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Minnesota's Most Wanted

When law enforcement officials descended on the St. Paul residence of 52-year-old wife, mother, actress, social-justice worker, and alleged terrorist Sara Jane Olson (a.k.a. Kathleen Ann Soliah) two weeks ago, the Twin Cities were abuzz with news of the hotdish-baking, minivan-driving mom accused of conspiring to kill two California police officers back in 1975 while a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army. Olson was apprehended thanks to the popular Fox television show America's Most Wanted, whose mid-May profile of Soliah prompted a flurry of phoned-in tips that led authorities to Olson's ivy-covered Hillcrest Avenue home.

In a stunning development, City Pages has learned that more arrests will almost certainly be making local headlines in the coming weeks and months, if not days.

Though officials have offered no clue as to identity of the tipster or tipsters who stand to collect the U.S. government's $20,000 reward for information leading to Soliah's capture, a confidential FBI source tells City Pages that in the wake of the arrest the bureau's Minneapolis office has been deluged with phone calls from residents asserting that other notorious fugitives are at large in the metro area.

Some of the tips have been investigated and found to be bogus. The majority, however, are being taken seriously. Indeed, as of press time, FBI officials suspect that a half-dozen or more murderers, embezzlers, burglars, and other scalawags wanted by the bureau might be living under assumed identities in the Twin Cities, including suspected Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Although it's not uncommon for a local office of the FBI to be flooded with tips following a high-profile arrest, the current response--and its potential for closing the books on long-unresolved crimes--is unprecedented. "I can tell you that we often see this sort of scenario," says our FBI source, adding that the apprehension of a suspect in the Katie Poirier abduction almost immediately after Soliah's capture undoubtedly fueled the rash of disclosures. "People hear about it and they go to the post office or log on to the World Wide Web and check out our Most Wanted list. And of course, there was Cunanan only a couple of years ago--your average Minneapolis citizen is probably pretty darn aware this type of thing can happen. But I've talked to a lot of the fellows here, and no one's ever seen anything like what we've been getting. Not to this degree."

One expert, who requested anonymity, believes the plethora of tips points to a unique local phenomenon. "This is very exciting news, and it squares with my research," says the expert, a University of Minnesota psychology professor who has applied for federal grant money to delve into what he sees as a disproportionate tendency among locals to be suspicious of their fellow citizens. "It's the flip side of 'Minnesota Nice': As a society, we're outwardly courteous to one another. But we've always got an eye on our neighbor."

Following is an annotated list of the fugitives whose names have cropped up in connection with tips logged by the Minneapolis office of the FBI since Sara Jane Olson's June 16 arrest.

Osama bin Laden

The FBI believes that bin Laden (a.k.a. "The Prince," "The Emir," "The Director," and "The Terrorist Formerly Known as Prince"), who is being sought in connection with the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, may be employed as a baggage handler at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Federal authorities were initially skeptical of this tip, which was first called in by Northwest Airlines spokesman Jon Austin. After subsequent calls and a preliminary investigation, however, the bureau has discounted the possibility that the tip may have been a publicity stunt designed to divert public attention from the recently settled union negotiations involving Northwest's baggage handlers, ticket agents, security guards, and skycaps. The FBI suspects that the exiled Saudi millionaire may indeed have been hired during the pilots' strike that threw the airline temporarily into disarray last fall. As to why it took so long for him to spot the man who heads the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list and whose capture may carry with it a five-million-dollar reward, the Northwest flack is said to have told agents, "Who knew? The guy was enthusiastic. He was efficient. Criminy, he sure knew his way around a luggage rack."

Eleanor Fransen

Fransen, a Canadian national, is wanted for allegedly operating a fake Make-A-Wish-type charity for terminally ill adults in Littleton, Colorado, and diverting at least $65,000 in donations to her private bank accounts from 1987 to 1990. She has also worked as an Amway distributor, and in 1995 made enough sales to earn her way to the multilevel marketing company's annual convention. A Minnesota Reform Party official called the FBI last week to say she had been employed by that organization for a time last year. According to our FBI source, Fransen came to the attention of the party while hawking her self-published booklet, called "Never Pay Taxes Again," during a function at Canterbury Downs. For a brief time before Gov. Jesse Ventura took office, she worked as a personal financial adviser to him, but the two soon parted ways. In fact, Fransen barely avoided capture in April, when Ventura phoned federal agents to complain that he believed she was planning to produce and market counterfeit Mae Schunk Beanie Babies.  

