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Flashy Cars, Cash Alert Police : Town's Mystery Man Unmasked as Fugitive

May 28, 1988|J. MICHAEL KENNEDY | Times Staff Writer

FRIENDSWOOD, Tex. — Richard Finley and his wife, Roxy, drove to the police station in the Alfa Romeo. The Ferrari was in the shop.

The police had asked them to come in because Roxy had called the day before to report a neighborhood disturbance. Roxy was no stranger to the police. She called often to complain when children on dirt bikes went screaming up the trail behind their house. And if the police did not respond fast enough, she would take it to the City Council. Roxy was like that. She got involved.

Then there was Richard. Tall, blond, handsome. He was the kind who taught the neighbor kid how to throw and catch a baseball and had the time to do it. He didn't work because, he said, he had already made his fortune in investment banking. Pressure never got to Richard; he was an ice man, friends said.

Seemed Minor Incident

At the station, the Finleys were ushered into a detective's office. Still, there seemed nothing to worry about. They were there, after all, to follow up on Roxy's call.

"Mr. Hadley, would you have a seat please," said one of the men in the office. He was FBI agent Terrence Kettler.

"What's this all about?" asked Roxy, turning to her husband.

Kettler held up an FBI wanted poster. The picture on it was of Richard Glenn Finley, the Friendswood resident who drove an Alfa and a Ferrari and didn't work. The name on the poster was Steven R. Hadley, late of Waterloo, Iowa, and wanted for the embezzlement of more than $1 million.

Five years earlier, Steven Hadley had disappeared, leaving behind a wife and three children in Waterloo. The police say Hadley is the man who walked out of the John Deere Community Credit Union, where he was a manager, with $1,136,000 in two cardboard boxes.

Roxy, upset and confused, was led from the room.

"She knows nothing about this," said Hadley after the door clicked shut.

The story of Steven Hadley, alias Richard Glenn Finley, has its share of twists. He is accused of committing one of the most celebrated crimes in Waterloo history, yet he had such an ingratiating personality that dozens of friends have taken up his cause and raised more than $6,000 for his defense.

Church Raised $50,000

His parents' church in the tiny Quaker farming village of New Providence, Iowa, raised $50,000 for Hadley's bail, only to have bail denied by a Houston judge.

It is as if Hadley were two people, one the scoundrel who deserted his family, the other a man who endeared himself to those who met him.

The police in Friendswood, a Houston bedroom community only a few miles from the Johnson Space Center, knew for years that the man they called Finley must have done something wrong. After all, they reasoned, no one pays cash for a $70,000 house, a $61,000 Ferrari and a $30,000 Alfa unless there is some shadiness involved. Real people pay in installments. Real people don't have cars that are worth more than the house.

Yet there he was, never stepping out of line, never giving them a clue about his past. Meanwhile, his wife was becoming increasingly active and vocal in community affairs--hardly the low profile a crook would keep. The whole business was a real stumper.

Finally, there was the freaky solution to the mystery of Richard G. Finley. It came like falling dominoes: a television program that prompted the mailing of a wanted poster that, quite by accident, landed on the desk of the police lieutenant who for years had been searching for Finley's true identity. In the end, it was pure, dumb luck that landed Hadley after five years on the run.

Steven Hadley's life had all the markings of Midwestern average before the day in July, 1983, when he disappeared. He grew up on a farm near New Providence, about 50 miles southwest of Waterloo and attended the University of Northern Iowa in nearby Cedar Falls. He married his first wife, Kathryn, and soon the first of three children was on the way. In 1973, he began working at the John Deere credit union and, over the next 10 years, worked his way up to become a branch office manager. But in mid-July of 1983, he returned to the main office to fill in for a vacationing worker.

In the ensuing weeks, investigators would find that Hadley had ordered the delivery of an extra $911,000 from area banks, an event that at the time attracted little attention. The credit union, Iowa's largest, often needed large sums on Friday payroll days.

Workers would remember that Hadley spent some time in the vault on July 21 and that he carried two large cardboard boxes from the credit union.

Later, a car rented to Hadley was found in the Waterloo airport parking lot. Police found two $10,000 currency wrappers, four of Hadley's identification cards, 18 keys on a ring and a suitcase with his initials on it.

Lost Trail in L.A.

Investigators would learn that Hadley had purchased two matching suitcases for $49.97 each, as well as a chestnut brown wig. They would trace his steps from Waterloo to Chicago to Los Angeles under the name of Robert J. Johnson before losing the trail.

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