When Glenn Kelly got a job at the Pembroke Country Club as a teenager in the 1970s, he had no idea that he would be working alongside one of the most wanted fugitives in the country.
Kelly recalled how Tom Randele, a golf pro at the club, would pick him up in the morning and jokingly tell him: “You better be ready Kelly, or I’ll start blowing my horn and wake up the neighbors!”
“He taught me a good work ethic, and to be on time,” said Kelly, who’s now 60 and the head golf professional at the Woods Hole Golf Club in Falmouth.
It was only recently that Kelly learned the truth about Randele, and that he was not who he said he was. Randele’s real name was actually Theodore “Ted” Conrad, and he’d been on the run since 1969 after pulling off what the US Marshals Service described as one of the biggest bank robberies in the history of Cleveland.
“Looking back, he kept it well-hidden. He never flaunted any money,” said Kelly. “He worked long hours, he drove a Buick ... you would never know.”
Just before he died in May of this year, Randele gave a deathbed confession and let his family know his true identity and the crime he committed — and got away with — as a young man 52 years earlier. According to authorities, it happened on July 11, 1969, when Conrad was 20 years old and working as a teller at the Society National Bank in Cleveland. At the end of his shift that day, he walked out with a paper bag containing $215,000 (equivalent to more than $1.6 million today) and was never seen again.
From that point on, Conrad managed to elude capture and stay one step ahead of law enforcement. It wasn’t until after his death that investigators were able to identify him.
In November, when authorities publicly revealed that Randele was actually Conrad, “I was stunned ... absolutely stunned,” said Kelly. “I was just blown away.”
Investigators have since been piecing together how Conrad ended up in Massachusetts and started a new life here, living for decades under a fictitious name.
Peter J. Elliott, the US marshal for Northern Ohio, said it’s unclear how Conrad came up with the name Tom Randele.
“I don’t know where he got that name,” said Elliott in a recent phone interview. “From what I’ve been told, he made up the name.”
Conrad even managed to get a Social Security number under his assumed name. Elliott said that back in the 1960s and ’70s, there were people around Conrad’s age who had never been assigned Social Security numbers, so it wouldn’t have been viewed as particularly unusual.
“It was easy to get Social Security cards in the 1970s,” said Elliott.
Elliott said that on Jan. 6, 1970, Conrad walked into a Social Security Administration office in Boston and said his name was Tom Randele, he lived at 47 Commonwealth Ave. in Boston, and he needed a Social Security number. It was as simple as that.
He also changed his date of birth from July 10, 1949 to July 10, 1947, which made him two years older than he really was.
Using the Social Security number assigned to his new identity, Randele was able to open bank accounts, get a job, and pay taxes.
“He was able to establish his life under Tom Randele, he was able to stabilize,” said Elliott. “He wasn’t questioned because he was able to build up this history, build credit, and build relationships.”
The year before he stole from the bank and went on the lam, Conrad became obsessed with the 1968 film “The Thomas Crown Affair.” The movie starred Steve McQueen as a wealthy executive who orchestrates a bank heist. The film was shot on location in Boston, and included scenes on Boston Common, Beacon Hill, and the North End.
According to the US Marshals Service, Conrad saw “The Thomas Crown Affair” more than a half-dozen times, and bragged to his friends about how easy it would be to take money from the bank and even told them he planned to do so.
Elliott said Conrad modeled himself after Thomas Crown.
Perhaps that’s what brought him to Massachusetts.
Elliott said it’s interesting to note that one of the filming locations of “The Thomas Crown Affair” was the Eben D. Jordan Jr. Mansion at 46 Beacon St., and at one point Randele resided on the same street.
The Boston city directory from 1971 lists Randele’s address as 464 Beacon St., Apartment 5 in the Back Bay — which is only about a mile away.
“‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ was his movie,” said Elliott. “He lived right there, where the movie was filmed.”
After he established his new identity, Conrad continued to elude capture by leading an unassuming life in the suburbs around Boston. He got a Massachusetts driver’s license using a Pembroke address in the early 1970s. He later had an address in Wakefield before eventually settling in Lynnfield with his wife, whom he married in 1982.
It’s not known whether Conrad stayed in touch with family or friends while he was on the lam. But he did contact his girlfriend, who lived in Lakewood, Ohio, soon after he committed the crime, according to Elliott.
Elliott said after Conrad fled, he wrote to his girlfriend and admitted to taking the money and said he regretted it. The letters were postmarked from Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, and “more than likely he was just at the airports in both of those cities,” said Elliott.
When writing to his girlfriend, Conrad referenced that there was a statute of limitations for robbing a bank, and that after waiting a certain number of years, he wouldn’t face criminal charges. But he was mistaken, according to Elliott.
“When he wrote that letter he thought he was being true ... he thought there was a statute of limitations,” said Elliott. “But once you’re indicted, there’s no statute of limitations.”
Once he settled into his new life in Massachusetts, Randele worked as the assistant golf pro and teaching pro at Pembroke Country Club and played on a professional winter tour in Florida in the offseason. Randele eventually became the full-time manager of the Pembroke Country Club.
Kelly was a caddy and worked in the club’s pro shop when he was a student at Silver Lake Regional High School in Kingston.
Kelly said Randele was the only assistant golf pro he knew at that time who sported a full beard, which, in retrospect, perhaps he did on purpose to change his look.
Kelly also remembers hearing vague stories about Randele’s past, about how he was originally from Denver and lost his family in a tragic crash and was now looking to make a fresh start.
Kelly said Randele was a very good golfer and instructor, and was able to teach the fundamentals of the golf swing while telling stories from his time playing on the winter tour in Florida.
“He was quite a storyteller,” said Kelly. “He liked being around people. He was an extrovert, he wasn’t a wallflower.”
Kelly said Randele used to brag about his “‘world-famous” potato salad and how he was going to “make a fortune” off the recipe by marketing it to the masses, and how he’d jokingly threaten that he was going to buy Pembroke Country Club with a briefcase full of cash (”I guess he wasn’t fibbing about that part,” quipped Kelly).
Kelly recalled going to the movies with Randele and other employees of the country club to see “Caddyshack” at the Hanover Mall. “We had a blast,” he said.
Kelly credits Randele as being one of the many golfers who helped him early in his career.
“I guess you could say Tom was one of the many people that lit a fire in me to pursue my dream,” said Kelly.
At the same time, Kelly is now trying to fully grasp the lengths that Randele went to — and the brand new identity he created — just to cover up his criminal past.
“Looking back, it appears now he was playing his own version of ‘Catch Me if You Can,’” said Kelly. “It’s unbelievable. It’s the stuff of movies.”