You Can't Teach an Old Thief New Tricks

From Times Wire Services

An elderly man whom prosecutors called "an interesting guy but an irredeemable crook" was facing yet another prison term Wednesday for his latest arrest in a criminal career stretching back to the years before World War I.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Charles Boag said Ronnie Winston Fairbanks, 88, who has been arrested at least 137 times and used more than 80 aliases during a long life of petty crime, was arrested again on suspicion of shoplifting June 10 at a Robinson's department store in downtown Los Angeles, where a store security agent said he had stuffed $174 worth of women's earrings in his shirt and a duffel bag.

Boag said Fairbanks has a 37-page "rap sheet" dating back to a juvenile arrest in 1914 and was on probation at the time of his arrest for a June, 1986, incident in which police at Los Angeles International Airport found him in possession of two stolen suitcases.

"He was warned by the judge then that if he violated parole, he would go to state prison for two years," Boag said. "I feel sorry for the guy, but what can you do--he just won't stop stealing."

Fairbanks, whose colorful list of aliases includes the name "Ivanhoe Boggle," told police after his airport arrest that he had spent 35 years in prison. He carried 10 Social Security cards, each bearing a different identity, and his arrest sheet showed arrests and convictions in at least 10 states--though none for a crime more serious than theft.

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