10 Interesting Facts About the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List

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After celebrating its 60th anniversary a couple of years ago, it appears the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list will reach another milestone in the not-so-distant future: 500 fugitives. So far, 495 people have earned this dubious distinction — from international terrorists like Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and Osama Bin Laden, to serial killers like Ted Bundy and assassins like James Earl Ray. What follows are some little-known facts about the FBI’s program and this well-known assortment of murderers, pedophiles, bank robbers, crime bosses and gang leaders.

10. FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List Debuted in 1950

J. Edgar Hoover was the mastermind behind the FBI's Most Wanted list.

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover launched the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list in 1950.

A reporter once asked the Bureau for a list of the “toughest guys” on the lam. The resulting story went over so well then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover formally launched the “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” program. Thomas James Holden, whose accomplishments included robberies, forging alliances with known mobsters and a prison breakout even before killing three members of his family, was the first to be placed on the list. He was caught in June 1951 — 15 months after his mug shot began circulating.

 

9. 465 Fugitives Have Been Found

The FBI has located or apprehended 465 of the 494 fugitives who have appeared on the Ten Most Wanted list.

Photo credit: FBI

When you factor in how many criminals have been featured, that’s a 94 percent success rate. The FBI was responsible for apprehending a little more than half of those individuals. Another roughly 200 individuals were captured thanks to local, joint or foreign authorities’ efforts. A dozen “most wanteds” were killed in the process of resisting arrest, while 21 got tired of running and surrendered to the authorities. In case you’re wondering, 17 cases were solved as a result of the popular show America’s Most Wanted.

 

8. Longest Time on the List: 27 years and Counting

Victor Manuel Gerena has been on the FBI's Most Wanted List 27 years, longer than any other fugitive.

Victor Manuel Gerena

Victor Manuel Gerena was added to the list in May 1984. He is wanted in connection with robbing $7 million from a West Hartford, Connecticut, security company, only after holding employees at gunpoint and disabling them with an “unknown,” injectable substance. The FBI is offering up to $1 million as a reward for information leading to Gerena’s capture.

 

7. Shortest Time on the List: Two Hours

Billie Austin Bryant was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List only two hours before being captured.

Billie Austin Bryant

Billie Austin Bryant, apparently, wasn’t very good at this “fugitive thing.” On Jan. 8. 1969, Bryant, who had escaped from federal prison, reverted back to what landed him in prison in the first place: robbing banks. By day’s end, Bryant would kill two FBI agents tasked with tracking him down, end up on the Most Wanted List and be caught by authorities two hours after making the list. An alert citizen, who lived in the area where the agents were shot, notified police after hearing strange noises coming from the attic above his apartment. Sure enough, police found Bryant trying desperately to get out of his hiding place after the door jammed.

 

6. Public Tips Have Led to Capture of 153 Fugitives

Public tips have led to the capture of more than 150 FBI fugitives.

Ollie Gene Hembry was captured while working on an FBI agent’s car.

For your reading pleasure, a few of the strangest citizen-assisted captures:
Isaie Aidy Beausoleil: The manager of a north-side Chicago beach alerted park police about a strange “woman” with a husky build, fumbling around in the women’s restroom. That woman turned out to be the very male Beausoleil, who was wanted in connection with the murder of a woman in Michigan. For three weeks, Beausoleil had been posing (not very well) as a female named “Rita” — complete with a halter-style bathing suit, “falsies” and a purse full of makeup.

Chester Lee Davenport: The cattle rustler who escaped from a Texas prison had only been on the list for a day when he was captured — while milking a cow. Turns out, Davenport had been working at a dairy farm since his escape. The veterinarian who alerted authorities spotted the man he knew as “Floyd Tucker” in a local newspaper.

Ollie Gene Embry
: The bank-robbing fugitive didn’t make it two weeks on the list in 1951 before a citizen saw his picture at a post office, and recognized him as a local gas station attendant. Embry was arrested while working on the radiator of none other than the arresting FBI agent’s car.

 

5. Eight Women Have Appeared on the List

Eight women have appeared on the FBI's fugitive list.

Shauntay L. Henderson was one of eight women to make the list.

Ruth Eisemann Schier (along with her male partner) was the first woman to be featured, in 1968, for kidnapping and extortion-related charges. The last, Shauntay L. Henderson, also holds the distinction as being on the list for the shortest amount of time — after Billie Austin Bryant (see No. 7 above). Henderson was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

 

4. Most Common Crime: Murder

James Earl Ray made the FBI’s Most Wanted List after killing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Each decade has seemed to have a different criminal theme. In the 1950s and 1960s, the focus was on robberies, burglaries, kidnappings and sabotage. In the 1970s, the focus changed to organized crime, while sex crimes, drugs and global terrorism dominated in the 1980s and 1990s. Now, white-collar and gang-related crimes, as well as offenses against children, take priority.

