Flashy Cars, Cash Alert Police : Town's Mystery Man Unmasked as Fugitive

Times Staff Writer

Richard Finley and his wife, Roxy, drove to the police station in the Alfa Romeo. The Ferrari was in the shop.

The police had asked them to come in because Roxy had called the day before to report a neighborhood disturbance. Roxy was no stranger to the police. She called often to complain when children on dirt bikes went screaming up the trail behind their house. And if the police did not respond fast enough, she would take it to the City Council. Roxy was like that. She got involved.

Then there was Richard. Tall, blond, handsome. He was the kind who taught the neighbor kid how to throw and catch a baseball and had the time to do it. He didn't work because, he said, he had already made his fortune in investment banking. Pressure never got to Richard; he was an ice man, friends said.

Seemed Minor Incident

At the station, the Finleys were ushered into a detective's office. Still, there seemed nothing to worry about. They were there, after all, to follow up on Roxy's call.

"Mr. Hadley, would you have a seat please," said one of the men in the office. He was FBI agent Terrence Kettler.

"What's this all about?" asked Roxy, turning to her husband.

Kettler held up an FBI wanted poster. The picture on it was of Richard Glenn Finley, the Friendswood resident who drove an Alfa and a Ferrari and didn't work. The name on the poster was Steven R. Hadley, late of Waterloo, Iowa, and wanted for the embezzlement of more than $1 million.

Five years earlier, Steven Hadley had disappeared, leaving behind a wife and three children in Waterloo. The police say Hadley is the man who walked out of the John Deere Community Credit Union, where he was a manager, with $1,136,000 in two cardboard boxes.

Roxy, upset and confused, was led from the room.

"She knows nothing about this," said Hadley after the door clicked shut.

The story of Steven Hadley, alias Richard Glenn Finley, has its share of twists. He is accused of committing one of the most celebrated crimes in Waterloo history, yet he had such an ingratiating personality that dozens of friends have taken up his cause and raised more than $6,000 for his defense.

Church Raised $50,000

His parents' church in the tiny Quaker farming village of New Providence, Iowa, raised $50,000 for Hadley's bail, only to have bail denied by a Houston judge.

It is as if Hadley were two people, one the scoundrel who deserted his family, the other a man who endeared himself to those who met him.

The police in Friendswood, a Houston bedroom community only a few miles from the Johnson Space Center, knew for years that the man they called Finley must have done something wrong. After all, they reasoned, no one pays cash for a $70,000 house, a $61,000 Ferrari and a $30,000 Alfa unless there is some shadiness involved. Real people pay in installments. Real people don't have cars that are worth more than the house.

Yet there he was, never stepping out of line, never giving them a clue about his past. Meanwhile, his wife was becoming increasingly active and vocal in community affairs--hardly the low profile a crook would keep. The whole business was a real stumper.

Finally, there was the freaky solution to the mystery of Richard G. Finley. It came like falling dominoes: a television program that prompted the mailing of a wanted poster that, quite by accident, landed on the desk of the police lieutenant who for years had been searching for Finley's true identity. In the end, it was pure, dumb luck that landed Hadley after five years on the run.

Steven Hadley's life had all the markings of Midwestern average before the day in July, 1983, when he disappeared. He grew up on a farm near New Providence, about 50 miles southwest of Waterloo and attended the University of Northern Iowa in nearby Cedar Falls. He married his first wife, Kathryn, and soon the first of three children was on the way. In 1973, he began working at the John Deere credit union and, over the next 10 years, worked his way up to become a branch office manager. But in mid-July of 1983, he returned to the main office to fill in for a vacationing worker.

In the ensuing weeks, investigators would find that Hadley had ordered the delivery of an extra $911,000 from area banks, an event that at the time attracted little attention. The credit union, Iowa's largest, often needed large sums on Friday payroll days.

Workers would remember that Hadley spent some time in the vault on July 21 and that he carried two large cardboard boxes from the credit union.

Later, a car rented to Hadley was found in the Waterloo airport parking lot. Police found two $10,000 currency wrappers, four of Hadley's identification cards, 18 keys on a ring and a suitcase with his initials on it.

Lost Trail in L.A.

Investigators would learn that Hadley had purchased two matching suitcases for $49.97 each, as well as a chestnut brown wig. They would trace his steps from Waterloo to Chicago to Los Angeles under the name of Robert J. Johnson before losing the trail.

But the first siren of a crime came in a telephone call by Hadley to his wife on the day he boarded the Midstate Airlines flight to Chicago. He told her to look for a letter in the dresser drawer.

The letter read: "This is a very difficult letter to write, but I couldn't let you find out from someone else. If I call you to read this letter it means that I had successfully left the state with around $1 million from the credit union."

