November 14, 2021
One of America’s Most Wanted fugitives credited with pulling off one of the largest bank robberies in the history of Cleveland, Ohio, had spent five decades living a quiet life in a Boston suburb, not far from where the movie investigators say inspired his notorious real-life heist was filmed.
An ordinary 20-year-old bank teller at the time, Theodore John “Ted” Conrad walked out of his job at Society National Bank in Cleveland on Friday, July 11, 1969, with $215,000 in a paper bag and vanished, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. That amount is equivalent to over $1.7 million in 2021. The bank didn’t check their vault until the following Monday when Conrad failed to report for work.
Fifty-two years would pass before U.S. Marshals, who traveled from Cleveland to Boston, positively determined that Conrad had been living an “unassuming” life under the alias Thomas Randele in Lynnfield, Massachusetts since 1970. He died there of lung cancer in May of 2021 at the age of 71.
A year before the Cleveland bank robbery, Conrad became obsessed with the 1968 Steve McQueen film “The Thomas Crown Affair,” which featured a fictional millionaire businessman who decided to rob a bank for sport. Investigators say Conrad saw the movie more than a half dozen times and bragged to his friends about how easy it would be to take money from the bank and told them he planned to do so.
Ironically, he moved to the Boston suburb near the location where the original Thomas Crown Affair movie was filmed, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. Conrad has been featured on America’s Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries. Investigators “perplexed” by the case over the past 50 years have chased leads across the country, including to Washington D.C., Inglewood, California, western Texas, Oregon, and Honolulu, Hawaii.
The cold case was cracked in part of a collaborative effort between a U.S. Marshal and his son, who grew up and joined the same federal agency decades later in northern Ohio.
“This is a case I know all too well,” Peter J. Elliott, U.S. Marshal for Northern Ohio, said in a statement. “My father, John K. Elliott, was a dedicated career Deputy United States Marshal in Cleveland from 1969 until his retirement in 1990. My father took an interest in this case early because Conrad lived and worked near us in the late 1960s. My father never stopped searching for Conrad and always wanted closure up until his death in 2020.
His statement continued, “We were able to match some of the documents that my father uncovered from Conrad’s college days in the 1960s with documents from Randele that led to his identification. I hope my father is resting a little easier today knowing his investigation and his United States Marshals Service brought closure to this decades-long mystery. Everything in real life doesn’t always end like in the movies.”
U.S. Marshals investigators from Cleveland were able to match documents that Conrad completed in the 1960s with documents Randele completed, including documents from when Randele filed for Bankruptcy in Boston Federal Court in 2014, according to the agency’s statement. Additional investigative information led Marshals to positively identify Thomas Randele as Theodore J. Conrad.