An Alexandria man who has assumed several identities over the last several years and eluded local and federal authorities since 1975 was found this week in California running a gold mine. He was arrested by the FBI on Wednesday while attempting to escape.
James Francis Sheker Jr., who was arrested on a fugitive warrant on a fraud charge in Prince William County, was running the Washington gold mine near Redding, Calif., the FBI reported. Sheker was "tipped off" somehow to his impending arrest on Monday in Redding and fled 100 miles to Yreka where his car was spotted in a motel lot by Yreka patrolman Rick Riggins, police there said.
The FBI said Oklahoma authorities also are interested in questioning Sheker because he is suspected of having "assumed" at different times in 1975, the identity of Michael Carr Speer III, a Washington man. Speer, who has a doctorate from Stanford and was a former researcher at the National Academy of Sciences here, disappeared when on a job interview in Oklahoma in 1975 and has not been seen or heard from since. Speer legally changed his name to Farlan Speer in 1973.
About the time of Speer's disappearance, a man calling himself Michael Carr Speer III, who did not fit Farlan Speer's description, began to approach oil and utility companies in Oklahoma with investment opportunities, using Speer's Social Security number and references.
The FBI said Sheker was using the name of Dean Dalles Rust at the time of his arrest. According to Shasta County authorities, the gold mine was owned by Wiscal Corp., in which Sheker owned the majority of stock.
Shasta District Attorney Robert W. Baker said Sheker is being investigated in connection with an alleged fraudulent timber sale on land owned by Wiscal. Baker charged that timber rights on the land were sold to one company but were not recorded in court records and then were sold again. He said the operations of the mine are not under investigation.
Sheker is charged in Prince William County with fraud in connection with allegedly obtaining money for services as a civil engineer while using an engineering certification number belonging to that of a retired engineer, police have charged.
There is no indication that Sheker was ever certified as a civil engineer, although he supervised construction of roads and water lines in the Dumfries area as a civil engineer while employed by the Montclair Development Co., according to Washington police.
In an interview with a reported last summer, Paul Speer, Farlan Speer's father, said that he had hired a private investigator to try to locate his son. That investigator, Robert Cunningham, said at the time he had interviewed the second man claiming to be Michael Carr Speer III and his wife.
Cunningham said that he traced the couple's car registration to that of a man named James D. Francis Sheker. Two hours after the interview the couple moved without leaving a forwarding address, Cunningham said.
Friends of Speer say that after winding up his work for the National Academy of Science in mid-1975 he found a job opportunity advertised in a local newspaper. Speer told friends that details of the job could not be divulged but that he would be making $50,000 tax free in a mining job outside of the country. Speer told friends he was chosen for the job and was required to fly to Oklahoma to be briefed.
Since he left he has not been seen nor heard from again.