By the point mourners arrived on the Lincoln Memorial Funeral House in jap Nebraska, federal brokers had been already staked out outdoors. Their goal was a person named Howard Farley Jr., a fugitive drug trafficking suspect who had been on the run for practically 25 years.
On that chilly afternoon in October 2009, the investigators had been stymied but once more. Farley by no means confirmed at his late brother’s memorial service.
The person had been a ghost since 1985 when he was accused of operating a transcontinental cocaine community.
“He did a very good job of disappearing,” stated Duaine Bullock, the previous commander of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Narcotics Unit.
However 11 years after the failed funeral residence stakeout, a special workforce of investigators descended on a home in Weirsdale, Florida. The goal that day was a person suspected of passport fraud. He had been residing below the identify Timothy Brown.
The raid was successful. The federal brokers arrested the person as he tried to board an airplane in his personal hangar, prosecutors stated.
It was solely after the arrest that authorities realized the person taken into custody was in actual fact Howard Farley Jr., the longtime fugitive who prosecutors say had been using the identity of a baby who died within the Fifties.
Farley, now 72, is going through a number of expenses together with passport fraud. However he managed to do one thing extremely uncommon: Regardless of getting captured, he succeeded in outrunning his unique expenses.
The 1985 drug indictment was dropped in 2014, including a curious wrinkle to an already extraordinary case.
“He was the D.B. Cooper of Nebraska,” stated Jerry Soucie, a longtime lawyer from Lincoln, equating Farley with the person who disappeared after hijacking a aircraft within the skies over Seattle in 1971. “A legend.”
Soucie stated he’d typically carry up Farley’s identify to needle prosecutors within the years after the suspect went lacking. “One time, they requested my consumer to come back in and stated, ‘The place’s he at?’” Soucie recalled. “I stated, ‘He’s with Howard Farley.’ It actually pissed them off.”
The arrest has triggered sturdy and starkly completely different reactions from these related to the person’s completely different lives.
Some individuals who knew him in his hometown of Lincoln really feel it’s a travesty that he’s not going through jail time on the drug expenses. This group consists of his ex-wife, who famous that the previous drug case led to the suicides of two co-defendants who had agreed to cooperate towards Farley.
“So many unhappy outcomes have come about as a result of Howard’s drug gross sales,” stated Christine Schleis, who was briefly married to Farley within the late Sixties.
However many who know him from his second life in Florida maintain him in excessive regard and are nonetheless in disbelief over his alleged previous. Some assume the federal government ought to go simple on a person now in his 70s who is just not charged with any violent offenses.
“He’s simply this mild soul,” stated Michelle Bearden, a journalist who befriended Farley in Florida. “Once I heard they referred to as him a drug kingpin, it was loopy. In case you met Tim — I do know him as Tim — you’ll by no means in 1,000,000 years consider him that manner in any respect.”
The case was front-page information in Lincoln’s important newspaper in 1985. “Alleged chief of drug ring nonetheless at massive” learn the headline within the Lincoln Journal on Oct. 24, 1985.
Farley was swept up within the largest drug indictment in Nebraska historical past. Some 74 individuals had been charged, and all however one had been arrested in what was referred to as Operation Southern Line.
Farley vanished earlier than the indictment was unsealed. He was described because the alleged “kingpin” of the loosely organized drug community, which prosecutors stated utilized a railroad line to distribute cocaine all through the U.S.
As investigators hunted for Farley, the instances towards his 73 co-defendants moved ahead.
Soucie, the previous Lincoln lawyer, stated it grew to become clear to him and a few of the different protection attorneys that most of the individuals ensnared within the investigation weren’t critical sellers however merely individuals who used medicine and infrequently bought them to feed their habits.
“They had been muscling all people to snitch on all people else,” Soucie stated of the prosecutors. “It simply bought sort of ugly.”
A month after the indictment was unsealed, the primary of two tragedies struck. One defendant who agreed to cooperate took his personal life. Then a month later, a second defendant who had agreed to work with prosecutors died by suicide.
The overwhelming majority of the defendants took plea offers that spared them jail sentences, however Farley’s personal sister and brother-in-law had been amongst those that served time on drug expenses.
Even in spite of everything the opposite instances had been closed out, legislation enforcement continued looking for Farley.
“The very last thing we heard is he was down south some place,” stated Bullock, the previous Lincoln narcotics unit commander who was known as “the brain” as a result of he by no means forgot something.
The mind’s info turned out to be right. Farley is now identified to have spent a lot of his time on the run in Florida, residing in plain sight.
He had been residing along with his spouse in a custom-built residence in a gated group referred to as Love’s Touchdown, the place a lot of the properties are geared up with plane hangars. They purchased the plot for $95,000 in 2018 and accomplished building of the $350,000 residence in June 2019, data present. The couple additionally personal a aircraft price $150,000, prosecutors stated in court docket.
Farley’s spouse, Duc Hanh Thi Vu, instructed investigators she met him on the Caribbean island of St. Martin within the mid-Eighties. The pair bought married in Broward County, Florida, in 1993.