Rafael Resendez-Ramirez

This 38-year-old native of Puebla, Mexico, the current poster boy on the Ten Most Wanted list, has 30 aliases and a penchant for hopping trains. He's also suspected in more than a half-dozen homicides, including the two that won him a spot among the FBI's Top 10 last week: a June 15 double murder in which an 80-year-old man and his 52-year-old daughter were killed in their Illinois home, just 50 yards from a Union Pacific rail line. Resendez-Ramirez's appearance on the list prompted a deluge of tips to the FBI, but the sightings reported by Twin Cities callers--who ostensibly spotted Resendez before, after, and even during the recent slayings--are being discounted, according to our FBI source. "Apparently there's a chef at a Chinese carryout place in St. Paul who looks a lot like him," our source explains. "Most of the callers also complained about the food. One lady said (and I quote), 'He's the owner; you can arrest him there right now. I ate the shrimp subgum and had the runs for a week.' This just happens to be one of those cases where an individual resembles a suspect and also owns a bad restaurant. It happens."

Gloria Louise Schulze

Schulze, a 36-year-old market researcher, is wanted on manslaughter charges stemming from a 1994 hit-and-run that killed 21-year-old Angela Maher. Schulze is thought to have been drunk at the time. The victim, a former president of her high school's chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD), was on her way to pick up a friend who'd called from a bar asking for a ride because she was too intoxicated to drive. Based on tips from Twin Cities callers, authorities have reason to believe Schulze is now working in some capacity for the Hazelden rehab center, possibly as a lobbyist. She apparently developed a friendship with Sen. Paul Wellstone, who applauded her work on his 1996 mental-health parity bill requiring insurers to underwrite the treatment of behavioral disorders in the same way they pay for care for other illnesses. In early 1997 Wellstone asked Schulze to coordinate an intervention on behalf of a campaign worker. The senator told FBI agents he became suspicious that Schulze was not a Minnesota native as she had claimed when she replied that the Longfellow neighborhood activist's drinking was "her own damn business."

Joseph Jesse Espinoza

In 1982 Espinoza escaped from the Arizona federal prison from which he had allegedly hired two hit men to murder a pornographic book dealer. He has been on the lam ever since. A group of Edina High School seniors have told the FBI they remember him asking them for a cigarette this past St. Patrick's Day at the Déjà Vu strip club in the Minneapolis Warehouse District. According to the witnesses, the 55-year-old California native, who sports several distinctive tattoos, was sharing a pitcher of Coke with a group of on-duty officers from the Minneapolis Police Department at the time. "I think the officers were distracted," one of the Edina seniors commented when contacted by City Pages. "I mean, we never would have noticed the guy either, if he hadn't leaned over to bum a smoke. In a place like that, who cares what the guy sitting next to you looks like?" (Asked if the city's finest were aware they were buying pop for a wanted felon, MPD spokeswoman Penny Parrish had no comment.)

Robert Eugene Fairchild

Wanted for defrauding victims of approximately $2.5 million since 1994, Fairchild usually scams his victims by posing as an attorney or tax accountant, then soliciting money for bogus real estate investments. The FBI was about to give up on Fairchild, whose trail has been cold since August of 1997, when a tipster in St. Paul faxed in a photo of a man matching Fairchild's description hanging out with St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman. It seems that over the last few weeks, while Coleman has been out and about pitching community members on his plan to build a new baseball stadium for the Minnesota Twins, the 64-year-old fugitive has been functioning as a kind of consigliere; whispering advice in the mayor's ear, glad-handing bigwigs and working the abacus (according to documents gathered by the FBI, Coleman has recently claimed a pro-sports stadium would be profitable). Authorities are reportedly negotiating with Carl Pohlad, who may wear a wire when the Capital City Partnership, a local coalition of conservative business leaders, lunches with Coleman next month.  

