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Man Accused of Faking Own Death Reported Caught In Texas

January 31, 1989

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) _ A former clothing store chain owner who faked his own death in a $1.5 million insurance scam was apprehended Monday after a nationwide manhunt, authorities said.

An attorney for the arrested man denied his client is Melvin Hanson, a co- founder of Just Sweats, a Columbus, Ohio,-based athletic clothing store chain, who has been a fugitive since mid-1988.

Columbus police detective James Lanfear said the man U.S. Customs Service officials arrested at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was Hanson traveling under an alias. The detective said it is believed that Hanson was returning from a visit to a plastic surgeon in Acapulco, Mexico.

The lawyer, Danny Burns, said his client is Wolfgang Eugene von Snowden, as indicated on the passport he was carrying.

″We are going to say they have the wrong person,″ said Burns, adding, ″We are trying to block extradition to Ohio and get the bond lowered.″

The arrested man was charged with theft by fraud on a warrant from Ohio. U.S. Magistrate Gene Grant set bond at $5 million, and the man was jailed.

Burns said his client told him that he was living in St. Petersburg, Fla., last April, when Hanson was reported to have died.

Hanson, 47, and his business partner, John B. Hawkins, 25, have been wanted by police since they discovered that Hawkins had disappeared and the body believed to be Hanson’s was proved b Hanson and Hawkins also are accused of stealing about $2 million from Just Sweats, which they founded in 1985. Just Sweats has filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of U.S. bankruptcy laws.

Glendale, Calif., police have said they are investigating as a homicide the death of a man whose body Hawkins claimed from a doctor’s office and had cremated on April 17.

Police later discovered that the corpse’s thumbprint did not match the print on the back of Hanson’s California driver’s license. The body was later identified as Ellis H. Greene, a former Ohioan who lived in California.

After authorities began questioning the identity of the body, Hawkins fled in July without collecting $500,000 from two other insurance companies, authorities said.

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