My dad’s shocking deathbed confession: He was wanted by the FBI for a bank heist

My dad’s shocking deathbed confession: He was wanted by the FBI for a bank heist

robber

It was just another night in the living room of a suburban Boston home in 2021.

Thirty-five-year-old Ashley Randele, along with her parents Tom and Kathy, was watching an episode of “NCIS.”

Tom laid on the couch, which had become his domain following a recent lung cancer diagnosis.

Doctors had told the 71-year-old he was probably six weeks away from death.

“When I moved here, I had to change my name,” he said mid-show, as casually as if asking his daughter to pass the remote control. “And the authorities are probably still looking for me.”

Stunned, his family absorbed the news and didn’t say anything at first.

“Part of me took this as dad humor. The authorities?” Ashley, now 38, told The Post. “I sat with it for a day. Then I realized that, if he is not Tom Randele, I am not Ashley Randele. I told my dad that he has to tell me his real name. He said he would tell me as long as I promised to not look into it.”

Ashley Randele was shocked to learn her father had pulled off a bank burglary and was living under an assumed name.

She agreed.

“After a long pause, he told me his name was Ted Conrad,” said Ashley, who couldn’t keep the promise. “That night, at 2:30, I googled Ted Conrad.”

What she found shocked her.

In 1969, a 20-year-old college dropout by the name of Ted Conrad was working as the vault teller for Society National Bank in Cleveland, Ohio.

On Friday, July 11, he left his job with a paper bag that contained a bottle of freshly purchased whiskey.

Poking out of the top was a carton of cigarettes.

Ted Conrad before he robbed a bank, went on the lam and began living under an assumed name. Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Below the cigarettes: $219,000 in stolen money — the equivalent of $1.8 million today — taken from the bank’s vault.

That night, Conrad taxied to the airport and caught a flight to Washington, DC.

By Monday morning, his bosses at the bank had discovered the emptied vault and were in panic mode.

The FBI was called in.

Conrad became a wanted man and front-page news.

“I went down the rabbit hole of articles and was shocked,” said Ashley, cohost of the new podcast “Smoke Screen: My Fugitive Dad,” which premieres Monday (the full season can be accessed by by subscribing to GetTheBinge.com). “I said out loud to my empty room, ‘My god, my life is a Lifetime movie.’”

The life of Ted Conrad, aka Tom Randele, and his relationship with daughter Ashley, is the subject of a new podcast.

The next day, Ashley told her father she’d broken her promise, adding, “The fact that you took this money does not make me love you less.”

Then she told her mom.

“For 10 minutes straight, she kept saying, ‘Oh, my god,’” Ashley recalled.

Ted Conrad’s remarkable saga began with him repeatedly watching the 1968 Steve McQueen bank heist movie “The Thomas Crown Affair.”

Then, apparently, he started thinking about his own situation as a bank employee.

“Ted would talk about how lax the bank security was,” Russ Metcalf, a boyhood friend, recalls in the podcast. “He said he didn’t get fingerprinted. He worked in a vault with $2 [million] to $3 million in it. He thought it was cool that [McQueen’s character] could pull off a bank heist and never get caught.”

Steve McQueen starred in “The Thomas Crown Affair,” the heist movie that supposedly inspired Ted Conrad to rob the bank where he worked. Courtesy Everett Collection

Conrad even told his then-girlfriend that he was thinking about robbing the bank. She failed to take him seriously.

After he stole the money, FBI agents and US Marshal John Elliott intensely investigated the crime.

There was speculation that Conrad had escaped to France. A tourist in Hawaii reported spotting him, but that was a false lead.

Family members posited that he stole for the mafia and was murdered.

In truth, Conrad settled in Boston, moved into a luxurious penthouse apartment and adopted the name Thomas Randele.

There is speculation that he took the first name of McQueen’s iconic character from the movie and that the last name was inspired by a lesser known character, Josh Randall, played by the actor in the TV series “Wanted Dead or Alive.”

Ashley Randele with father Tom — sporting a beard that altered the look he sported prior to the bank heist. Courtesy of Ashley Randele

He finagled a social security card and driver’s license under the new name, keeping his same date of birth but changing the year from 1949 to 1947.

Handsome and charismatic, the newly minted and freshly bearded Tom Randele landed a job as a car salesman and became a scratch golfer.

He attributed his wealth to an insurance settlement that came from his parents and twin brother having perished in a fiery automobile crash (in fact, his family was still alive and unaware of his situation).

Tom met his wife, Kathy, through a mutual friend, and later had Ashley, their only child.

They briefly moved to Florida where Tom played on a mini tour — sort of a PGA minor league — while working at a car lot.

The man known as Tom Randele was a scratch golfer who might have made it in the PGA. Courtesy of Ashley Randele

“He told me he did not pursue [turning pro] because he did not want to travel the country,” said Ashley. “But he could not have been a professional golfer because of the exposure it would have brought him.”

By all accounts, the bank burglary is the one and only crime pulled off by her dad, whom she described as an ideal family man and top-notch father.

Ashley believes that his motivation went beyond the “Thomas Crown Affair” obsession.

“It wasn’t about the money,” she said. “He wanted to start over and leave behind his life. Options were running out.”

Conrad’s parents had divorced when he was teenager.

His father, a college professor, moved to New Hampshire and taught at New England College.

Ashley Randele with her father, the man she knew as Tom Randele. Courtesy of Ashley Randele

His mother remarried and remained in Ohio. His siblings lived their own lives.

“Talking to my dad and talking to his [then] girlfriend, he did not have a loving [family],” said Ashley. “His stepdad resented raising someone else’s kid. Not a day went by when he did not tell my dad that he was good for nothing.”

Young Conrad moved to New Hampshire and attended the college where his biological father, who had remarried, taught. “Within a semester his father’s wife said she did not want him around. Maybe it was a different time,” Ashley said. “But it’s heartbreaking. He wanted to restart. And wouldn’t it be easier to restart your life with money?”

As for where all the money went, Ashley believes that it was blown on ritzy digs and at least one bad investment.

US Marshal Pete Elliott is the son of a US marshal who was obsessed with Ted Conrad. AP

Funds in the family became tight enough that she once loaned her folks $10,000. In 2014, they filed for bankruptcy.

Tom Randele, né Ted Conrad, died in May 2021.

Soon after, a true-crime writer in Cleveland saw his obituary, recognized the man she knew of as Ted Conrad and forwarded her hunch to Pete Elliott — the son of the US Marshal who had originally investigated the case.

“All he did was talk about Conrad,” Pete, now a US Marshal himself, says in the podcast of his dad, John. “It was his lifelong mission … But nobody ever came close [to catching Conrad].”

After his dad’s death in 2021, Pete maintained an interest in the case.

“It was a crime of convenience,” Ashley Randele said of her dad. Courtesy of Ashley Randele

“Pete came to our house in November 2021,” said Ashley. “I was terrified. But the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘You are not in trouble.’ He asked a lot of questions. There was no one to arrest. But there were things to learn.”

Now, she added, “Pete is the person I rely on. I talked to Pete three days ago. He checked on my mom once a week for a while. He never said to me, ‘Your father was a bad person.’”

And Ashley holds nothing against her dad.

“It was a crime of convenience. If he was not working in a bank, he would not have robbed a bank,” she said. “He always told me that if you are going to do something, you should do it right the first time. And he did.”

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Michael Kaplan

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