Two years have passed since an Ohio father made a shocking deathbed confession to his daughter, revealing that he was a wanted fugitive behind a 1969 bank heist.
Ashley Randele, 38, learned this startling revelation less than six weeks before her father, Ted Conrad, passed away in May 2021.
Conrad pulled one of the biggest bank robberies in Cleveland, Ohio’s history in 1969, making off with $215,000 at the time – what would now be the equivalent of more than $1.7million.
For 52 years, he was a wanted fugitive, living in Boston, Massachusetts, under a new name he created six months after the heist in the summer of 1969.
Not even his wife Kathy or daughter Ashley knew until he told them in what authorities described as a deathbed confession.
Ashley delved into the secret after losing her dad, and recently shared her side of the story in a new podcast called ‘Smoke Screen: My Fugitive Dad.’
Ashley Randele, 38, learned the startling revelation that her father was a wanted fugitive less than six weeks before he passed away in May 2021
Ashley delved into the secret after loosing her dad and recently shared her side of the story in a new podcast called ‘Smoke Screen: My Fugitive Dad’
Ted Conrad pulled one of the biggest bank robberies in Cleveland, Ohio’s history in 1969, making off with $215,000 at the time – what would now be the equivalent of more than $1.7million
‘Who is this person I’ve known my whole life? I almost didn’t believe it. I thought, my life is a Lifetime movie,’ she said in an interview with the Messenger.
‘It was shocking and it took me a few minutes for it to sink in.’
‘In the best way, he’s that typical, suburban, boring but great-boring dad that was sort of everybody’s dad.’
The shocking revelation came on an ordinary night while the family was watching an episode of NCIS in the living room of their suburban home.
At that time, Conrad had received the news that he had only six weeks left to live due to lung cancer
‘When I moved here, I had to change my name, and the authorities are probably still looking for me,’ he told Ashely, reported by the New York Post.
Ashely didn’t believe it at first and took it as a ‘dad humor’. She then asked her dad to reveal his real name and promised not to look into it.
‘After a long pause, he told me his name was Ted Conrad. That night, at 2.30am, I googled Ted Conrad.’
‘It was weird to Google your dad and see ‘Kid Robs Bank,’ ‘Fugitive On The Run,’ and knowing there’s so much more to him, you know, before the crime and after the crime,
‘I immediately knew I wanted to tell his story and also my story about processing – both losing him and also finding out this massive secret.’
Society National Bank in Cleveland, where Conrad worked under the name Ted Conrad and eventually stole $215,000
Conrad, seen here in news clippings on September 16, 1969, was wanted for stealing from Society National Bank, where he worked
By the time the missing money was noticed the following Monday, Conrad was flying across the country. Letters sent to his girlfriend showed he made stops in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles within the first week
Conrad quickly figured out that security was fairly loose at the Society National Bank in Cleveland after he started as a vault teller in January 1969.
He told his buddies, ‘It’d be so easy for me to walk out with all kinds of money,’ Russell Metcalf, his best friend from high school, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
They thought he was blowing smoke when he brought it up a few more times.
Then just a day after his 20th birthday that July, Conrad walked out at closing time on a Friday with a paper bag stuffed with $215,000 from the vault, a haul worth $1.6 million today.
By the time the missing money was noticed the following Monday, Conrad was flying across the country. Letters sent to his girlfriend showed he made stops in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles within the first week.
In one letter, he mistakenly thought he could return in seven years when the statute of limitations expired. But once he was indicted, that was no longer true.
Conrad apparently cut off contact with his entire family, including three siblings and his parents, who were divorced.
Some family members eventually presumed he was dead because so many years had passed, said Matt Boettger, whose mother was Conrad’s older sister.
His mom, he said, was relieved more than anything to find out her brother had lived a happy life. ‘She thought she would go to her grave and never know,’ he said.
The bank heist in 1969 didn’t capture the attention of the nation, or even the city of Cleveland. Everyone else was focused on Apollo 11´s historic flight to the moon that week.