Steven Hadley, upstanding citizen, was no more. His life as a different person, a man on the run, had begun.

In the fall of 1983, a man named Richard Finley called the Aero-Academy at Houston's Hobby Airport and asked about flying lessons. Lenny Marks, one of the owners, took the call and checked his schedule. One of his instructors, Roxy Ann Alden, had an opening. Alden--coincidentally, as it turned out--had grown up in a small Iowa farming town.

When Finley came to the school, he told Alden and Marks that he was from Minnesota, the first of the lies that would eventually entangle him. Alden, meanwhile, was quite taken with her new student and soon they began dating. In April, 1984, the two were married. Finley had been living in an apartment, but the couple bought a house in Friendswood, which had been founded as a Quaker community. Finley paid $70,000 cash, another item that would later arouse the curiosity of the local police.

Soon after the newlyweds moved into their new neighborhood, Friendswood patrolman Halleck Rose was cruising down Oxnard Street when he saw the red Ferrari. The car didn't fit the neighborhood. It was just too flashy for a part of the small city where people drove Pontiacs and pickups. So Rose ran a make on the car, which turned up one interesting fact: there was no lien on the $61,000 auto. It was paid for.

Who Was This Guy?

Rose dropped that little tidbit on one of his superiors, Lt. Gary Edwards, who made a note of it. Just for the heck of it, he made a quick check of the home sale transaction. The house, too, was paid for. Edwards was hooked. Who was this guy with the fancy car who paid cash for his house? Was he into drugs? Was he a terrorist plant? Why had he picked Friendswood, of all places, to live? He must have done something illegal. But what?

Those questions would haunt Edwards for four more years. He would spend countless hours on and off duty trying to track down Richard Finley. He had someone he knew was guilty of something. But he had no idea what it was.

Edwards would later call this his first "reverse investigation."

And so the chase began, but only the hunters knew that it was going on. Back in Iowa, the phone would ring occasionally at the home of Hadley's parents or the home of his former wife, who divorced him four months after he fled the state. Hadley would be on the other end, but he would never tell them where he was living. Presents would arrive in the mail for the children. As time went on, the calls and the presents became less frequent. Kathryn had her number changed. Each time Hadley did call, his parents and former wife dutifully reported it to the FBI, as they had been instructed.

In Texas, Edwards began looking for a paper trail that would lead him to the identity of Richard Finley. He had some success, if only coming up with discrepancies that made him even more suspicious, more sure that Finley was hiding something.

Three Birthplaces Listed

When he learned Finley had a pilot's license, he suspected drugs all the more. He noted that Finley gave Eldora, Iowa, as his place of birth on the pilot's license. Finley's marriage license, meanwhile, listed Minneapolis as his birthplace. A third document, Finley's driver's license, said he was born in Houston.

Edwards checked with the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics, which found the name Richard Glenn Finley in its files. The boy was born in 1948, but had died two days later. Edwards figured then that his man had pulled the scam of using a dead person's birth certificate to start a new identity. With a birth certificate, he could get a driver's license. With a driver's license, he could get a Social Security card. With all of those, he could get a passport. Edwards knew that Richard Glenn Finley had been created on Aug. 23, 1983.

Some days Edwards and other members of the Friendswood police would work the case. Sometimes, weeks would go by without anyone opening the folder.

"The case was our lowest priority because we had no offense," Edwards said. There were times, though, when the desire to find out the truth about Finley led the Friendswood police to try all manner of tactics.

There was the period when police officers disguised themselves as trash collectors and spent hours sifting through the Finley garbage for some clue about him. When they were finished, they routinely dumped the refuse in a park dumpster. One day a woman called Roxy and told her to stop dumping her garbage at the park. Roxy told her she was out of her mind.

Followed Garbage Truck

On the next collection day, Roxy was armed with a video camera, ready to film whoever was hauling the garbage away. While the trash collection appeared normal, both Roxy and Richard followed the garbage truck. When they rounded a corner, they saw a man digging through their trash bags.

Roxy jumped out of the car to confront the man in front of her. Strangely, Richard drove away, leaving his wife alone. When the policeman was forced to identify himself, Roxy asked if either she or her husband were under investigation. He said no, then hemmed and hawed his way out of Roxy's angry questions.

The police scrambled for a cover story to circulate through the neighborhood. The most ready one was that the man who used to live next door to the Finleys was wanted for embezzlement. They were going through the trash in hopes the man might have sent the Finleys a letter, telling them of his whereabouts.

The darndest thing about that story, said Edwards, is that it was true. At one point, two people wanted for embezzlement were living side by side.

