Air Force officer who vanished in 1983 found using fake ID

Leroy Wright
June 13, 2018

An Air Force officer with top security clearance who disappeared in New Mexico 35 years ago has been found in California after using a false name for decades, authorities said.

"On June 6, 2018, Air Force Office of Special Investigations Detachment 303 Special Agents at Travis Air Force Base, California, apprehended Air Force fugitive Captain William Howard Hughes, at his California residence without incident", the Air Force announced.

Hughes, who had top-secret clearance when he was in the Air Force, worked on classified North Atlantic Treaty Organisation systems, the AFOSI says.

Hughes was last seen the New Mexico area withdrawing $28,500 from 19 separate banks.

Hughes said he became depressed in the Air Force, created the fictitious identity and has been living in California ever since, according to an Air Force press release. If convicted, the officer could face reduction in rank, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, confinement in a military prison for up to five years and a dishonorable discharge, reports. He officially went missing in August of that year.

Last week, nearly 35 years since he vanished, Hughes has been discovered in California, where he has spent the last three decades under an assumed name.

Linda Card, spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, told the Albuquerque Journal that at this stage, investigators have had "no indication that he had any classified information or that he gave any classified information".

U.S. deserters can face a number of charges once they are found, including prison time, being dishonourably discharged and losing pay.

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A high ranking Air Force officer who had gone missing 35 years ago, was apprehended by officials in California.

Hughes was unmarried at the time, but had three sisters.

Hughes, now 66, deserted after a brief assignment in the Netherlands where he worked with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers.

The news of Hughes' disappearance made headlines the following year, with a front-page Albuquerque Journal announcing "Kirtland Launches Search for Officer Missing 5 Months" on January 17, 1984.

His vehicle was found at the Albuquerque airport and a search of his home in the 1900 block of Chandelle Loop NE revealed notes of planned activities and books to read upon his return, according to reports. Hughes's Cold War-era disappearance prompted concerns and theories that the Air Force officer had been abducted by the Soviet Union or had defected to the USSR.

There was even speculation that Hughes may have been abducted by or defected to the Soviets.

Checks with law enforcement around the US and overseas, alongside interviews with those who knew Hughes, did not provide enough information for the Air Force to find him at the time.

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