A Fugitive, 82, Was Caught After 37 years On The Run

by | Dec 5, 2022 | Fugitive, international fugitive, New Identity

The Life of Fugitive Robert Woodring


In his heyday, Robert Woodring was a con man who lived a life of intrigue and adventure. He evaded capture for 37 years, becoming one of the most elusive fugitives of his time. His story combines cunning escapes, audacious crimes, and relentless law enforcement pursuit.

Early Life and Criminal Beginnings

A Typical Start

Robert Woodring was born into a middle-class family with a developer father. Although his early life seemed typical, he harboured a penchant for adventure and a disregard for the law.

Military Service and Injury

This rebellious streak emerged in his teenage years, leading him to join the Marines at 15 by lying about his age. Woodring later served in the Air Force, but his military career was cut short due to an injury sustained during the Korean War.

First Major Incident

At 21, he made national headlines. Police launched a nationwide search for him, suspecting he kidnapped his ex-wife and their nine-month-old daughter. They believed he forced them to leave for Canada with him. They found postcards hidden in a motel room in Madison, Wisconsin, pleading for help and stating he was headed for the Canadian border. Eventually, authorities found them, and his ex-wife claimed they travelled voluntarily. Despite resolving this incident without charges, it marked the beginning of Woodring’s life of crime.

Life as a Fugitive

Early Fraudulent Activities

In 1961, Woodring was convicted of mail fraud in Missouri. He lured people to invest in a home improvement company, promising returns that never materialized. Sentenced to three years, he became a fugitive, avoiding his prison term. This marked the start of his long list of fraudulent activities.

Constant Movement and Deception

Woodring’s life as a fugitive involved constant movement and deception. He used numerous aliases, including Johnson and Walker, to stay ahead of the authorities. Woodring lived in various locations across the United States, including the West Coast, where he built luxury homes in the Seattle area. Before fleeing the country, he also spent considerable time in South Florida, living in Fort Lauderdale, Boynton Beach, and Pompano Beach.

International Adventures

Woodring’s exploits extended beyond the U.S. His international adventures were as audacious and varied as his domestic ones, often involving high-stakes risks and intricate deceptions.

Smuggling in Haiti

In 1963, a newspaper article reported that the U.S. Embassy negotiated Woodring’s release from a Haitian jail. He had been arrested for bringing $50,000, six rifles, and ammunition to rebel forces in Cap-Haïtien. Woodring’s attempt to support rebel activities in Haiti highlighted his willingness to engage in international arms smuggling. This venture into Haiti’s political turmoil demonstrated his boldness and disregard for international law.

Hiding in Canada

Woodring’s escapades also took him to Canada. During his early years as a fugitive, he fled to Canada with his ex-wife and daughter. This move was part of his broader strategy to stay one step ahead of U.S. law enforcement. Canada provided a temporary refuge where he could regroup and plan his next moves.

Life in Mexico

Woodring’s most prolonged international hideout was in Mexico. For about 20 years, he lived under a new identity in Guadalajara. In Mexico, he married a local woman and integrated himself into the community, maintaining a low profile to avoid detection. Despite remaining inconspicuous, he continued his fraudulent activities, including real estate ventures and investment schemes.

Building a New Life

Woodring built luxury homes in Mexico, leveraging his construction skills from his time on the West Coast. He created a comfortable life, supported by the money he made from various scams. His ability to blend in and establish a new life in a foreign country showcased his adaptability and resourcefulness.

Discovery and Capture

Despite his success in evading capture for decades, Woodring’s luck eventually ran out. Law enforcement finally tracked him down in Guadalajara, Mexico. The U.S. Marshals Service discovered his new identity and confirmed his location. His capture marked the end of his long tenure as a fugitive. Upon his capture, he faced extradition back to South Florida to face justice.

Capture and Return to Justice

Law enforcement finally tracked Woodring down in Guadalajara, Mexico. He had been living under a new identity and married to a woman there for about 20 years. Upon his capture, authorities extradited him to South Florida to face justice.

Medical Condition and Legal Challenges

Woodring’s capture and return to the U.S. led to new legal challenges. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, his condition complicated his sentencing. Despite his medical issues, he serves a 7.5-year sentence for investment-related mail fraud. His lawyer, Michael Salnick, requested a new medical evaluation due to Woodring’s memory and decision-making issues. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons diagnosed him with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Competency and Sentencing

Initial Competency

Woodring was initially found competent to stand trial and plead guilty to jumping bond. However, his deteriorating health led to a provisional sentence. U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke recommended sending him to Butner Federal Medical Center in North Carolina, a federal prison hospital where he could receive proper care.

A Storied Past

Woodring’s life reads like a movie script. He was a DEA informant, a former police officer accused of beating a handcuffed prisoner, a kidnap suspect, and a gun-runner. His criminal career spanned decades, involving various accusations and activities that kept law enforcement agencies nationwide on their toes.

Time as a DEA Informant

During the 1970s, while appealing his convictions, Woodring worked as an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in South Florida. This period was a complex chapter in his life, filled with both cooperation and duplicity. Woodring provided the DEA with valuable information on drug operations, helping them make significant arrests and seizures.

His knowledge of the criminal underworld and his ability to navigate it made him a valuable asset. However, his work with the DEA also served his interests. It allowed him to stay one step ahead of the law by leveraging his informant status to gain leniency and avoid immediate imprisonment.

Woodring’s time as a DEA informant showcased his ability to play both sides of the law. He adeptly balanced assisting law enforcement while continuing his criminal activities. This double life allowed him to gather intelligence, manipulate situations to his advantage, and stay informed about law enforcement efforts that might threaten his freedom. His work with the DEA added another layer of complexity to his already multifaceted criminal career.

Prosecution’s Stance

Prosecutors argued that Woodring’s life of crime lasted over 25 years, extending to the 37 years he spent avoiding capture. They emphasized that allowing him to go unpunished would send a dangerous message to other fugitives. His case highlights the persistent efforts of law enforcement to bring long-term fugitives to justice, regardless of the time that has passed.


Robert Woodring’s story is a testament to the complexities and challenges of law enforcement. His life of crime, filled with deception and evasion, finally caught up with him. Despite his age and medical condition, Woodring’s capture and sentencing underscore the importance of justice and the relentless pursuit of those who try to escape it.

If you would like to work with a professional team that can help make your transition to a life of freedom, contact Amicus Int. for New Identity services today.