Police: $8.7M Embezzlement Suspect Hid on Appalachian Trail

Kentucky man evades recognition for six years
James Hammes (photo courtesy of Butler County Jail)

James Hammes (photo courtesy of Butler County Jail)

A 53-year-old Kentucky man was arrested in May after hiding out on the Appalachian Trail for six years to avoid an $8.7 million embezzlement case.

A hiker recognized the man, James Hammes, from the CNBC crime show “American Greed,” which highlights the “dark side of the American Dream.” The hiker reported the sighting to police.

Hammes was handcuffed and taken from the Virginia bed-and-breakfast where he was staying to an Ohio county jail on May 16.

Hammes is accused of embezzling $8.7 million from his employer, the southern division of G&J Pepsi-Cola, in 2009 – an indictment that came after he had already gone missing. FBI special agent Pamela Matson said in an affidavit that Hammes opened a fake vendor account in 1998 and continually wrote checks to the account. He then transferred the deposits into his own bank account.

Hammes left his daughter and wife, who later divorced him, to hide out along the 2,220-mile trail that spans from Georgia to Maine, where he reportedly took on the trail name “Bismark” and became a familiar face. Many on the trail described him as “gregarious” and even took photos with him. Now heavily bearded, Hammes was able to evade recognition for half a decade.

Hammes pleaded not guilty to charges of wire fraud and money laundering and now sits in a southwest Ohio county jail awaiting trial next month in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.

The FBI says the investigation is ongoing, although authorities haven’t stated what happened to the embezzled money.