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After a 52-year chase, authorities ID the man behind an infamous Ohio bank heist

Theodore John Conrad was only 20 years old when he robbed the Society National Bank in Cleveland on July 11, 1969, according to the U.S. Marshals Service
Fairfax Media via Getty Images
Theodore John Conrad was only 20 years old when he robbed the Society National Bank in Cleveland on July 11, 1969, according to the U.S. Marshals Service

After more than 50 years, the man responsible for one of the most notorious bank robberies in Ohio history has been identified.

Theodore John Conrad was only 20 years old when he robbed the Society National Bank in Cleveland on July 11, 1969, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. Conrad worked as a teller at the bank, and on the day of the robbery he stashed $215,000 — or around $1.7 million in 2021 dollars — in a paper bag and simply walked out the door. Because the robbery happened on a Friday, the bank was not aware of anything amiss until the following Monday morning, when they checked the vault and found the money gone, the Marshals said.

Conrad, unsurprisingly, did not show up for work that Monday. He had a two-day head-start on law enforcement, and managed to avoid capture for 52 years.

It wasn't until earlier this month that U.S. Marshals based in Cleveland discovered that a man named Thomas Randele was, in fact, Conrad. Randele lived in Lynnfield, Mass., and had been living in a suburban neighborhood since the 1970s until he died of lung cancer in May at the age of 71.

The Marshals said they made the discovery after matching paperwork that Conrad had filled out in the 1960s with documents that Randele had filled out later in life — including a 2014 filing for bankruptcy.

The heist was inspired by The Thomas Crown Affair

According to the Marshals, Conrad's heist was inspired in part by the 1968 Steve McQueen film The Thomas Crown Affair. The movie follows a high-powered businessman who pulls off a bank heist for the fun of it. Conrad watched the movie a half dozen times the year before the robbery, according to authorities. After watching the movie, he told friends that he believed it would be easy to rob a bank and that he planned to do so.

His friends never believed him at the time, according to Cleveland.com. One friend, Russell Metcalf, had even had lunch with Conrad on the day of the robbery.

"I had no idea," Metcalf told the outlet. "He always said the security was lax. He said it wouldn't be hard."

In Massachusetts, Conrad began a new life as a car salesman and taught golf lessons, according to the Cleveland.com report. He also got married and had a child.

The end of the case brought closure to one family with two generations of Marshals

Solving the case provided closure to Peter J. Elliott, a U.S. Marshal whose father, John K. Elliott, also worked on the investigation, according to a statement from the Marshal's service.

"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," Elliott said. "Everything in real life doesn't always end like in the movies."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sharon Pruitt-Young

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