Feds: Appalachian Trail Hiker Named 'Bismarck' Was White-Collar Fugitive
A man who eluded capture for six years by hiking up and down the Appalachian Trail has pleaded not guilty to embezzling $8.7 million from his former employer.
Hikers from across the country actually got to know the bearded man, known to them as "Bismarck," and photos of him appeared scattered across hikers' social media accounts and blogs.
Some described "Bismarck" as outgoing and said he was often looking to help strangers on the trail.
But many were shocked to learn a few months ago that "Bismarck" was actually a 53-year-old fugitive Lexington, Kentucky, accountant named James Hammes.
The FBI finally caught up with Hammes in May at a small Virginia bed-and-breakfast where he was a regular during his annual hike along the 2,200-mile trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine.
Authorities were alerted after a man who had hiked with Hammes recognized his face on the CNBC corporate crime show "American Greed."
Hammes was Lexington-based controller for the southern division of G&J Pepsi-Cola bottlers. Called by company officials to Cincinnati headquarters in February 2009, he was confronted about missing funds investigators say topped $8.7 million. Authorities say Hammes soon disappeared, leaving behind a wife who would later divorce him and his daughter.
FBI special agent Pamela Matson stated in an affidavit that G&J funds were deposited into an unauthorized account that played off the name of a vendor. Investigators found that Hammes opened the account in 1998, she said. He repeatedly wrote checks to the sham vendor account, then quickly moved the deposits into his own bank account, according to Matson.
Hammes' first wife, Joy, died in a house fire that was ruled accidental in 2003. Hammes was not home at the time, and the deceased woman's family has alleged that he was involved.
The family made their suspicions known on the CNBC show, which was was taped three years ago but has since been rebroadcast many times.
Read more about this story at SB Nation and watch the "Red Eye" gang discuss it above.