For over 35 years, Howard Farley has been on the lam.
The alleged “drug kingpin” of the Southern Line, a railroad line used as a distribution channel for narcotics throughout the United States, was indicted by a Nebraska federal grand jury in 1985 along with 73 others—but was never apprehended.
After searching for the 72-year-old for more than three decades, authorities now say he was hiding in plain sight all along, using the identity of a Florida infant who died in 1955.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida on Thursday announced Farley has been charged with passport fraud after submitting an application using the name, date of birth, and Social Security number of the long-dead baby.
Farley was arrested Wednesday while “attempting to board his private aircraft in the hangar at his home, which he flew using a fraudulent pilot’s license in the name of a deceased individual,” federal prosecutors said in a press release.
“During the execution of a search warrant, authorities recovered a firearm from inside Farley’s home,” authorities added.
According to an October 1985 article in the Lincoln Journal Star, authorities spent three years investigating Farley and dozens of other alleged dealers as part of “Operation Southern Line” in the ’80s. At the time, prosecutors alleged Farley, known by the nickname the “Big H,” began running the drug ring in June 1979, bringing in narcotics, including cocaine and LSD, through Florida before shipping them north.
Farley, who was 37 at the time of his indictment, was ultimately the only individual in the big bust who was not taken into custody. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Farley was suspected of fleeing the country.
But all the while, Farley has been living in the U.S., sharing a home in Weirsdale, Florida, since 2007 with a 56-year-old woman who was born in Vietnam.
While the fictitious name Farley lived under for several decades has yet to be released, a criminal complaint does provide hints as to the infant’s identity. Authorities say Farley stole the identity of an individual with the initials “T.B,” who was born in Lake Worth, Florida, in 1954. T.B. died three months later, in 1955.
Prosecutors say fraud prevention managers at a passport agency finally caught on to Farley’s ruse when they took a closer look at the information provided on his February 2020 passport application. They discovered T.B.’s Social Security information was “registered in 1983,” which is highly unusual for a person born in 1954.
The complaint states that Farley used T.B’s information to obtain a passport on three other occasions: March 1987, October 1998, and October 2008.
“The photographs provided for the passport applications in 2020, 2008, and 1998 bear a strong likeness to each other,” the complaint states. “Based on this, it appears that [Farley] (purporting to be ‘T.B’) applied for and received these passports.”
Investigators say that Farley also obtained a Florida driver’s license in the infant’s name, using the same birthday and Social Security number he provided on his passport applications. Farley used T.B’s identity to secure a pilot’s license in December 2000 and “has applied for renewals or recertification of documents related to his pilot’s license since that time, the most recent being on July 13, 2020,” the complaint states.
The complaint also notes that Farley traveled around the world with the fraudulent passport, including a 2018 trip to Vietnam.
Court records do not indicate whether Farley has an attorney.
As a teen, Farley was also allegedly involved in a drag racing incident in 1965 that spurred a police chase that ended with a woman who was with him accidentally getting shot by authorities, the Journal Star reported. While the woman survived, she later sued Farley for $25,000, claiming he refused to stop his car during the chase despite her pleas. Farley was ultimately fined $25 and sentenced to 30 days in jail for the drag race. He also reportedly had several other brushes with the law, including burglary and car theft.