A career fraudster who escaped from a federal prison in Colorado nearly five years ago was captured this week while moving into a $1.5 million house near the ocean on Florida’s Gold Coast, federal officials said Friday.
Federal marshals arrested Alan Todd May, 58, at the house in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday while movers unloaded a U-Haul truck. He was wearing a Rolex watch at the time of the arrest, and drove a high-end Mercedes, according to investigators who had been surveilling him.
It was an anonymous tipster who led authorities to May — who was living under the name “Jacob Turner” — after spotting a published photo of him at a posh fundraiser. The photo, which showed him wearing a pink shirt, pink blazer and pink-tinted glasses, was published on the website of the Palm Beach Daily News.
This fugitive wasn’t exactly keeping a low profile.
May “was living a lavish lifestyle where he was flaunting his wealth in high society down in south Florida,” Katrina Crouse, chief deputy U.S. marshal for Colorado, said in a phone interview Friday.
May — who has a string of convictions going back to 1983 for bad checks, credit card abuse, theft and fraud — was in custody in Florida awaiting extradition to Colorado. An email was sent to his federal public defender seeking comment.
The U.S. Marshals Service had been looking for May since December 2018, when he allegedly stole a U.S. Bureau of Prisons truck and escaped from a federal lockup in Englewood, Colorado. At the time, he was serving a 20-year prison sentence for mail fraud over a $7 million Ponzi scheme in which prosecutors said he used the proceeds for “extravagant personal expenses,” including houses, cars and plane tickets.
While in federal custody, May managed to steal another $700,000 by filing fraudulent documents and pilfering unclaimed oil and gas royalties that were owed to several companies, according to a June 2022 indictment charging him with mail and wire fraud.
By then, May had already been on the loose for 3 1/2 years, and the trail to catch him had long since gone cold.
He is one of dozens of people who’ve escaped from federal prisons in the U.S. over the last few years. The federal Bureau of Prisons has struggled with security at federal prisons across the country, with some prisons having such lax security that doors are left unlocked, security cameras are broken and officials sometimes don’t notice an inmate is missing for hours.
May himself had a head start of 24 to 48 hours before the U.S. Marshals Service was put on the case, giving him a clear advantage, Crouse said.
After May was indicted in the oil-and-gas scheme last year, the marshals service renewed its push to find him, asking for the public’s help and posting a $5,000 reward. Tips then came in from California, Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas and Florida.
Investigators’ big break came on July 25, when the tipster recognized May in the newspaper photo and alerted the marshals. May had attended a fundraiser for a Palm Beach area suicide hotline group, posing for one of hundreds of photos taken at the event.
Investigators tracked May to a penthouse apartment in Palm Beach. On Tuesday, they followed May’s partner in a U-Haul moving truck from Palm Beach almost 50 miles (80 kilometers) to the couple’s new address in Fort Lauderdale, where May was arrested without incident.
“I’d like to recognize and thank the anonymous tipster for the information they provided that directly led to the arrest of this unorthodox fugitive,” District of Colorado U.S. Marshal Kirk Taylor said in a written statement.
With May finally back in custody, investigators have turned their attention to whether he had help. They are looking into the source of his apparent riches, and whether he victimized anyone else while on the run.
“This guy is very, very good at fooling people,” Crouse said. “So how he was living high on the hog, we’re not 100% sure yet.”
A message was left for the suicide hotline group seeking information about May’s attendance at the fundraiser. The man who was pictured with May in the photo declined comment Friday when reached by The Associated Press.
A LinkedIn page associated with May said that “Jacob Turner” — his alias — was a “certified mediator” in Palm Beach. May, it turned out, had completed a class on mediation while in prison.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” Crouse said.
Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this story.