Ten Most Wished Fugitives FAQ

The following contains current and historical information for internal and outer distribution. This information is based on FBI records and is updated by the Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit, Office of Public Affairs.

The FBI’s “Ten Most Wished Fugitives” list has been in existence since March 14, 1950. A reporter for the International News Service (the predecessor to United Press International) asked the Bureau for the names and descriptions of the “harshest guys” the Bureau would like to capture. The resulting story generated so much publicity and had so much appeal that late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover implemented the “Ten Most Wished Fugitives” program. The very first person to be placed on the list was Thomas James Holden, dreamed for the murder of his wifey, her brother, and her stepbrother.

Since its inception, five hundred fourteen fugitives have been on the “Top Ten” list, and four hundred eighty three have been apprehended or located. Some interesting facts about the program are: 

    • 161 fugitives have been captured/located as a result of citizen cooperation.
    • Two fugitives were apprehended as a result of visitors on an FBI tour.
    • The shortest amount of time spent on the “Top Ten” list was two hours, by Billy Austin Bryant in 1969.
    • The longest amount of time spent on the “Top Ten” list was over thirty two years by Victor Manuel Gerena.
    • Nine fugitives were arrested prior to publication and release, but are still considered as officially on the list.
    • The oldest person to be placed on the list is 77-year-old William Bradford Bishop, Jr., who was added in April of 2014.

    This program relies intensely on the assistance of citizens and the media. Publicity from coast to coast and around the world is significant.

    Frequently Asked Questions  

    What is the purpose of the FBI’s “Ten Most Dreamed Fugitives” Program?

    The “Top Ten” is a publicity program founded by the FBI in March of one thousand nine hundred fifty in conjunction with the nation’s news media. It is designed to publicize particularly dangerous fugitives who might not otherwise merit nationwide attention. The FBI recognizes the need for public assistance in tracking fugitives. One hundred and sixty-one of the “Top Ten” apprehensions have been the result of citizen recognition of “Top Ten” fugitive publicity.

    How many fugitives have been captured due to public assistance?

    One hundred and sixty-one of the “Ten Most Desired Fugitives” have been apprehended due to public assistance.

    When was the Program began?

    It was founded on March 14, 1950, by the FBI in association with the nation’s news media.

    Who actually determines which fugitives go on the list?

    The Criminal Investigative Division (CID) at FBI Headquarters calls upon all fifty six Field Offices to submit candidates for the FBI’s “Ten Most Dreamed Fugitives” list. The nominees received are reviewed by Special Agents in the CID and the Office of Public Affairs. The selection of the “proposed” candidate(s) is then forwarded to FBI Executive Management for final approval.

    On what criteria is that decision made?

    Very first, the individual must have a lengthy record of committing serious crimes and/or be considered a particularly dangerous menace to society due to current criminal charges.

    2nd, it must be believed that the nationwide publicity afforded by the program can be of assistance in apprehending the fugitive, who, in turn, should not already be legendary due to other publicity.

    Are members of the “Ten Most Desired Fugitives” list ranked?

    When are fugitives liquidated from the list?

    “Ten Most Wished Fugitives” are only eliminated from the list when they meet one of the following conditions:

    Very first, they are captured.

    2nd, the federal process pending against the individual is dismissed–this is not an FBI decision.

    Third, they no longer fit “Ten Most Wished Fugitives” criteria.

    In the nine cases where fugitives were liquidated for the third reason, it was determined that each fugitive was no longer considered to be a “particularly dangerous menace to society.” When a fugitive is liquidated from the list, another is added to take his or her place.

    How many women have been on the “Ten Most Desired Fugitives” list?

    Ten. The very first, Ruth Eisemann-Schier, was added in one thousand nine hundred sixty eight for kidnapping, extortion, and other crimes.

    Has the makeup of the fugitives on the “Ten Most Desired Fugitives” list switched over the years?