But for John Elliott, a deputy U.S. marshal, it was personal. He and Conrad came from the same side of town. Elliott used to take his family to the ice cream shop where Conrad worked. They shared a doctor.
The last credible sighting came in October 1969, when a Cleveland couple visiting Hawaii met a man they later realized looked very much like Conrad.
Elliott traveled across the U.S. looking for Conrad and even after retiring in 1990 he would come in the office just about every week and pore over the files, said his son, Pete Elliott.
John Elliott died in March 2020 before investigators pieced together details from Randele’s obituary and signatures from his past.
Then in November, Randele’s family confirmed that just before he died he told them his real identity and what he had done, Pete Elliott said.
Marshals were unable to track Conrad down until after he died in a Boston suburb
Conrad was described as ‘a gentle soul’ by friends and ‘a good man,’ one whom those close to him can’t reconcile with his past
Conrad lived in Lynnfield, Massachusetts, at the time of his death from cancer
‘It always stayed on my dad’s mind,’ he said. ‘We kept this case going because it was important to my father.’
Why Conrad committed the robbery has been analyzed endlessly.
‘It wasn’t about the money. He always wanted to impress people,’ said Metcalf, his high school pal, who remembered how Conrad once stole a deck of cards just to prove he could. ‘He had no fear.’
Investigators believe he was inspired by the 1968 movie ‘The Thomas Crown Affair,’ about a bank executive who got away with $2.6 million and turned the heist into a game.
Conrad saw the film at least six times and copied Steve McQueen’s character, driving sports cars and drinking high-end liquor, according to friends.
After the real-life robbery in Cleveland, Conrad wound up in the Boston area, where much of the movie was filmed. It’s a good possibility that he chose his new first name ‘Thomas’ based on the movie, Elliott said.
‘He modeled his whole life after the movie,’ he said.
After Conrad became a fugitive, the man known as Thomas Randele came into existence the first week of January in 1970.
That’s when Conrad walked into a Social Security Administration office in Boston, asked for an identification number under his new name and made himself two years older, Elliott said.
At that time, it wasn’t unusual to wait until you were an adult, so his application didn’t raise any red flags. With a new identification card, he was able to open a bank account, build credit and create his new life, Elliott said.
During the 1970s, Randele worked as an assistant golf pro, giving lessons at a country club outside Boston and later becoming its manager.
He also met his future wife not long after arriving in Boston. They were married in 1982.
Around then he began working in the car business, selling Land Rovers and Volvos at a handful of dealerships until he retired after nearly 40 years.
It was a job that put him in front of dozens of strangers every day.
While Randele and his wife, Kathy, lived most of their years in a pleasant Boston suburb, they filed for bankruptcy protection in 2014. Court records showed they then owed $160,000 in credit card debt and had few assets.
A painting done of Conrad commissioned after the bank teller-turned-thief passed away
Conrad was known as a local golf pro and is seen here attending the 2018 US Open in New York
When Ashley told her mother about the secret, ‘for 10 minutes straight, she kept saying, ”Oh, my god.””
She also told her fugitive father: ‘The fact that you took this money does not make me love you less.’
In the early days after Randele’s identity was revealed, his friends couldn’t believe it. But looking back, there had been a few things that make sense.
How he always had a beard. The photos of him wearing dark sunglasses on the golf course. His reluctance to talk about where he grew up or his extended family.
‘You know all the years I knew Tommy, I never heard him mention a sister or a mother or a brother or a father. Everything was kind of generalized,’ Healy said.
‘You could never pry anything from him,’ said Brad Anthony, another close friend. ‘I figured maybe he had a bad childhood and he didn’t want to talk about it.’
Still, he said it’s almost impossible to believe. ‘It just seems so out of character for the Tom I knew,’ he said.
All of his friends agreed that what happened long ago hasn’t changed how they feel about him.
‘The man I knew didn’t change all of a sudden because of something he did a lifetime ago,’ Healy said.
‘He was a good man, he was my friend and I think no less of him today than I did before this all came out. And I’d love to go play a round of golf with him.’