They had just identified someone at a Dodgers baseball game who resembled the wanted man.
But it turns out they were looking at the wrong guy.
On Thursday, a tipster came forward after widespread media coverage, the US Marshals said in a statement to CNN, and provided credible information on the identity of the Dodgers game attendee. His name has not been released by Marshals.
John Ruffo, the man US Marshals have been looking for, was convicted in the late 1990s of a $350 million bank fraud scheme and sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison. He was given bond but never showed up to serve his sentence.
Marshals Deputy Pat Valdenor met with the man and his family in a Los Angeles suburb and fingerprinted him to confirm his identity, Danielle Shimchick, deputy US marshal, confirmed to CNN.
Through that process, Valdenor was able to clearly see the difference between Ruffo’s fingerprints and the man at the Dodgers game. A birth certificate also separated the two men.
“The US Marshals greatly appreciate the public’s assistance in providing tips to identify this individual and thank the family for their cooperation and quick identification,” the US Marshals said in a statement.
In September 2016, a tip came in to investigators that Ruffo, now 66, had been at a Boston Red Sox and LA Dodgers baseball game in Los Angeles a month earlier, on August 5, 2016, and that he was sitting about four rows up from home plate wearing a blue shirt, the Marshals Service said in a news release Tuesday.
A video clip from the game confirmed a man fitting Ruffo’s description was sitting several rows behind home plate. Before that possible 2016 sighting, Ruffo hadn’t been seen since 1998 at an ATM in New York, the Marshals Service said.
Investigators were able to narrow the seat down to Section 1 Dugout Club, Row EE, Seat 10. But even though they found the seat and identified the person who bought it, they hadn’t been able to identify the man in the blue shirt, so they requested the public’s help.
Since Ruffo disappeared, the Marshals Service says it has chased hundreds of leads across the United States and worldwide. While there have been multiple reported sightings of Ruffo, the ATM photograph is the last confirmed sighting.
Ruffo was 5 feet 5 inches, 23 years ago and weighed about 170 pounds, the Marshals Service said.
“He is known to be computer savvy and enjoys fine wines, gambling, and nice hotels,” the news release said. “He is reportedly lactose-intolerant. Ruffo was known to be a storyteller, someone who liked to stretch the truth, and had a desire to impress others. He has been called a master manipulator.”