The FBI has finally found convicted murderer George Wright in Portugal, 41 years after he escaped a New Jersey prison where he was serving time for the 1962 murder of a World War II veteran. Wright and two others stole the warden’s car (!) in 1970 and ran to Atlantic City before joining the Black Liberation Army (!!) in Detroit. There he worked as a model (!!!) before hijacking a flight to Miami “dressed as a priest, with a gun hidden in the cut-out pages of a Bible.” Hold on a second, you might be saying to yourself, this is too much. But here’s the good part:
Agents were forced to wear bathing suits to deliver a suitcase of cash to Wright and his fellow hijackers on a Miami runway. The hijackers wanted to be sure they weren’t carrying weapons.
The $1 million Wright and his co-conspirators demanded was the largest ransom of its kind at the time. The crime took place in an era when hijackings were more common (see also: D.B. Cooper, who demanded just $200,000) and not long after, scanners were installed in every U.S. airport.
Wright and his crew took the plane to Algeria, where another hijacked plane full of Black Panthers had previously joined the fugitive Eldridge Cleaver, who was himself fleeing bail in California. The U.S. government saw to it that Algerian officials seized the money and kept Wright’s team from Cleaver, but the hijackers spoke to the media and then proceeded to Paris, where a few were caught.
Wright somehow made it to Portugal, where he’s now being held without bail at the age of 68, the FBI announced today, in collaboration with the United States Marshals Service and New Jersey Department of Corrections. The U.S. is now seeking to have Wright extradited to serve the remainder of his sentence. “This case should also serve notice that the FBI’s determination in pursuing subjects will not diminish over time or distance,” said the FBI in a statement.
Take a bow, Mr. Wright, and then go directly to jail.
Fugitive NJ Hijacker Caught Overseas After 41 Years on the Run [NBC NY]
Man who escaped from N.J. prison 41 years ago is captured in Portugal [NJ Star-Ledger]