Fugitive Kingpin Caught in Florida After 35 Years

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Howard Farley Jr., 72, has been a fugitive drug trafficking suspect on the run since 1985. He was accused of running a transcontinental cocaine network. Farley had virtually been a ghost. Authorities could never locate him.

Sting at a Funeral

In October 2009 Farley’s brother passed away. Investigators had staked out the eastern Nebraska Lincoln Memorial Funeral Home in hopes of capturing Farley. He never showed.

Duaine Bullock, a former commander of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Narcotics Unit said, “He did a good job of disappearing.”

Passport Fraud Finally Brought Him Down

11 years later in Weirsdale, Florida, new investigators descended on a home that belonged to Timothy Brown. Brown was wanted for passport fraud. It wasn’t until after the arrest that authorities discovered that the suspect;s real name was Howard Farley Jr.

He had been using the false name that was taken from the identity of a baby that died in the 1950s. Farley was charged with passport fraud, but not for the 1985 drug indictment. He had outrun his original charges–something that is rarely done.

Original Charges Dropped

There are mixed feelings about the 1985 charges that have been dropped. Depending on who you ask, whether it’s people who knew Farley or people who knew him as Brown, there are strong opinions. Farley’s ex-wife believes it is a travesty that he’s not going to do prison time for the drug indictment. She also noted that the incident led to two co-defendants to commit suicide, who had agreed to cooperate against Farley.

Christine Schleis, who was married to Farley in the late 1960’s says, “So many sad outcomes have come about due to Howard’s drug sales.”

Others that new Farley in his second life were shocked to hear of his past. They held him at a high standard and believed the government should have a light sentence on an elderly man with no violent offenses.

Biggest Indictment Ever in Nebraska

This was the largest drug indictment in the history of Nebraska. Nearly 73 people were charged, except Farley. The sting was called Operation Southern Line. While investigators searched for Farley, the cases against the 73 co-defendants moved forward. Farley was described as being a “kingpin” and used the railroad system to distribute cocaine throughout the US.

Farley had been using the Brown name since the mid 80’s. He met his current wife, Duc Hanh Thi Vu, around the same time on the Caribbean island of St. Martin. The two were later married in Florida in 1993. Vu’s lawyer would later argue that she knew Farley did change his name, but did not know he was a fugitive.

Farley and Vu were charged with passport fraud. Farley had used Brown’s social security to renew his 2020 passport and driver’s license. Passport fraud-prevention staffers became suspicious when they found Timothy Brown’s death record. Farley was arrested on December 4th. He was charged with passport fraud and various other counts that included, aggravated identity theft and social security fraud.

Farley’s drug indictment was dismissed in 2014. The prosecutor of the case was retiring and a decision about the “age of the evidence” was made. Now Farley is facing a maximum of 30 years in prison.