His flight from justice spanned five years and was featured on the TV show America's Most Wanted, but police in Vancouver say they have finally nabbed the "Nephew Bandit," thanks to a tip from a hospital employee.
Police in Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton and Medicine Hat, Alta., among several other forces, have long been hunting the "elusive predator," and a man was arrested on Wednesday on 18 charges, including fraud, impersonation and theft.
Vancouver police say the man was arrested after entering a local hospital. Though he has been at the facility since June, Sergeant Randy Fincham said, it was not until this week that a staff member allegedly recognized his mugshot and called the police.
Sgt. Fincham said a number of alleged victims will sleep easier knowing that a man has been taken into custody. "It is alleged that [he] sought out elderly victims, befriended them and gained their trust by pretending to be a distant relative. [He] then conned them out of their money with a promise of repaying the debt at a later time," the police spokesman said.
The Toronto Police Service sounded the alarm on the bandit in early 2010. The department said at the time the average age of his alleged victims was 81 and the average loss was about $880.
The department said it was not the first time the man had drawn police attention: He was a "person of interest" in a string of similar incidents in 1999 and 2000. Police said he would typically visit a retirement home or bingo hall, introduce himself to someone as a distant relative, and ask for money for rent, car repairs or travel.
The bandit was featured on America's Most Wanted in the fall of 2010. His case was also featured on the television show W5.
Constable Wendy Drummond, a Toronto police spokeswoman, said in an interview on Thursday that the department was pleased to learn of the arrest. She said one detective has been on the file for more than 40 months.
Constable Drummond said the Toronto police are working with B.C.'s Criminal Justice Branch regarding the Ontario charges.
Sgt. Fincham said the department's financial crimes section is handling the case and was excited when the arrest was made.
He said the force could not disclose exactly why the man was in a Vancouver hospital, but he said his condition was not life-threatening. He said he also could not disclose the specific hospital or how much money the bandit was accused of obtaining.
Richard Earl Rupert, 57, made a court appearance on Thursday and was ordered to remain in custody. The allegations against him have not been proven.
He had checked into the hospital under the name Jerry Whitehead. Sgt. Fincham said the police will investigate whether any crimes were committed under that name, or if it holds any significance.