July 26, 2001 -- San Antonio jail officials knew Carton Rich's reputation as a con man, but they admit he still managed to fool them.
Rich, who was being held in Bexar County Jail in connection with forgery charges arising from an incident in New Mexico, allegedly conned his way out by impersonating a police official over the telephone and getting his girlfriend to fax forged letters — ostensibly from authorities in New Mexico — authorizing his release.
"Mr. Rich is a con man from way back," Bexar County Sheriff's Office Deputy Chief Amadeo Ortiz said.
He was arrested last week in San Antonio on charges of credit card abuse and was about to be released on bail when authorities learned that he was also wanted on forgery charges in Deming, N.M.
With a pay phone in his cell block, though, Rich got busy, police said.
Over the next two days, investigators said, he found out who in New Mexico had the authority to get him released, then managed to make phone calls from the cell block through his girlfriend's apartment to jail officials.
He claimed to be calling from New Mexico and told the Texas jail officials that he should be released.
If those officials had any doubts, they apparently were resolved when a fax showed up, purportedly from New Mexico, saying charges against Rich had been dropped and that he should be released.
What they didn't realize and didn't notice was that the fax came from a copy store in San Antonio.
"Our personnel should have caught that," Ortiz said. "They didn't. That was one of the errors we made. I'll be the first to admit that we made an error in accepting a fax from a local copying company."
A Brand New Scheme
Perhaps the fact that the letter was on plain paper should have tipped them off, too.
"The man is very, very slick," Ortiz said. "He knew exactly what to put into the fax, but put it in without a letterhead, without any authorization."
Nevertheless, the 400-pound Rich, who also escaped from a jail in Dona Ana County, N.M., using a similar tactic a year ago, was allowed to walk out of jail on Saturday morning. With the New Mexico charge apparently dropped, the Bexar County authorities allowed him to post bail on the credit card charge.
"He really had a scheme we had never run into before," the deputy chief said.
But maybe with all his ingenuity getting out of jail, though, Rich developed a bit of hubris. When jail officials realized their mistake and went after him, they found him Tuesday afternoon at his girlfriend's apartment.
"He's very confident in what he does," said Capt. Dan Gabehart of the Bexar County Sherif's Office. "I guess by the fact that the Dona Ana people let him go for more than a year without even issuing a warrant for his arrest, he probably thought he'd found the magic key to every jail."
If at First You Don't Succeed …
Having pulled off the trick once, Rich tried again, Gabehart said. He once again got his girlfriend to patch a phone call through to Luna County authorities and convinced a dispatcher there to send a teletype to the Bexar jail asserting that he should be released.
"When the teletype came in, all types of red flags went up," Gabehart said. "I said, 'He's not going anywhere.'"
The dispatcher in New Mexico also got suspicious, and when he investigated found that he had been tricked and quickly sent a second teletype to Texas, advising them of the error, the captain said.
Rich is still in custody and now faces felony charges in connection with the escape. His girlfriend, whose name is not being released, could also be charged, officials said.
"She really helped in his escape," Ortiz. "Without her assistance, he never would have been able to accomplish what he did."
ABCNEWS affiliate KSAT and Dean Schabner contributed to this report.