Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Trials of Christian Longo

New Persona

Michael Finkel
Michael Finkel

At some point, he decided to adopt the persona of Michael Finkel, a discredited journalist, formerly of The New York Times. He says he crafted the persona not because he thought police were looking for him, but because he didn't want to talk about himself. Longo had long admired Finkel's work; the journalist wasn't too famous, nor was he too obscure. Longo kept a notebook, told people in Tulum that he was researching Mayan ruins for a New York Times travel feature, and hooked up with a female photographer from Germany. Handsome, charming, charismatic Chris spun a dream of a successful photographer and journalist traveling the world together, and instantly, he had a whole new life, complete with girlfriend. No debts. No pressure. No problems. He told her he was divorced; that he had no children. She was thrilled at her luck.

He began to believe that if he could fool his girlfriend into believing he was a real journalist, if he could fool their friends, perhaps he could fool an editor.

Christian Longo, Wanted poster
Christian Longo, Wanted poster

On January 11, Longo was added to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. The following day, "America's Most Wanted" television show aired a segment on him. John Walsh, series host, said, "He's very, very charming. He's very, very smart. He's very calculating. He's really, really good at disappearing."

America's Most Wanted
America's Most Wanted

The Canadian woman who had met Chris in Cancun saw the publicity, went to the FBI Web site, recognized Chris' photo, and called the FBI. Two FBI agents stationed in the Mexico City office went to Cancun, talked with local police and interviewed guests who may have come in contact with the fugitive. They printed posters with his photograph and circulated them on the Caribbean side of the Yucatan peninsula.

Meanwhile, in Tulum, Chris was living the life of the unburdened. He was drinking beer, smoking marijuana, snorkeling, dancing in a disco and sharing a rustic beach cabana with his new girlfriend. Those who met him saw him as a funny, articulate guy who seemed to come from money. He made friends easily, and he and his girlfriend were obviously in love.

Nobody had a clue as to his true nature.

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