Fugitive discovered in Sonoma County after 23 years living under dead child's name
A falsified passport application led authorities to a Sonoma County fugitive living under an assumed identity for more than two decades, federal officials said.
Ronald Victor Solakian, 70, had been on the run since 1995, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. He bailed out of a Southern California jail and disappeared while facing charges of conspiring to import marijuana and possession with intent to distribute, officials said.
Solakian acquired a passport using the name of a 5-year-old child who died in 1953 and then moved to Sonoma County, where he “led a solitary life” for the next 23 years, according to a court filing by his attorney.
He most recently was living on Jeannette Avenue in Graton, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Jail records in Alameda County, where federal prisoners are held, listed an alias for Solakian as Peter Owen MacGaffey. Court documents identified the assumed name only by the initials P.O.G.
In the marijuana case, Solakian was arrested by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officers on suspicion of being part of a group that unloaded more than 7,000 pounds of marijuana from rafts onto a Santa Barbara County beach, according to a 1994 Los Angeles Times story. The pot had been brought to the California coastline on a sailboat from Colombia, officials said at the time.
Solakian, then a resident of Camarillo, was among seven men arrested in a dramatic nighttime scene with about 50 officers lighting the beach with flares and surrounding the suspects, according to the newspaper account.
Solakian was scheduled to start trial in January 1995, but he didn’t show, initially reporting his absence was caused by “weather conditions,” according to a sentencing memo filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Letters from Solakian’s friends and family sent to the judge in the passport fraud case indicate he was involved in Buddhism, meditation and animal welfare causes. They also show he may have tried to turn himself in sometime before 2005 in an attempt to see his mother before she died but then aborted the plan.
Solakian’s whereabouts were unknown until earlier this year when he was booked by federal officers under the name John Doe after his passport application filed in September 2017 came under scrutiny by the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. He first applied for a passport using the name in 1995 and again in 2004 without being detected.
Solakian was sentenced Nov. 2 by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco to 30 months in prison for making a false statement on a passport application and aggravated identity theft. The marijuana case was dismissed in August.
Solakian’s attorney declined to comment.
You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jjpressdem.