 

3. Bin Laden Stayed On The List Almost a Year After His Death

Osama Bin Laden is still on the FBI's top 10 list, despite being killed in 2011.

Osama Bin Laden

For almost a year after his death, this infamous terrorist remained on the Most Wanted list, with the word “deceased” posted over his photo to remind us that he is still dead. Bin Laden, who was killed May 2, 2011, was replaced on the list April 10, 2012 by suspected child pornographer Eric Justin Toth. Meanwhile, James “Whitey” Bulger, the mobster who terrorized Boston for decades, remains on the list, even though he is very much behind bars — having been arrested in 2011 after 16 years on the run. Before you think the FBI isn’t very good at updating its website, the process of adding new fugitives to the list is time-consuming. All 56 field offices may submit nominations, based on the severity and length of a criminal’s record, as well as the perceived benefit of publicizing said person on the list. Ultimately, the short list of fugitives is sent to the FBI Director for final approval.

 

2. Largest Reward: $25 million

The FBI offers cash rewards for information leading to capture of fugitives on its top 10 list.

The FBI typically offers rewards of up to $100,000 for information leading to capture of top 10 fugitives.

The U.S. Rewards for Justice program offered this sum for information leading to the capture of Bin Laden. The largest reward offered for a domestic fugitive is $2 million — for information leading to the arrest of Bulger (see No. 3 above). Typically, the reward is $100,000. The biggest reward currently being offered is $1 million, related to the capture of Victor Manuel Gerena, who has remained on the list longer than any other fugitive.

 

1. Current Fugitives on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List

Nine fugitives on the FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitives List remain at large (for complete information, click on fugitive’s name for the FBI Most Wanted Poster).

Jason Derek Brown


Wanted in connection with the murder and robbery of an armored car guard in 2004, Brown speaks fluent French and enjoys flaunting high-priced vehicles and other “toys.” He is also a frequent traveler and sportsman, with ties to California, Arizona and Utah.

 

Semion Mogilevich


A reputed mob boss, the Ukrainian-born Mogilevich is wanted for allegedly masterminding a stock scheme that swindled investors in a Pennsylvania company out of $150 million. A heavy smoker, Mogilevich stands around 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 290 pounds.

 

Eduardo Ravelo


A known captain with the Barrio Azteca prison gang, Ravelo is accused of issuing orders for hits on behalf of a drug trafficking organization. The Mexican has a facial scar, several tattoos and may have had plastic surgery to change his appearance.

 

Robert William Fisher


In 2001, Fisher allegedly killed his wife and two children before blowing up their house in Arizona. A physically fit outdoorsman, Fisher has a noticeable gold crown on an upper tooth and may walk with an exaggerated gait due to a lower back injury.

 

Victor Manuel Gerena


After allegedly taking two security employees hostage, Gerena is suspected of stealing around $7 million from a company in Connecticut in 1983. Of Puerto Rican descent, Gerena has a 1-inch scar and mole on his shoulder blade.

 

Joe Luis Saenz


Believed to work for a Mexican drug cartel, Saenz is known to always carry a weapon and travel frequently across the border. He is wanted for the alleged murder of two rival gang members and his girlfriend in 1998, and a fourth murder 10 years later.

 

Glen Stewart Godwin


Thought to be involved in narcotics distribution, Godwin’s first prison escape came in 1987, while serving a sentence for murder. He was later arrested for drug trafficking and incarcerated in Guadalajara, where he murdered an inmate and later escaped from prison again. Fluent in Spanish, he may be traveling throughout Central and South America.


Alexis Flores


The Honduran is wanted for allegedly kidnapping and strangling a 5-year-old girl in Pennsylvania in 2000. At 5 feet, 4 inches tall, Flores weighs 130 to 140 pounds and has scars on his forehead and right cheek.

 

Eric Justin Toth

Eric Justin Toth is wanted on suspicion of child pornography.

A former private-school teacher, Toth is wanted for allegedly possessing child pornography in Washington, DC. Toth has often been described as a computer “expert” and has the ability to integrate into various socioeconomic classes. He possesses an educational background conducive to gaining employment in fields having a connection to children. Toth may advertise online as a tutor or male nanny.

 

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Written by

Michelle Leach's love of writing has taken her to Sydney, Australia, London, U.K. and other exotic locations like Grand Island, Neb., and Clio, Mich. She has developed pieces for TV and radio stations, PR departments, newspapers and magazines. A graduate of Northwestern University and Lake Forest College (also in Illinois) she enjoys running marathons and likes to say when not writing, she’s running — but she tries not to mix the two activities.