How the FBI nabbed a 14-year fugitive and juggling star almost by accident

Stammer is seen being escorted to his arraignment last month. (KRQE-TV)
Stammer is seen being escorted to his arraignment last month. (KRQE-TV)

Even the best show-biz acts eventually come to an end.

Neil Stammer, a star in the juggling world and a suspected child molester, has been captured by the FBI in Nepal after 14 years on the run.

Authorities in Albuquerque, New Mexico, say Stammer, who owned Rob’s Magic and Juggling Shop, skipped town in 2000 after police charged him with the kidnap and rape of a 12-year-old boy.

The FBI tried to find Stammer, now 47, but feared that the fugitive  who had traveled extensively and spoke dozens of languages  had fled the country.

In his teens and 20s, Stammer, who was born Andrew J. Allen but later changed his name, performed at nightclubs and on cruises ships, juggling for money in more than 30 countries.

“Given his overseas travel experience and his language skills, the juggler could have been hiding anywhere in the world,” the FBI acknowledged this week in a press release.

The poster announcing Stammer's capture (FBI)
The poster announcing Stammer's capture (FBI)

Without many leads, the case went cold.

Fast-forward to 2014, and the FBI got their guy pretty much by accident.

In January, Special Agent Russ Wilson, recently assigned to the Albuquerque FBI division, decided to crack open Stammer's case again, because he was intrigued by the unique suspect. A new "wanted" poster was issued and distributed.

Then, in June, a special agent with the State Department was testing new facial recognition software for passport fraud investigations. The agent needed samples and used photos from FBI "wanted" posters.

Voilà — Stammer’s face matched a person whose passport photo carried a different name.

The agent contacted the bureau, and the tip soon led investigators to Nepal, where Stammer was living under the name Kevin Hodges "and regularly visiting the U.S. Embassy there to renew his tourist visa," the FBI said.

“He was very comfortable in Nepal,” FBI special agent Russ Wilson said in the release. “My impression was that he never thought he would be discovered.” Stammer had been living in Nepal for years, teaching English and other languages to students hoping to gain entrance into U.S. universities."

The fugitive juggler — who once performed at the esteemed Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. — was extradited from Nepal to New Mexico.

In July, Stammer pleaded not guilty to charges of rape, kidnapping, witness intimidation, and criminal sexual contact of a minor stemming from an incident in which Stammer allegedly took the 12-year-old boy to his apartment and raped him. Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg told the Albuquerque Journal that at least "three alleged victims have come forward" with allegations against Stammer. He's being held without bail in Bernalillo County Jail.

“The Albuquerque Police Department is grateful for the hard work and perseverance of our federal law enforcement partners and the government of Nepal in locating this extremely dangerous fugitive,” Police Chief Gorden Eden Jr. said in announcing Stammer's capture last month. “We can only hope that during his time as a fugitive that he did not commit similar terrible crimes on others.”

Yahoo News' Dylan Stableford contributed to this report.

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