A fugitive from justice was arrested during Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia, on Saturday, May 16, 2015. James Hammes — whose Trail name is Bismarck — had been on the run and/or the Appalachian Trail since February 24, 2009, when he was accused of bilking his employer, a Pepsi bottler in Lexington, Kentucky, out of $8.7 million dollars.
James Hammes, now 53-years-old, vanished six years ago after being confronted with embezzling millions of dollars, leading to charges of Wire Fraud and Money Laundering.
Average hikers should not be worried about the apprehension of this hiker — said by many to be courteous, intelligent and a savvy denizen of the Trail — although the other bazillionty-seven fugitives from justice, civilization and ex-whatevers on the AT might not be sleeping as well now.
What’s really scary is how “normal” James Hammes looks in his FBI Wanted Poster:
According to the FBI, James Hammes is accused of:
James T. Hammes is wanted for an alleged fraud scheme he conducted while employed as controller for the Lexington, Kentucky, division of a Cincinnati-based company. As controller, he was responsible for all financial accounting and internal controls for the Lexington division.
Between 2004 and 2009, Hammes allegedly deposited approximately $8.7 million of company funds into a bank account in the name of a second company doing business with his employer, but which Hammes had signatory control over.
On February 24, 2009, a federal arrest warrant was issued by the United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio, after Hammes was charged with wire fraud and money laundering.
A television program, American Greed: The Fugitives — available here on Hulu — profiled James Hammes’s alleged crimes and is thought to have led to his arrest.
We’re not sure if he used his skills in scuba diving and flying private airplanes at any point, but reports say he’s been seen along the Appalachian Trail for the past several years, using the Trail name: Bismarck.
One of my Facebook friends wrote this about Bismarck:
Hiked with him and Hopper in 2013. Met them both in 2012 at Trail Days in Damascus. Great couple with a terrific reputation on the trail. Sorry to hear that he [allegedly] did this.
David Miller, author of the highly acclaimed reference book, The AT Guide — A Handbook for Hiking the Appalachian Trail, saw James Hammes at Trail Days. David captioned this photograph as: “[Bismarck] was a contributor to The A.T. Guide, and seemed nice, intelligent and helpful. He visited my booth at Trail Days on Friday (to the right, in blue shirt).
Although Bismarck aka James Hammes was described by family, friends and co-workers as a fine, upstanding, “honorable,” man, his alleged crimes belie that affection and trust.
This FBI Press Release about the arrest of James Hammes tells a different story:
“I want to thank the hard-working special agents and police officers who have been involved with this investigation over the last several years,” stated Special Agent in Charge Angela L. Byers. “Their persistent work led to the arrest of Mr. Hammes and will allow for the criminal justice process to continue in this case.”
Hammes fled after being interviewed by FBI special agents in February 2009. In May 2009, a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Ohio returned a 75-count indictment charging Hammes with wire fraud and money laundering for allegedly embezzling approximately $8,711,282.42 from a Cincinnati-based company between 1998 and February 2009. During this time, Hammes was employed as the controller for the company’s Lexington, Kentucky division and was responsible for all financial accounting and internal controls.
The indictment alleges that Hammes opened an unauthorized vendor bank account, created an illegitimate account payable for the vendor from which checks were disbursed and deposited the payments into the bank account. Hammes is alleged to have then transferred the stolen money into his personal bank and brokerage accounts.
The public is reminded that indictments contain only allegations of criminal misconduct and that defendants are presumed to be innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
We’ll keep you posted on developments in the story about James Hammes, no longer a fugitive on the Appalachian Trail.
Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do, when they come for you … even at Trail Days.