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Captured fugitive stole identity of dead Sonoma County child


A Windsor man who lived on the lam for nearly a decade with the assumed name he took from a child who died in a River Road car crash 52 years ago has been sentenced to state prison.

Richard Monroe, 57, began living as Ricky Waller in 2004 after he was convicted of defrauding two former girlfriends and, facing additional charges for bilking others, skipped town with a new identity.

"He always said, 'Tomorrow I'm going to go turn myself in,'" said Monroe's attorney, Richard Scott.

He never did.

Monroe lived in Canada and Texas for about five years, surviving on credit cards and some consulting work in telemarketing, before returning to Sonoma County.

At the time of his arrest, he was living within a mile of the family business, Shook and Waller Construction, run by the real Waller's family.

"We were most surprised that that activity had gone on so close to where we live and work without someone that we knew crossing paths with him," said Eddie Waller of Santa Rosa, who was 7 years old when his little brother Ricky died in the crash.

The deceit did not catch up with Monroe until January, when two agents with the U.S. State Department diplomatic security bureau investigating his passport application showed up at the Windsor home he shared with a longtime girlfriend. Monroe admitted to using the child's identity, and the agents contacted Windsor police, court records show.

Monroe admitted he was not Ricky Waller, ending a sham that his attorney said left him fraught with anxiety about the lies.

Last week, Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite sentenced Monroe to 15 years and 4 months in prison on 21 criminal counts, including financial fraud, prescription fraud, burglary and perjury for lying about his identity on the passport application. Monroe will serve his time, which will end up being five years in custody and about three years on probation, at the Sonoma County Jail.

"He used the name and date of birth and identity of a deceased child to perpetrate fraud; it causes me to pause," Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Scott Jamar said.

Ricky Waller was two months shy of his second birthday in 1961 when he died in a car crash on River Road in Guerneville, Sonoma County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor Bill Rousseau said.

Ricky Waller was not the first deceased child whose identity was used by Monroe. He previously acquired two California driver's licenses under the names Thomas Truette and Robert Lucas, which he used at different times between 2000 and 2003. Investigators were unable to locate living family members.

Monroe's criminal troubles in Sonoma County began in 2002 when a girlfriend he'd met online became suspicious that she'd never see a return on a $5,000 investment she made with him and contacted Santa Rosa police, according to a probation report.

Monroe had spent 24 years as a financial adviser and at the time was self-employed, running a company called Canyon Capital Management.

Monroe apparently spent weeks persuading the woman to invest in a company called Gyration he said was going to merge with Lockheed Martin, boosting the stock's worth from about $2 a share to as much as $12, the report said.

Monroe showed her documents purporting to be his correspondence with a shareholder and a company representative. But the individuals were fictitious and the merger rumor without merit, police said.

Santa Rosa police learned that Monroe was dating another woman at the same time and had offered her a similar investment deal. She paid him $2,500.

"He was basically a con man. He would befriend people and say he'd give them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Jamar said.

Monroe admitted in court that during this time he was abusing alcohol and cocaine. He was spending time in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where he persuaded two friends to invest with him, as well.

"He figured he would make the money back and give it back to them eventually," Scott, his attorney, said. "These were friends of his, but he was at the point you can get in your life based on drugs and alcohol."

In 2002, Monroe was convicted of grand theft and obtaining money under false pretenses for the cases involving his former girlfriends.

He was out on probation, working as a shoe salesman in San Francisco and facing charges relating to bilking two men he met in Mexico, when in 2004 he decided to run, fearing a stiff prison term, according to a letter Monroe wrote to the judge.

"I knew every day that I was on the run that it was wrong, but the idea of facing all that time in prison .<th>.<th>. was unimaginable to me," he said in a handwritten letter to the judge.

Local investigators found no trace of Monroe until this year.

"Every time he used that fake identity, every time he went into a doctor's office, every time he went to buy eyeglasses — that's another crime," Scott said.