Even more amazing, he said, was that Finley didn't cut and run right there. Edwards held his breath and the house was staked out for the next 48 hours.

Secure in New Identity

"He was so secure in his new identity that he didn't think we could penetrate it," Edwards said.

Then one day, Kyle Johnson made a call to the Friendswood Police Department. An investigator with the Department of Public Safety, Johnson had known Edwards for years. As luck would have it, he had been assigned the case of one Richard Finley. The DPS narcotics division had kept a file on Finley ever since he bought the Ferrari with cash, but the investigation had never really turned up anything. What do you know about this Richard Finley, Johnson asked Edwards. Come on over and I'll tell you about him, Edwards said.

Johnson became one more law officer who was hooked on the man with the red Ferrari and, by then, the Alfa. Before it was over, they would be joined by the FBI, U.S. Customs and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Wendy Bailey, a producer for the series "Unsolved Mysteries," doesn't remember who first gave her the tip that the Waterloo embezzlement might be a good story for the syndicated NBC feature, another in a growing number of true crime shows. The best she can remember is that it was an editor at a newspaper somewhere in the Midwest.

She does remember that the editor didn't recall the city where the crime took place; somewhere in Iowa he told her. So she got to work on the phone--finding out that it was Waterloo and other details. As it took shape, the case was obviously a good one for the show.

In February, a camera crew began shooting in Waterloo, using an actor to depict how Hadley had allegedly stuffed the boxes full of $100, $50 and $20 bills. One of the consultants on the case was FBI agent Dennis Muehlstedt. It occurred to him that a wanted flyer might be timely, what with the show to be aired in early May. And so he requested that one be sent to every law enforcement agency in the country.

Considered Arrest

In Friendswood, Edwards and another policeman on the case, Mike Tollett, were going through their periodic grousing about the case, wondering whether they should pick up Finley on fake driver's license charges just to see if anything would shake loose. As usual, they discarded the idea. That was Saturday, April 23.

On the following Monday, Edwards picked up the mail and opened one of the envelopes because he couldn't tell how he should route it by looking at the return address. The wanted poster stared back at him. It was the smiling face of Richard Finley.

"I knew in an instant, in the first millisecond, that it was Richard Glenn Finley," Edwards said. "I called my captain and said, 'I know who Richard Glenn Finley is.' "

The arrest came that afternoon and the events since then have sped by quickly. Hadley's Houston lawyer, Robert Sussman, recounted the scene at the county jail when he was reunited with his parents, two brothers and sister. Hadley put his hand through the small opening in the visiting room barrier. Five hands reached out and held his for the time they were together.

"I cried, everybody cried," Sussman said.

Visits Fugitive in Jail

Warren Sprung, whose family was close to the Finleys, brought his daughter for a visit at the jail.

"So, what's happening?" she asked in a moment of awkward silence. Hadley broke out laughing.

Sprung talked about how the man he knew as Richard Finley had supported him when he quit smoking. Last Christmas, his family, along with Roxy and Richard, spent the day giving out food to the homeless.

"In the last four years, I have never seen him lose his temper or raise his voice," Sprung said.

Johnson, the DPS officer, was there when Hadley was arrested. He claims that Hadley sheepishly admitted to him that he initially stashed half of the money in a storage locker and the other half in his apartment. Johnson also is straightforward about the police work involved.

Role of Police

"His eventual capture had nothing to do with brilliant police work," Johnson said.

At a Houston hearing, Kettler, the FBI agent, said that Hadley had funneled the stolen money through a dummy Panamanian corporation. He said much of it could be recovered.

Sprung started the defense fund. Members of the congregation at the Honey Creek-New Providence Friends Church in Iowa raised the $50,000 that would be used as bail money.

"They (the congregation) wanted to show they think he has a future," said the Rev. Gene Maynard. Members of the church also sent telegrams, introduced in court, that said they would be responsible for Hadley's turning up in court.

"It's wonderful and very comforting to feel the love and support from the community," said Hadley's mother, Thelma.

Man Who Haunted Him

Neither Hadley nor Roxy are talking about the case yet. Edwards would like to sit down and talk to him, just to find out more about the man who haunted him for so many years.

Hadley is now in Iowa, where he pleaded not guilty last week to the charges against him, although his lawyer has acknowledged that there is no question Hadley and Finley are one and the same person. He faces a total of 45 years in prison if convicted of all state and federal charges against him.

The $50,000 in bond money raised by the New Providence church won't be needed. Bond was denied, after Assistant U.S. Atty. Bob Teig argued that Hadley would probably go on the run again.

Sprung hopes it doesn't come to long years in prison. And Lenny Marks feels a sense of loss.

"You've got to realize we lost something," he said. "We lost a good friend--at least for the time being."

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