CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Before Thomas Randele sold luxury cars and taught golf in suburban Boston, before he got married and had a family, federal marshals say he was Theodore John Conrad, who pulled off one of the biggest bank robberies in Cleveland’s history. The suspect’s disappearance was a mystery that lasted 52 years – a few months longer than he did.
Conrad was a 20-year-old bank teller at the Society National Bank in Cleveland when he walked out at the end of his workday on a Friday in 1969 with a paper bag containing $215,000, authorities said. That’s the equivalent of more than $1.7 million in 2021 dollars. The theft wasn’t discovered until a few days later, and Conrad was never seen again.
Authorities said Conrad had become obsessed a year earlier with the 1968 film “The Thomas Crown Affair" starring Steve McQueen about a bank robbery for sport by a millionaire businessman. Conrad told friends that taking money from the bank would be easy, even indicating plans to do so.
In the years since, the case was featured on shows like “America’s Most Wanted” and “Unsolved Mysteries” and investigators chased leads all over the country.
Federal marshals said Friday that marshals from Cleveland went to Boston last week and confirmed that Conrad had been living “an unassuming life" since 1970. He had been living under the name Thomas Randele in a Boston suburb close to where the original Thomas Crown Affair movie was filmed.
The U.S. marshals service of the northern district of Ohio said investigators matched documents Conrad completed in the 1960s with documents Randele completed, including a 2014 bankruptcy filing in Boston, and “additional investigative information led marshals to positively identifying Thomas Randele as Theodore J. Conrad."
Thomas Randele died of lung cancer in May in Lynnfield, Massachusetts, using a date of birth as July 10, 1947. His real date of birth was July 10, 1949, and Conrad would have been 71 at the time of his death, prosecutors said.
U.S. Attorney Peter Elliott said his father, a career deputy U.S. marshal in Cleveland from 1969 until his retirement in 1990, “never stopped searching for Conrad and always wanted closure up until his death in 2020." Elliott said documents his father unearthed from Conrad’s college days helped with the identification, but he would not say exactly how he found out about Randele.
“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," he said in a statement. “Everything in real life doesn’t always end like in the movies."
Cleveland.com reported that Randele had a family, became a local golf pro and sold luxury cars and “was a fixture in a small town." An obituary said he got married in 1982 and they had one child together.
Charges of embezzlement and falsifying bank records remain against Conrad in U.S. District Court in Cleveland but will soon be dropped, Elliott said.
“Conrad was quiet,” he told Cleveland.com. “He was friendly, and he was well-known in the community. He just wasn’t who he said he was.”