Fugitive finds escape in prison

Richard Mangone
Richard Mangone

The name Richard Mangone may not be very recognizable today but in the 1980s it was synonymous with big-time fraud and runaway greed. It also ended up on the Federal most-wanted list in America.

Richard was the co-founder of a credit union in the US. The business was a huge success and he parlayed the profits into lucrative real estate deals and the stock market. So far so good. Everything was above board until he started using the business as a cover to obtain fraudulent loans.

In 1991, his illegal dealings were uncovered and he was convicted of conspiracy, bank fraud and money laundering. By the time the dust settled and the final figures were revealed, the bill for the insurance alone was $40 million. The cost in terms of lives wrecked and families destroyed was much higher.

Before this, Richard had been living the kind of life others could only dream of. He had everything money could buy - a massive mansion, millions of dollars' worth of property, a private plane, and the most expensive cars. Yet, he admits that something was wrong. "I was out of control. Even with all that wealth I was still empty inside, always looking for the next score. Money had become my god."

This was a very different way to how Richard was brought up. He was one of eight children born to immigrant parents in East Boston. He tells Christianity Today: "I never realized how poor my family was. My Dad died of lung cancer when I was nine so my mom supported us children working in a candy factory and earning $1.10 an hour."

Around the time his crimes caught up with him, Richard suffered a tragic loss. "My son, Douglas, died in an accident while driving the BMW I gave him. He was only 21.

"So I made a momentous decision: to run away. Four days before my court hearing, I kissed my wife goodbye, taped 13 packets of $100 bills around my body, and cut the probation office electronic bracelet off my ankle."

Paying for everything in cash and hiding behind a new identity kept authorities off Richard's trail for over a year. But when the money ran out, spent on partying and gambling, he felt that he had no other option than suicide.

"I decided I would kill myself by guzzling a bottle of wine, falling asleep, and piping carbon monoxide gas into my sealed SUV," he says. "I felt trapped like a roach in a corner."

That night, as Richard got ready to die, he stumbled upon an evangelist speaking about Jesus Christ on TV. He talked about Jesus' death on the cross. The message caught Richard's attention and he listened to the story of how Jesus had come to earth to save everyone, including Richard, from their sins.

"I placed my hands on the TV set and cried," he remembers with a smile. "I asked Jesus to forgive me for all my sins and receive me as His child. I felt a great weight lifting from my shoulders."

Richard had never heard about Jesus before and didn't know anything about the Bible. He wanted to know more so he went to a Christian bookstore and bought a Bible. "For months, I devoured the Bible while hiding out in a trailer. But I could not rouse the willpower to surrender. I visited my wife and daughter, poised to turn myself in. It didn't happen."

Eventually, Richard confessed his fugitive status to a priest who called the authorities. In November, 1995, 51-year-old Richard was escorted into a federal prison after years of dodging the police. He was sentenced to 24 years without parole which was, at the time, the longest sentence ever given for a white-collar crime in his state.

While in prison, Richard sought out a prison chaplain. He helped to answer Richard's many questions about Jesus. "My faith strengthened slowly because the Lord needed to get rid of the junk inside me. I still had issues."

Busted cover

Richard was very passionate about his new-found faith. "I immersed myself in the task of studying Scripture, attending every chapel service and memorizing 2,000 Bible verses. I completed 39 prison-ministry courses."

Tragically, Richard's wife and his mother both died while he was doing time and he was unable to say goodbye. He says, "I was given the strength to grow in my faith and never give up. God's Word gave me hope that I would not end up dying behind bars."

In September 2013, Richard was finally released.

"My story is a redemption story really. What remains of my life is dedicated to the Lord's work. I'm at peace now, enjoying helping others."

Since his release six years ago, Richard has remarried and has a good relationship with his daughter. He is a counselor and prison minister, helping ex-offenders readjust to life on the outside.

"As I reflect back, I can see how a dollar sign sat on the throne of my heart for many years. But Jesus sits on that throne today. Each day, as I am guided by God, I am continually reminded it is Christ who rules and not me.

<< Changing racist hearts
Christianity could be debunked by history >>