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How the FBI Used a New Piece of Technology to Catch a Fugitive on the Run for 14 Years


"A little bit of luck."

Neil Stammer had been on the run for 14 years after he was arrested on charges for child abuse and kidnapping in 1999, was released on bond and then never appeared for his court date. Last month he was nabbed by the FBI, but just how they tracked the former magic shop owner down is what's interesting.

"The answer to that question, as Special Agent Russ Wilson learned, is a lot of hard work — and a little bit of luck," the FBI stated in a post on its news site this week about the recent capture of the fugitive.

Image source: FBI Image source: FBI

When Stammer disappeared in 1999, authorities thought he could be anywhere. Previously, he had been a street performer in Europe where he picked up the ability to speak many different languages, the FBI explained.

There were few leads for agents as to where Stammer could have gone when they were brought on the case. Eventually, it went cold.

Earlier this year though, Special Agent Wilson came across the file.

“In addition to the current fugitives, I had a stack of old cases, and Stammer’s stood out," Wilson told the news site.

With the hope of dredging up tips, Wilson had a new poster made of Stammer. At the same time, a different government department was testing facial recognition technology to prevent passport fraud, the FBI reported. Wilson put two and two together and tried the program on wanted posters for some fugitives.

There was a match — and it was Stammer.

Eventually, U.S. authorities were in Nepal seeking out a man named Kevin Hodges. Hodges, the man later confirmed to be Stammer, was teaching English and other languages in the country, according to the FBI.

With the help of the Nepalese government, the FBI was able to bring the now 47-year-old man back to New Mexico.

“It was a huge team effort with a great outcome," Wilson told the FBI.

Stammer had been living in Nepal since 2006. Where he was before that is unclear.

It is expected that he will face state state charges now that he is back in custody.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(H/T: Gizmodo)

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