    Most undoubtedly, just as the priorities of the FBI have switched. Through the 1950s, the list was primarily comprised of bank robbers, burglars, and car thieves. Once into the radical 1960s, the list reflected the revolutionaries of the times with destruction of Government property, sabotage, and kidnapping predominant the list. During the 1970s, with the FBI’s concentration on organized crime and terrorism, the “Ten Most Desired Fugitives” included many fugitives with organized crime ties or links to terrorist groups. In the 1980s and 1990s, the list included sexual predators, international terrorists, and drug traffickers. This emphasis, along with crimes against children, white dog collar crime, and gang violence, resumes today.

    How many fugitives have been on the list?

    As of August 26, 2017, there have been five hundred fourteen fugitives on the “Ten Most Desired Fugitives” list. Four hundred and eighty three individuals appearing on the list have been located, one hundred sixty one of them as a direct result of citizen cooperation.

    Has the publicity generated by the program switched over the years?

    Just as the composition of the list of “Top Ten” fugitives has switched over the years, the media outlets available for publicizing these fugitives have also switched. Traditionally, newspapers and magazines captured the attention of the domestic reader with profiles and photographs of America’s fugitives. Nine of the very first twenty “Top Tenners” were arrested due to citizen cooperation, including the very very first “Top Tenner,” Thomas Holden, who was arrested after a citizen recognized his photograph in an Oregon newspaper. Today, editors and news directors want the local angle, which is not always present in a “Top Ten” story. Therefore, the program relies strongly on publicity from coast to coast. “Top Ten” fugitives have been apprehended in every state except Alaska, Maine, and Delaware.

    Presently, the FBI is also using television and radio to attract public attention to the “Top Ten” list. Networks are airing television programs on FBI fugitives, and ABC Radio Network broadcasts the weekly series “FBI, This Week.” As a result of the very first scene of “America’s Most Desired,” David James Roberts was captured. To date, seventeen “Top Ten” fugitives have been located as a direct result of tips provided by viewers of this program.

    In addition to television and radio, the FBI has begun to use cyberspace to inform the public. Postings on the FBI’s Internet website, www.fbi.gov, have led to the apprehension of two of the FBI’s “Ten Most Dreamed Fugitives.”

    How many “special additions” have been made to the “Top Ten”?

    Ramzi Ahmed Yousef made the thirteenth fugitive to become a “special addition.” The very first “special addition” was Richard Laurence Marquette who was desired for murder. The 2nd was James Earl Ray, wished for the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Are there prizes suggested for “Top Ten” fugitives?

    At a minimum, a prize of up to $100,000 is suggested by the FBI for information which leads directly to the arrest of a “Top Ten” fugitive. In some instances, the prize amount suggested is more than $100,000.

    Did the FBI ever have a “Ten Most Wished Public Enemies” Program before the “Ten Most Desired Fugitives” Program began?

    No. The FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice made use of the term, “Public Enemy,” in the 1930s, an era in which the term was synonymous with “fugitive” or “legendary gangster.” It was used in speeches, books, press releases, and internal memoranda. However, neither the FBI nor the Department had any type of publicity program which concentrated on a “Public Enemy” number 1, number Two, etc.

    The origin of the name, “Public Enemy,” has been traced to the Chicago Crime Commission, which invented the term around 1930. “Public Enemy” caught national attention, and the Commission maintained lists of its “Public Enemies” which were released through the news media. In addition, the term was popularized by a one thousand nine hundred thirty one movie, “The Public Enemy,” in which James Cagney portrayed a gangster.

    Common usage of the name, “Public Enemy,” died out during the World War II period.

    What commercial uses of the “Ten Most Wished Fugitives” are permitted?

    None. Commercial use is stringently prohibited. Descriptions and pictures of the “Ten Most Wished Fugitives” are provided for the foot purpose of eliciting public assistance in tracking fugitives.

    Related movie:

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