Embezzling Suspect Hid for Years on Appalachian Trail

He was on the lam for 6 years after $8.7M vanished
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 21, 2015 3:11 AM CDT

(Newser) – He was known as "Bismarck," a genial, thick-bearded hiker who had become a familiar character along the Appalachian Trail over the past six years and a regular at Susie Montgomery's bed-and-breakfast in a small Virginia town—until the day the FBI showed up. He was in his room, Montgomery recalls, on May 16 during the annual Trail Days festival that brings thousands of people into tiny Damascus, Va., when she responded to a knock on the door. She recounts finding three agents, one holding up a picture of Bismarck. Soon he was being led away in handcuffs, and the FBI was announcing the arrest of James T. Hammes, a white-collar crime suspect missing since 2009.

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The 53-year-old accountant now sits in a southwest Ohio county jail. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial next month on charges that he embezzled nearly $9 million from his Ohio-based employer, an indictment handed up after he had already disappeared, apparently into the 2,200-mile trail stretching from Georgia to Maine. Authorities aren't saying much about what they believe happened to the money or Hammes' whereabouts the past six years. "It's still an ongoing investigation," an FBI spokesman says, but Hammes, who showed up in photos in hikers' journals, seems to have been hiding in plain sight much of the time since he bolted soon after being questioned about the missing millions. (This man was a fugitive for 56 years.)

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