Real Name: John C. Fairbanks
Aliases: No Known Aliases
Wanted For: Fraud, Embezzlement
Missing Since: December 28, 1989
Details: John Fairbanks was a judge in Newport, New Hampshire who also ran a successful law firm, specializing in probate law. Fairbanks was well-liked and known for being honest. A respected pillar of the society, he handled many of the money affairs of his clients. He also helped widows of his clients, dealing with their affairs.
Fairbanks had been helping Newport resident Patricia Sawyer since 1958. He had helped her settle her husband's estate. He also helped with her income taxes. In August 1987, she turned over stock certificates to him, so he could inventory her holdings. Also, he told her that he would help with her will. However, every time she would call about it, he would say that he was unable to work on it.
On October 19, 1987, Black Monday occurred on Wall Street. Fairbanks tried to not panic, but according to his clerk, he seemed concerned about how the stock market crash may affect his clients. Within a month, Patricia came to see him, asking why she was not receiving dividend checks. He claimed that her stocks had lost value due to the crash, and that he was turning the checks back in so that the stocks would not lose value.
John Tweedy was another client who had made Fairbanks legal guardian for his brother Richard, who suffered from schizophrenia and lived in a mental institution. In November 1988, John met with Fairbanks to discuss concerns about his brother's holdings. He asked Fairbanks about his brother's estate, but he seemed to avoid answering.
John was suspicious, so he began his own investigation. He discovered that Fairbanks had sold stock and under-reported what he had received for dividends. He found at least $20,000 was missing. John contacted the police and reported Fairbanks. Investigators discovered that he owned several large and expensive homes, which seemed suspicious for the amount of money he made.
On June 6, 1989, Fairbanks resigned from the bench and retreated to his summer home in Maine. When John Tweedy's charges were made public, other clients came forward with their suspicions. Patricia Sawyer, for example, discovered that Fairbanks had placed her stocks into stock brokerage firms even though she had not given him authority to do so. In total, she lost $500,000.
Investigators believe that Fairbanks had stolen so much money from various clients that he had completely cleaned out their accounts. It is believed that he had stolen over $10 million in a twenty-year period. When investigators spoke to him in Maine, he attempted to set up a meeting with them. However, he never showed up in Newport at the scheduled time.
On December 28, 1989, Fairbanks was indicted on four counts of theft. The indictments listed more than one-hundred checks written by Fairbanks. These checks transferred money from clients' accounts to his personal accounts. The next day, his pickup truck was found near his Maine home. He has not been seen since.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the October 9, 1991 episode.
Results: Solved. In March 1994, after over 4 years on the run, Fairbanks' body was discovered lying dead in a Las Vegas hotel as a result of suicide by asphyxiation, but no trace of the stolen money has ever been found. It is believed that he committed suicide because he noticed one of the investigators from his case at the hotel's casino.
Fairbanks had been hiding out in luxurious condo complexes in and around Quebec City from 1991 to early 1994 under the assumed name "Richard Mansfield," telling people that he was a retired history professor who had taught in Ottawa and Boston. Police doubt they will ever find the money he stole. They believe that Fairbanks spent all his clients' money before he took his own life.
- In Re Fairbanks (1991)
- Judge wanted in $2 million theft found dead in Las Vegas
- Former judge commits suicide
- Fugitive Judge is Found Dead in Vegas Hotel
- Questions Remain in Fugitive Judge Case, Including ‘Where is the Money?’
- Small-town Scandal Still Casts Long, Dark Shadow
- Scandalous Judge's Legacy Won't Die