Real Name: Melvine Matthews Aprile
Aliases: Brenda Ann Richards
Wanted For: Theft, Fraud, Forgery, Abduction
Missing Since: January 18, 1989
Details: Melvine Aprile is wanted for theft, fraud, forgery, and kidnapping. She and her husband, Jimmy, met while both were students at the University of South Florida. He was from a wealthy family while she was from a poor background. They married in 1971 and had two children, Tony and Sheri. Jimmy worked in real estate, buying apartment complexes and undeveloped land. Over a few years, he amassed over 100 different properties. At one point, his assets were worth $4.5 million.
Although Jimmy was rich in material goods, he was poor in health. At the age of thirty-two, he weighed 428 pounds. His weight, coupled with chronic phlebitis, led to a cardiac arrest in December 1981. He was in a coma for three days and spent a month in the hospital. Melvine was almost always at his side. In late December, he was finally able to go home. However, he was virtually an invalid and doctors believed that any serious stress could kill him.
As a result of Jimmy's condition, he was unable to oversee his business affairs. As a result, Melvine handled every aspect of the business. He became detached from his day-to-day operations. As time passed, he even refused to take phone calls. In 1986, with his health still poor, he finally decided to lose the weight that was slowly killing him. He began a crash diet and lost 209 pounds in six months.
In 1988, Melvine convinced Jimmy to sell their home in Tampa and move to Carmel, California, where Tony could live better with his asthma. She continued to oversee Jimmy's real estate business and was forced to commute cross country, spending four days a week in Tampa. In early January 1989, Jimmy realized that he had not seen a bank statement for months. He asked Melvine to show him the most recent one. When he saw it, he noticed that the accounts were mis-numbered. It also appeared that it had been tampered with. Melvine told him that she would take care of it.
Two weeks later, at around 9pm on January 18, 1989, Jimmy and a friend came back from church to find his house empty, along with his bank accounts. Melvine left behind a note, which said: Jimmy - The children and I are fine. We're spending some time together to make up for the times I was away. We haven't been abducted and I'm not having an affair. It's just the children and me getting reacquainted. We love you, Mel.
At approximately 11pm, Jimmy decided to start searching for his family. He and his friend searched the surrounding neighborhoods. At a phone booth, he called home. However, they did not answer. As he left the phone booth, he encountered a police officer who arrested him. Earlier, the police had received an anonymous tip about a stolen car identical to hos. When they spotted him, they assumed that he was the thief. A few minutes later, he was released.
Police found Melvine's car at the airport. There was a long-term parking ticket on the window and a $10 bill inside. At first, Jimmy believed that they had been abducted. He feared that the kidnappers would use Melvine to steal money from their accounts. He called the banks to freeze them, only to learn that there was no money left. Melvine had stolen $2 million from him, closed his accounts, and abducted Tony and Sheri. He now believes that she called in the fake tip to police in order to buy more time for herself.
As a result of losing his money, Jimmy had to move back to Florida and live with his parents. Once a millionaire, his fortune had been reduced to just $386. As time passed, the details and extent of Melvine's theft began to emerge. By taking out second mortgages on his real estate, she had managed to convert his assets into untraceable cash. This allowed the banks to foreclose and then confiscate the properties.
Melvine also convinced bank employees to accept her signature on documents instead of Jimmy's by having someone pose as him on the phone. She also had a friend impersonate him and sign deeds at the bank so that she could take the equity out of pieces of property. They went so far as to get the friend a fake ID, identifying him as "Jimmy Aprile".
Investigators believe that Melvine may have duped a private investigator into falsifying documents in order to facilitate her escape. She allegedly told him that Jimmy was in organized crime and that she had to disappear without a trace or else she'd be killed. She paid $12,000 to have the documents prepared so she could disappear. In order to successfully vanish, she had to change Tony and Sheri's identities as well.
In Melvine's last meeting with the investigator, they set up a house in a new location. They also had furniture and the school picked out for Tony and Sheri. During the meeting, they also discussed what she planned to tell them. They decided that she would either tell them that Jimmy had died and she was too upset to stay for the funeral, or that he had gone crazy and was a danger to them.
In August, prosecutors filed twenty-seven charges, including grand theft and forgery, against Melvine. She, Tony, and Sheri have not been seen in almost a year.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the January 3, 1990 episode.
Results: Captured. In March 1990, authorities determined that Melvine, Tony, and Sheri were living in Costa Rica under assumed names. Melvine became aware that she was being sought so she fled with Tom and Sheri into the mountains. One week later, she was located and arrested. Tony and Sheri were found safe; they were reunited with Jimmy soon afterward.
Melvine was returned to Florida where she faced twenty-seven charges, including grand theft and forgery. On September 20, she was convicted of twenty charges. She was sentenced to five years in prison and twenty years probation. She has since been released. Authorities were never able to recover any of the money that she stole. However, she was ordered to make restitution.
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