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The family-friendly man’s 50-year secret: He’s also a fugitive

(Dan Tri) – Just before Thomas Randele died, his wife of nearly 40 years asked his golf friends and co-workers from the dealerships where he sold cars to come to their home.

They gather to say goodbye to a guy they call one of the best they’ve ever known – a devoted family man who talks about his daughter all the time, an athlete who plays. Golf never broke the rules, a friend of so many people that a straight 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, lung cancer had robbed him of his voice. So they all left without knowing that their friend had spent countless hours exchanging stories without ever telling them his biggest secret.

For the past 50 years, he’s been a fugitive in one of the biggest bank robberies in Cleveland’s history, living in Boston under a new name he created six months after the theft in the summer of 1969. Not even his wife or daughter knew until he told them in what authorities described as a hospital bed confession.

How he was able to leave behind a family and create a new life – while hiding from a father and son from the US Police Agency who never gave up the hunt theirs – are now being pieced together.

Ted Conrad quickly realized that security was rather lax at National Social Bank in Cleveland after he started working as a teller in January 1969.

His high school best friend Russell Metcalf tells his friends that it will be easy to rob this place.

The day after his 20th birthday in July of that year, Conrad walked out with $215,000 from the vault, an amount worth $1.6 million today. By the time the lost money was discovered, Conrad was flying around the country.

In a letter to his girlfriend, he mistakenly thought he could return when the statute of limitations expired. But once he was prosecuted, that was no longer true.

Conrad seems to have cut off contact with his family. Matt Boettger, whose mother is Conrad’s older sister, said some eventually assumed he was dead.

His mother, he said, was relieved to learn her brother had lived a happy life. “She thought she was going to go to her grave and never knew,” he said.

The 1969 bank robbery didn’t get the attention of the nation, or even Cleveland. The others all focused on Apollo 11’s historic flight to the moon.

But for John Elliott, a US vice marshal, it was personal because he and Conrad were from the same side of town.

The point is that Conrad got off to a good start and was disciplined enough not to make mistakes.

Elliott has traveled across America in search of Conrad and even after his retirement will examine the case, his son, Pete Elliott, is now America’s top governor in Cleveland, heir to the nearly 20-year hunt for Conrad said last year.

His father died in March 2020 before investigators pieced together details from Randele’s obituary and signatures from his past. Then in November, Randele’s family confirmed that shortly before his death he told them what he had done, Elliott said.

Why Conrad carried out the robbery has been analyzed endlessly.

“It’s not about money. He always wanted to impress people,” said Metcalf, his high school classmate.

Investigators believe he was inspired by the 1968 film “The Thomas Crown Case,” about a bank manager who stole $2.6 million and turned the theft into a game.

After the real-life robbery in Cleveland, Conrad was injured in the Boston area, where much of the film was shot.

Thomas Randele showed up in January 1970 when Conrad applied for a Social Security number in Boston, Elliott said.

During the 1970s, Randele worked at a country club outside of Boston and became its manager. He also met his future wife not long after arriving in Boston. They were married in 1982.

Around that time, he started the car business, selling Land Rovers and Volvos until his retirement after nearly 40 years.

What’s not clear is what happened to the money. Marshals Service is looking into whether he lost early due to bad investments.

While Randele and his wife, Kathy, lived most of their years in a pleasant Boston suburb, they filed for bankruptcy protection in 2014. She told Cleveland.com in November that her husband is a wonderful man. She declined interview requests.

No one would have expected that Randele, 71 years old when he died, was a man trying to hide from the authorities.

Elliott said that among the many people he made friends over the years was an FBI agent in Boston.

“He was just a gentle soul, very polite and well-spoken,” said Jerry Healy, who first met Randele at the Woburn, Massachusetts dealership, where they spoke daily for many years.

Matt Kaplan, the two dealership manager where Randele worked and golfed with him for many years, called him a gentleman.

“The only way it makes sense is at that age he’s just a kid, and it’s kind of a challenge,” Kaplan said.

“If he’s going to tell us when to back off, I don’t think we’ll believe him because he’s not that kind of person,” he said. “The man is different from the child.”

In the early days after Randele’s identity was revealed, his friends couldn’t believe it. But looking back now, some things make sense. How he always has a beard. His reluctance to talk about where he grew up or his extended family.

“You know in all the years I’ve known Tommy, I never heard him mention his sister or mom or brother or dad,” Healy said.

Brad Anthony, another close friend, said: “You can never pry anything out of him.

Still, he said it was almost unbelievable. “It seems very unusual to the Tom I know,” he said.

https://kfor.com/news/friendly-family-mans-50-year-secret-he-was-fugitive-too/ The family-friendly man’s 50-year secret: He’s also a fugitive

JACLYN DIAZ

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