Glen Stewart Godwin

This former mechanic and construction worker was the first convict ever to escape from Folsom State Prison, where he was serving 25 years to life for a drug-related murder in the early 1980s, in which the victim was beaten and stabbed, and his body blown up in the California desert. Two years after his escape, Godwin turned up in a Mexican prison for dealing cocaine. While the U.S. was attempting to get him extradited, he murdered a co-inmate--with the intent, contend FBI officials, of convincing Mexican authorities to block his extradition. If that was his plan, he succeeded. He subsequently broke out of the Mexican prison. The 41-year-old fugitive has been at large since 1991. But last week several Twin Citians called the FBI to report that they'd sighted Godwin at the Stone Arch Festival of the Arts and wanted to collect the $50,000 reward for information leading to his capture. Unfortunately the bureau's dragnet descended too late. "We're pretty sure it was him," our FBI source tells City Pages. "He had a woodcarving booth. Loons and Christmas tree ornaments--Santas, elves, reindeer, all like that."

Peter Young & Justin Samuel

According to the FBI, Young and Samuel "are involved in a group that tries to cause economic damage [to] businesses that use animals for testing and profit. They may also have ties to various animal-rights groups." The pair have been fugitives since October 1997, when they allegedly freed more than 3,600 minks during raids on three farms in Wisconsin. From recent tips logged in the Twin Cities, the following picture has emerged: The men are believed to have begun their lives underground by traveling to Salt Lake City to train as Mormon missionaries and last winter were posted to St. Paul to work with Southeast Asian families in Frogtown. They actually had a brush with local law enforcement when a potential convert--a police cadet from Blaine--spotted them drinking Grain Belt Premiums while working as security during a performance by DJ (and well-known animal-rights advocate) Moby at Edgefest in May. Before the cadet could make his way through the crowd to confront the pair, the two boarded Moby's tour bus and have not been seen since.

Francisco Humberto Iglesias

During his stint as Panamanian consul general in New York, the 55-year-old Iglesias is believed to have used his diplomatic status to smuggle an ancient Peruvian artifact into the United States. The Cuban-born diplomat took flight after his cohorts were arrested during a botched attempt to sell the artifact--a three-pound gold "backflap" worn 2,000 years ago by Mochica Indian warriors in Sipan, Peru, as a protective device to cover their buttocks--to undercover FBI agents. After a brief, undistinguished stint as a personal shopper at Dayton's, Iglesias is believed to have opened up shop as an agent specializing in negotiating retirement packages for management types in the sports world. He is believed to have left the metro area soon after one of his clients, University of Minnesota men's basketball coach Clem Haskins, became embroiled in an academic-fraud investigation.

Donald Eugene Webb

Webb, a 67-year-old jewelry-store burglar from Oklahoma City wanted for the 1980 murder of a small-town Pennsylvania police chief who was shot twice at close range after being brutally bludgeoned with a blunt instrument, holds the distinction of having the longest current tenure on the Ten Most Wanted list: 18 years and counting. Maybe not much longer, however. From tips garnered over the past week, FBI agents have come to believe that Webb has used the Twin Cities as a home base of sorts for more than a decade, working variously as a butcher, car salesman, jeweler, real estate agent, restaurant manager, and vending machine repairman under his real name, Don Perkins. Though the FBI files describe him as a natty dresser who tips big, loves dogs, and is allergic to penicillin, it appears they're wrong on at least one of those counts: In an exclusive interview, longtime Fridley resident Darla Skoglund told City Pages that Perkins was her neighbor in the early Nineties, when he was employed at a now-defunct used-car lot on Lake Street in Minneapolis. "I knew he was a crook," said Skoglund, whose son still has the Chevrolet Nova he bought from Perkins. I'm not at all surprised. He was a mean man. I saw him kick a Shih Tzu once."  

In order to collect information regarding the fugitives described above, and about others who may be wanted by local and national authorities, City Pages has installed a dedicated tip line: (612) 372-3765.

It's no crime to bear in mind that the government often offers substantial rewards in exchange for useful information. As our FBI source explains, "Plenty of people living on pensions could really use the money. Plus it's summer--for young people out of school, it's not a lot of work to study a few pictures and see if any of them look like the guy across the street or the fellow who delivers your pizza, or what-have-you."

But please remember: Many of these ne'er-do-wells are armed and dangerous. If you know anything that might lead to their capture, don't try anything heroic yourself. Call (612) 372-3765 and let us help!

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