Facial Recognition Technology Leads FBI to 14-Year Fugitive

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The FBI just closed the book on a case that went cold long ago thanks to its facial recognition systems, tracking down a fugitive who'd allegedly been on the run 14 years. Neil Stammer, described by investigators as "a talented juggler with an international reputation," skipped bail in 1999 after being charged in New Mexico with child sex abuse and kidnapping; the feds got involved in 2000 but had little to go on, and Stammer, who reportedly spoke 12 languages, could have fled anywhere in the world.

Fourteen years later, FBI Special Agent Russ Wilson reopened the case on a whim, putting Stammer's face back on the famous "wanted" posters. At the same time, another agent with the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service was trying out a new facial recognition system meant to identify passport fraud. As a test, he ran photos in the passport system against the pictures on the FBI posters — and got a match. Stammer, as it turned out, had allegedly been living in Nepal for the past eight years under the name Kevin Hodges, visiting the U.S. embassy regularly to renew his visa. Agents were dispatched and Stammer was recently returned to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he now faces the old charges — and a few new ones.



—Devin Coldewey