'This Guy Is Very, Very Good at Fooling People'

Allen Todd May, 58, who escaped from Colorado prison in late 2018, is captured in Fort Lauderdale
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 5, 2023 6:00 AM CDT
Fugitive Busted Moving Into $1.5M Home—2K Miles Away
Allen Todd May.   (US Marshals Service via Fox News)

A career fraudster who escaped from a federal prison in Colorado nearly five years ago was captured this week while moving into a $1.5 million house near the ocean on Florida's Gold Coast, federal officials said Friday. Federal marshals arrested Allen Todd May, 58, at the house in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday while movers unloaded a U-Haul truck. He was wearing a Rolex watch at the time of the arrest and drove a high-end Mercedes, according to investigators who'd been surveilling him. It was an anonymous tipster who led authorities to May—who was living under the name "Jacob Turner"—after spotting a published photo of him at a posh fundraiser, per the AP. The photo, which showed him wearing a pink shirt, pink blazer, and pink-tinted glasses, was published on the website of the Palm Beach Daily News.

This fugitive wasn't exactly keeping a low profile. May "was living a lavish lifestyle where he was flaunting his wealth in high society down in South Florida," said Katrina Crouse, chief deputy US marshal for Colorado. May—who has a string of convictions going back to 1983 for bad checks, credit card abuse, theft, and fraud—was in custody in Florida awaiting extradition to Colorado. The US Marshals Service had been looking for May since December 2018, when he allegedly stole a US Bureau of Prisons truck and escaped from a federal lockup in Englewood, Colorado. At the time, he was serving a 20-year prison sentence for mail fraud over a $7 million Ponzi scheme in which prosecutors said he used the proceeds for "extravagant personal expenses," including houses, cars, and plane tickets.

While in federal custody, May managed to steal another $700,000 by filing fraudulent documents and pilfering unclaimed oil and gas royalties that were owed to several companies, according to a June 2022 indictment charging him with mail and wire fraud. By the time of the indictment, May had already been on the loose for 3 1/2 years, and the trail to catch him had long since gone cold. He's one of dozens of people who've escaped from federal prisons in the US over the last few years. The federal BOP has struggled with security at federal prisons across the country, with some prisons having such lax security that doors are left unlocked, security cameras are broken, and officials sometimes don't notice an inmate is missing for hours. May himself had a head start of 24 to 48 hours before the US Marshals Service was put on the case, giving him a clear advantage, Crouse said.

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After May was indicted in the oil-and-gas scheme last year, the Marshals Service renewed its push to find him, asking for the public's help and posting a $5,000 reward. Tips then came in from California, Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas, and Florida. Investigators' big break came on July 25, when the tipster recognized May in the newspaper photo and alerted the marshals. May had attended a fundraiser for a Palm Beach area suicide hotline group, posing for one of hundreds of photos taken. "This guy is very, very good at fooling people," Crouse said. "So how he was living high on the hog? We're not 100% sure yet." A message was left for the suicide hotline group seeking information about May's attendance at the fundraiser. The man who was pictured with May in the photo declined comment Friday. "You can't make this stuff up," Crouse said.

(Read more fugitive stories.)

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