IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Man spotted at 2016 baseball game resembles fraudster wanted since 1998, authorities say

A man who sat behind home plate during a game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in 2016 "strongly resembles" fugitive fraudster John Ruffo, the U.S. Marshals Service said.

A man who was convicted in a $350 million bank fraud scheme and has eluded capture for more than two decades may have attended a game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in 2016, the U.S. Marshals Service said.

Federal authorities hope photos from the game will help the public identify the man, who they said "strongly resembles" John Ruffo.

Ruffo, 66, is on the list of the "15 Most Wanted" fugitives, the Marshals Service said in a statement Tuesday.

An age-progression rendering reveals what John Ruffo might look like today.U.S. Marshals Service

Marshals Service investigators with the Eastern District of Virginia got a tip in September 2016 that Ruffo had attended a game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 5, 2016, and sat in view of cameras.

"A video clip from the game confirms a white balding male with a mustache, wearing a blue shirt, seated several rows behind home plate," the marshals said. "Investigators were able to narrow the seat down to Section 1 Dugout Club, Row EE, Seat 10. And while investigators were able to identify the purchaser of the seats, they have not been able to identify the man in the blue shirt."

Ruffo, a New York University graduate and computer expert, and a co-conspirator, Edward Reiners, were convicted in a bank fraud scheme that involved a fake Philip Morris research project on smokeless cigarettes.

The two men amassed more than $350 million lent to them by seven foreign and domestic banks before the scheme began to fall apart in 1996.

Ruffo was indicted on 160 counts of bank fraud and money laundering. Several members of his family offered up their homes as collateral to pay his $10 million bond.

He absconded Nov. 9, 1998, after he arrived at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, to turn over his electronic monitoring bracelet. He was supposed to report to a federal prison in New Jersey to begin his 17½-year sentence but never did.

An investigation revealed that on the day he disappeared, Ruffo drove a car he is thought to have rented earlier that day in Manhattan. The car was found at the long-term parking lot at John F. Kennedy International Airport, the Marshals Service said.

He was last seen in surveillance video from an ATM in Queens that day. About $13 million from the bank scheme has never been recovered, officials said.

Investigators hope to identify the man in the blue shirt seen in Section 1 Dugout Club, Row EE, Seat 10 at a Los Angeles Dodgers game on Aug. 5, 2016.U.S. Marshals Service

NBC News spoke to Ruffo's former wife, Linda Lausten, in 2018. By then, Ruffo had been on the run for 20 years. He left a trail of wreckage, including financially wiping out former business partners and family members, among them his wife and his mother.

Lausten said then that she cried every day for a year after Ruffo disappeared.

"I want to face him," she said. "I want to tell him how bad he hurt his mother and everybody else. I'd like to ask him: 'When did you stop loving me? What happened? When did money become so important that you could do this to us?'"

Reiners, who served nine years of his 17-year sentence, said in 2018 that he viewed Ruffo's disappearance in another light.

"He's gone. God bless him," Reiners said. "He beat the system."

In September 2016, investigators got a tip indicating that John Ruffo had attended a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game on Aug. 5, 2016. A video clip from the game confirms a white balding male with a mustache, wearing a blue shirt, seated several rows behind home plate.U.S. Marshals Service

The marshals service said it has pursued hundreds of leads across the country and around the world.

Ruffo is known to have extensive international connections through his time as a businessman in New York. He had previously traveled to Aruba and was known to show particular interest in Italy.

Officials said that he is likely to be using an alias and that he has gone by Joseph Ruffo, John Russo, Jack Nitz, Bruce Gregory, John Peters and Charles Sanders.

Ruffo, who authorities said is a "master manipulator," also likes to embellish the truth. He has a penchant for gambling, fine wine and nice hotels, and he is reported to be lactose intolerant, the marshals said.

Authorities are offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to his arrest. Anyone with information may contact the nearest USMS District Office, call the U.S. Marshals Service Communications Center at 1-800-336-0102 or submit a tip using USMS Tips.