Ashley Randele enjoyed a particularly close relationship with her late father, who treated his only child more like a confidante than a daughter.
“I think he would tell me things because he either thought that I could handle it better than my mom or that I just have this terrible gift of being able to compartmentalize things and put it on a shelf and tuck it away,” Randele said recently of her father, a man she knew as car salesman Tom Randele.
“Maybe he would give her 10% of the story and then I might get 30% but I would definitely get more than she did,” she told podcast “Smoke Screen: My Fugitive Dad,” in an episode that dropped Monday.
But even with that level of trust in his daughter, she said Tom Randele waited until his dying days to reveal a shocking truth: that he wasn’t Tom Randele but Ted Conrad, who pulled off one of the nation’s greatest unsolved bank heists.
Before dying of lung cancer in May 2021, he admitted to his daughter that he’d been using the fake birthdate of July 10, 1947, when he was really Conrad, born July 10, 1949.
Conrad was 71 at the time of his death.
“He said, ‘If I tell you, you have to promise you will not look into it. I don’t want you looking into anything. I don’t want you telling anybody,’” the daughter said on the podcast.
Conrad was working as a vault teller at Society National Bank in Cleveland when he nonchalantly went home from work on Friday, July 11, 1969, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
It wouldn’t be until Monday morning when bank managers realized $215,000 — about $1.8 million in today’s value — was missing, as was Conrad, the marshals service said.
He departed Cleveland with the cash and started a new, fake life, leaving behind all of his friends and family.
As bold as the crime was, those closest to Conrad said his heist wasn’t a total shock because the 20-year-old had been fascinated by the 1968 classic movie “The Thomas Crown Affair.”
Conrad was taken by Steve McQueen’s character, Thomas Crown, who pulls off an elaborate Boston bank heist, simply for the sport of it.
Conrad would openly talk about how easy it’d be to get away with money from his bank, according to friends on the podcast.
“There hasn’t been a day gone by that I didn’t think about him,” high school best friend Russell Metcalf told the podcast. “Because I mean it’s been 52 years and I still kept thinking I was going to run into him or I would see him or I would talk to him.”
Metcalf and Conrad had dinner and lunch in the days leading up to the heist. They were supposed to play golf on that Saturday, July 12, but Metcalf, who worked a bank near his friend’s, didn’t panic when he knocked on Conrad’s apartment door to no answer.
By the following Monday, word quickly spread in the Cleveland banking community that $215,000 was missing — and so was Conrad. Metcalf told the podcast he was called into the office of his bank’s attorney.
“There are two guys in suits sitting at his desk and I looked at them, and I still don’t know why I did it, I said, ‘You must be with the FBI, how much did he get?'” Metcalf said he joked, without realizing this wasn’t a laughing matter and that his friend had just vanished with a small fortune.
“They said, ‘Well, we can’t discuss that but do you happen to know where Ted is?’ ”
Conrad would assume a new identity and live in of Lynnfield, Massachusetts, where Ashley Randele knew him as a doting father who was partial to double-pleated khaki pants and golf shirts.
“I thought I knew my dad,” she told the podcast, “but that was before I found out he’d been a fugitive for decades.”
Ashley Randele said she still struggles to believe her dad was some kind of master criminal.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “He was always so relaxed and easy going. I would have never guessed how many secrets he had.”