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Most Wanted Fugitive Linked To Oregon Commune

October 14, 1985

SEATTLE (AP) _ Authorities say a man who was one of the U.S. government’s most-wanted fugitives until his arrest in Canada is a follower of an Oregon-based Indian guru, but the guru’s spokeswoman says the group never heard of him.

Robert Franklin Black, 44, was captured Saturday in Vancouver, British Columbia, on U.S. cocaine and currency smuggling charges, according to Vancouver police and the U.S. Marshals Service. He was being held pending an extradition hearing Tuesday.

A Marshals Service spokeswoman said Sunday authorities had found a link between Black and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, leader of Rajneeshpuram, a commune- city in central Oregon.

″We believe Black is a member of that group (followers of Rajneesh),″ said Joyce McDonald of the agency in McLean, Va. on Sunday. ″Other than that, all I can say is the investigation is continuing.″

A commune spokeswoman, Ma Prem Isabel, said the group did not know of Black and that he never lived at the commune, The Oregonian, a Portland, Ore., newspaper, reported in a copyright story today.

Inspector Dennis Behrend of the Marshals Service in Seattle said he believed Black has lived in the Vancouver area for three years. Vancouver authorities listed Chicago as his hometown.

Outstanding charges against Black include passport fraud, cocaine smuggling, currency smuggling and drug conspiracy, the service said.

The agency said he ″has been involved in international drug smuggling since the late 1960s.″

Black also figured in a federal inquiry of an alleged conspiracy to distribute large amounts of cocaine from Alaska to California, Lawrence LaDage, special agent in charge of the Customs Service in Portland, told The Oregonian.

A warrant for Black was issued in May 1984 after he posted bond on a currency smuggling charge but failed to appear in court, said Bob Christman of the marshals service in Seattle.

At that time he was placed on the marshals’ Top 15 list of fugitives.

Black used at least two aliases, including Brian Lloyd Fordham and Michael Masters, and three birthdates, marshals said.

In coordination with Black’s arrest, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Saturday arrested a woman identified as Black’s former wife, Katherine Gail Davenport, 33, in Whistler, British Columbia, north of Vancouver, the marshals said.

She is wanted in Seattle on a federal drug conspiracy charge and had also been a fugitive on other drug-related charges since 1975, marshals said.

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