Vu, who arrived within the U.S. together with her household at age 11 after fleeing political persecution in Vietnam, earned a grasp’s diploma in laptop science from Florida Atlantic College and constructed a profitable profession in computer systems.
Florida prosecutors have discovered no proof that Farley earned any earnings whereas on the run, main them to lift questions on how the couple afforded their globetrotting life-style.
“Her earnings as a knowledge analyst doesn’t mirror the life-style they’ve led over the past 30 years: journeys to Australia, deep-sea diving, deep-sea fishing,” prosecutor Michael Felicetta stated in court docket final month.
The couple lived within the cities of Naples and Homosassa earlier than settling within the Love’s Touchdown group, data present. They hosted dinner events for pals and talked brazenly about their love of journey and open air actions like diving and fishing.
Farley was personal about his previous however not in a manner that was odd or uncommon, pals stated.
“There was no cause to be even barely suspicious,” Bearden, the journalist, stated. “They’re an excellent couple. He adored her and handled her very properly. She’s a very good lady. We’re all simply in shock.”
Bearden is amongst a half-dozen household pals who expressed assist for the person they knew as Tim Brown in reference letters submitted to the court docket.
“He’s a person who actually exudes generosity, each in deed and, notably, in spirit,” Bearden and her husband wrote.
“I can’t consider a nicer or extra useful individual than Tim,” wrote one other buddy, David Shear. “He’s a person of excellent character and I’m proud to name him a buddy and I’ll proceed to take action.”
Farley had been residing below the identify Timothy Brown since he vanished within the mid-Eighties, in line with prosecutors. The identification was taken from a child who died in 1955 on the age of three months.
Farley had used the boy’s identify and Social Safety quantity to safe a passport and driver’s license, prosecutors stated. However when he utilized for a passport renewal in February 2020, passport company fraud-prevention staffers found one thing suspicious: Timothy Brown’s dying file from 1955.
Investigators matched the person’s passport pictures with the picture used for his driver’s license. When federal brokers raided his residence on Dec. 4, they knew what the suspect regarded like however had no concept who he actually was.
A fingerprint comparability confirmed that Timothy Brown was in actual fact Howard Farley Jr., the longtime fugitive.
The information of his arrest triggered a sequence of cellphone calls and celebratory Fb posts among the many former legislation enforcement officers concerned in Farley’s previous drug case.
“Hell, a bunch of previous narcs, together with myself are not less than going to sleep with a smile tonight,” one former Lincoln police officer wrote on Fb. “Two plus years of my life had been used up on that man.”
Farley was charged with passport fraud, a criminal offense that carries a most sentence of 10 years in jail. However a month later, a Florida grand jury returned an indictment charging Farley with a sequence of further offenses, together with aggravated identification theft, Social Safety fraud and working as a pilot and not using a reliable airman’s certificates.
The federal brokers who searched his residence discovered a gun and ammunition in his nightstand, resulting in an extra cost of unlawful gun possession.
His spouse was additionally charged with passport fraud in addition to making false statements to a federal company and using a pilot and not using a reliable airman’s certificates. She and Farley have pleaded not responsible.
Vu’s attorneys argued in court docket papers that she didn’t knowingly harbor a fugitive. They pointed to statements made by one of many brokers who interviewed her. The agent stated in court docket that she instructed him she knew Farley “had gotten in hassle with medicine in Nebraska, and that’s why he modified his identify,” however “not essentially that he was a fugitive or wished.”
Attorneys Andrew Searle and Fritz Scheller, who’re representing Vu and Farley, wrote: “Even the federal government’s personal witness on the detention listening to confirmed that Ms. Vu by no means knew the complete particulars concerning the defendant’s alleged previous.”
In an interview, Scheller stated he understands why the previous drug case made an enormous splash in Nebraska within the Eighties, however the allegations didn’t quantity to the person referred to as Howard Farley Jr. being a significant trafficker. “He wasn’t precisely the Pablo Escobar of Omaha,” Scheller stated.
Florida prosecutors stated in court docket that Farley’s drug indictment from Nebraska was dismissed in 2014 solely as a result of the lead prosecutor on the case was retiring and “they wanted to decide concerning the proof — the age of the proof.”
Farley is now going through a most of 30 years in jail. In arguing for him to obtain bail, Farley’s attorneys described him as an aged man who suffers from “a bunch of great medical situations” together with two current coronary heart assaults, renal failure and spinal surgical procedure.
However U.S. District Choose John Antoon II was unmoved. Antoon final month denied a protection movement to permit Farley to go away jail and await trial on residence detention.
In his resolution, the decide stated the person had already confirmed he had the uncommon capability to vanish and elude authorities for many years.
“Farley didn’t simply flee and stay hidden away however as a substitute had the foresight, sources and dedication to begin a brand new life and stay within the open whereas evading seize for many years,” Antoon wrote. “Nothing within the data signifies that Farley is incapable of doing so once more.”