Where Is John Ruffo? All the Wild Theories About His Whereabouts

In 1998 John Ruffo disappeared from the face of the Earth after he was convicted of defrauding the United States and foreign banks of $350 million.

The former business executive is the subject of ABC documentary series Have You Seen This Man? which explores all the possible ways in which Ruffo has been able to avoid detection for the past 23 years.

Ruffo was meant to serve a 17-year federal sentence in 1998, for which he had to self-surrender for, but he absconded after he was released on a $10 million bail and has been on the U.S. Marshals 15 Most Wanted Fugitives ever since.

He was last seen on November 9, 1998, in security footage from an ATM in Queens, New York, which showed him withdrawing money before he disappeared.

The ABC series, which is based on a podcast of the same name and was released on Hulu on Thursday, March 24, shares some of the wildest theories authorities have about Ruffo's whereabouts.

1. John Ruffo Moved to Italy Thanks to the Mafia

One theory is that Ruffo fled to Italy after he was released on bond because of his alleged connections to the Italian Mafia.

In Have You Seen This Man? it was said Ruffo claimed to have ties to the mob, and a hit was conducted on Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano and underboss Thomas Bilotti just below the offices of his company CCS, which was seen as a possible connection between the two.

Born into an Italian-American family, the theory presented in the documentary suggests that Ruffo gained ties to the mafia after growing up in a neighborhood that was described as the "epicenter" of the New York mob.

Ruffo was also said to be interested in living in Italy and he had travelled there often with his ex-wife Linda Lausten, he even spoke some Italian.

His former partner in crime Edward J. Reiners told authorities that their plan involved Ruffo fleeing to Italy, and Lausten even found a note after he'd fled which had an address in Italy written on it.

However, Robert Boyce, former Chief of Detectives in the NYPD, claimed Ruffo's actions, which led to his family losing their homes, would have been frowned upon by the Italian Mafia, and therefore it is not likely they would have helped him.

2. The FBI Helped Him Escape

Ruffo is also said to have had ties to the FBI as he once posed for a photograph with the Assistant Director of the FBI and members of an FBI SWAT team.

When he was originally arrested, Ruffo claimed he worked as an undercover operative and in an interview with an FBI agent said he was helping "give a legitimate appearance to a covert operation."

Jody Bachiman, Ruffo's former personal secretary, claimed that Ruffo was not lying about his work with the FBI, and she and Ruffo's ex-wife also believed agents had been using CCS as a base of operations.

Ruffo also claimed he was assisting the FBI in finding undercover Soviet spies and trying to make them defect to the U.S.

Because of this, one theory presented in the documentary was that Ruffo had been assisted in his escape by the FBI.

3. The Russians are Hiding Him

It was also suggested that Ruffo's alleged work with the FBI in helping make Soviet agents defect had given him ties to the Russian Government.

Senior Inspector Chris Leur and Deputy Danielle Shimchick of the U.S. Marshals Service said in the documentary that they couldn't eliminate the possibility that Ruffo had been assisted in his escape.

While one theory is that Ruffo is hiding out in Russia, Erick Runk, Acting Deputy Chief of the U.S. Marshals Service, said they have not been given good enough intel to suggest this is true.

He added that he didn't "want to guess" about Ruffo's whereabouts and therefore felt the theory he was in Russia was a "dead-end" for the U.S. Marshals Service.

4. John Ruffo is Hiding in Plain Sight

Another working theory is that Ruffo, who would now be aged 67, is simply hiding in plain sight and has been able to avoid capture because he can easily blend into a crowd.

It was suggested that Ruffo could have been using an alias, and the U.S. Marshals Service have shared his possible aliases are John Russo, Jack Nitz, Bruce Gregory, John Peters, and Charles Sanders.

In 2016, the U.S. Marshals Service received a tip that he had been seen watching a game between the Boston Red Sox and LA Dodgers in Los Angeles in August.

A news release from the U.S. Marshals Service at the time asked the public for any information on the person fitting Ruffo's description at the game, per CNN.

However, after an investigation and comparing fingerprints it was confirmed that the man was, in fact, not Ruffo.

5. John Ruffo is Dead

One, final theory is that Ruffo is dead, and this is why authorities have been unable to find him in the past 23 years.

At the time of his disappearance Ruffo left a letter to ex-wife Lausten, who shared it in the documentary, and in it he claimed he had reached his "breaking point."

She said that in the letter Ruffo had written he "had no choice" but had reassured her he had "beat" authorities, and had decided to give himself "to God."

Despite the contents of the letter, Lausten claimed she did not believe he had killed himself, and Leur of the U.S. Marshals Service said Ruffo's claim he had "beat" the federal government suggested he had not done so because his death would have meant the exact opposite.

All three episodes of Have You Seen This Man? are available to watch in full on Hulu now.

John Ruffo
Have You Seen This Man
Have You Seen This Man
Stills from "Have You Seen This Man?" which shares details of the global manhunt for John Ruffo.