowed him to leave the vehicle in a long-term parking lot and simply disappear.
Where is John Ruffo Now? Has He Been Found?
It’s been over 23 years, and there have been no confirmed sightings of John Ruffo since the day CCTV footage caught him withdrawing money at a Queens ATM in November 1998. Back in 2016, the US Marshals did get a tip suggesting he was in Los Angeles through an early August Dodgers game, yet it was clarified in 2021 that the man enjoying baseball from about four rows behind the home plate was not John, just someone who looked strikingly similar.
John now sits on the US Marshals 15 Most Wanted Fugitives list, with the officials claiming he could even be living overseas, especially considering his known ties in the Caribbean, South America, and Europe. There have been connections between the “master manipulator” and Italy, Greece, as well as Switzerland before, but he has never actually been located. John, who is 67 as of writing, is classified as “armed & dangerous” by the service and has previously used aliases like Jack Nitz, Bruce Gregory, John Peters, and Charles Sanders.
A reward of up to $25,000 is being offered for any information leading to the convicted hustler’s arrest. If you know anything concerning his case or whereabouts, please do not hesitate to contact the authorities. You can call the US Marshals Service Communication Center at 1-800-336-0102, tip at 1-877-WANTED2 (926-8332), submit the details through the agency’s website, or directly reach out to the nearest district office or US Embassy/Consulate.
It is believed that John Ruffo’s disappearance was considerably aided by the $13+ million that has never been recovered, even though the FBI froze every single one of his known assets/bank accounts following his arrest.
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