James Hammes Facing $8.7M Embezzlement Case Hid on Appalachian Trail

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Cincinnati division of the FBI has announced the capture of a Lexington fugitive who was wanted for an alleged fraud scheme.

According to the FBI, James Hammes, 53, was caught in Damascus, Virginia on Saturday after six years on the run.

Hammes was a former controller for the Lexington division of G&J Pepsi-Cola Bottlers. The Herald-Leader reports that the privately held company manufactures and distributes Pepsi products.

Officials say Hammes disappeared in February of 2009 after they questioned him about embezzlement at G&J. He was indicted on charges of wire fraud and money laundering in 2009 after authorities say he embezzled more than $8,700,000 from 1998 to 2009. The FBI said that Hammes, “was responsible for all financial accounting,” at G&J Pepsi in Lexington. Hammes is accused of depositing the money in fraudulent accounts and then shifting that money to another account that he had signatory control over.

FBI agents arrested Hammes might be in the area of Damascus, Virginia during a hiking festival. They said he was at a bed and breakfast. Susie Montgomery, who runs Montgomery Homestead Inn, said Hammes had stayed there each year since 2010 for the Trail Days festival. She said hikers often go by “trail names” during the festival. She said she only knew him by his trail name, “Bismark”.

“They all come up with these names that have nothing to do with their real self, like somebody might be ‘Tree Trunk’ or ‘Snakebite’,” Montgomery said.

She said she didn’t know much about his past, but said she and all the hikers liked him.

“He’s just a very kind person. The type of guest that I enjoy having to come stay at the inn. The hikers that all knew him all thought very highly of him,” she said.

She said Saturday morning, there was a knock at the front door. She said the men at the door showed her a picture of Hammes and asked if he was staying there.

“I said ‘Who are you all?’ and they said ‘We’re the FBI’,” Montgomery said. She said she led the agents to Hammes’ room.

“I knocked on the door, I said ‘Bismark, are you here?’ and he said, ‘Yes’, I said ‘Well, there’s some guys out here that need to speak with you,’,” she said.

The Washington County, Virginia Sheriff, Fred Newman, said his deputies and US Marshals assisted the FBI. He said Hammes was arrested peacefully. An earlier picture of Hammes shows him clean-shaven with short hair. The picture released since Hammes’ arrest shows him with long hair and a beard. The sheriff said he would have fit in perfectly with the thousands of hikers who come to the small town each year for the festival.

The sheriff wouldn’t say much about where officials thought Hammes might have been for the past few years. Montgomery said she had always been curious.

“I always wondered where he lived when he wasn’t hiking the trail because you can’t hike the trail 365 days a year,” she said.

His case made national news on shows such as, “American Greed” and, “America’s Most Wanted.” An FBI spokesman said he would be returned to Ohio to face a federal indictment.

If Hammes is convicted he could face up to 30 years in prison.

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