A Lynnfield father and former luxury car salesman who died in May had a secret — half a century ago, while still living under his real name, he committed one of the biggest bank robberies in Cleveland history and then vanished without a trace, authorities said.
Theodore John Conrad, then 20, walked into the Society National Bank at 127 Public Square in Cleveland on Friday, July 11, 1969, for his job as a teller and walked out at the end of the workday carrying a paper bag containing $215,000 (roughly $1.7 million in today’s money), according to a statement Friday from the US Marshals Service.
His employers didn’t realize they had been robbed until the following Monday, when Conrad failed to show up for work, and they checked the vault and found the money missing, according to the statement.
With a two-day head start, Conrad vanished for more than half a century, the Marshals Service said.
Conrad, known as “Ted,” had become obsessed a year earlier with the Steve McQueen movie “The Thomas Crown Affair,” seeing it more than a half-dozen times, according to the statement. In the film, shot partly in downtown Boston, McQueen plays a millionaire businessman who robs banks for his amusement.
Conrad had bragged to friends that it would be easy to steal from the bank where he worked and that he planned to do so, the Marshals Service said.
For decades, Conrad’s disappearance perplexed investigators, who pursued leads in Washington, D.C.; Inglewood, Calif.; western Texas; Oregon; and Hawaii. His story was featured on television shows such as “Unsolved Mysteries” and “America’s Most Wanted,” according to the statement.
The case went cold until US Marshals from Cleveland came to Boston last week and positively identified the late Thomas Randele of Lynnfield as Conrad, who had lived since 1970 about 15 miles from the downtown Boston bank that McQueen robbed in the 1968 movie, under the same first name as McQueen’s character, according to officials.
He died of lung cancer in May, having given his date of birth as July 10, 1947. Conrad was actually born July 10, 1949, and was 71 when he died, the Marshals Service said.
Shortly before his death, Conrad confessed to the robbery, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which first reported the story.
While living in Lynnfield as Randele, Conrad worked as an assistant golf pro and teaching pro at the Pembroke Country Club and played on the professional winter tour in Florida during the off-season, according to a death notice posted online by McDonald Funeral Homes of Wakefield.
He later shifted his focus to “his second love, cars” and worked for four decades in luxury auto sales, employed until his retirement at Woburn Foreign Motors, Range Rover, and Volvo, the death notice said.
Conrad left behind a wife and a daughter, according to the death notice. His family could not be reached for comment.
Investigators matched documents Conrad filled out in the 1960s with documents completed by Randele, including court filings from a 2014 bankruptcy case, according to the Marshals Service.
Peter J. Elliott, US marshal for northern Ohio, said he knew Conrad’s case “all too well” because his father had been a deputy US marshal in Cleveland from 1969 to 1990.
“My father took an interest in this case early because Conrad lived and worked near us in the late 1960s,” Elliott said in the statement. “My father never stopped searching for Conrad and always wanted closure up until his death in 2020. We were able to match some of the documents that my father uncovered from Conrad’s college days in the 1960s with documents from Randele that led to his identification.”