Schmuck of the Week

Fake Ex-Teen James Hogue Gets Big Sentence for Latest Oddball Crime

Update: James Hogue, a onetime teen impersonator recently named the sixth most famous con man of all-time, has been sentenced to six years in prison for the latest oddball acts in a criminal career full of them, involving an illegal shack built on the grounds of an Aspen ski area.

Last month, Hogue (the subject of a 2003 documentary simply titled Con Man and 2008's The Runner, a book based on a famed New Yorker profile) admitted to possession of burglary tools and stealing between $2,000 and $5,000 worth of items used to build the aforementioned shack not once, but twice — the initial construction and a do-over after employees from the Aspen Skiing Co. tore the joint down.

After accepting Hogue's plea, Judge Chris Seldin of Pitkin County District Court had reportedly said he would at least entertain the possibility of issuing a sentence involving probation or an extended stay at a halfway house. But at a hearing yesterday, Seldin went in a different direction. According to the Aspen Daily News, he explained that the reason he'd decided to hand down a six-year jolt — twice the amount requested by prosecutors — is because Hogue doesn't think "the rules apply to him, and instead it’s as though he lives on another planet where he gets to just take with impunity."

He subsequently told Hogue that he was "a very consistent thief...but apparently a very bad one, because you get caught a lot. I don’t understand what is going on in your mind that leads to this pattern. It is sad.”

Continue to learn more about the remarkably strange story of James Hogue.

Update, 7:27 a.m. February 9: Notorious criminal impersonator James Hogue has pleaded guilty in Pitkin County District Court to a pair of felonies and one misdemeanor over an illegal shack he built in the Aspen area. They're the latest convictions in a bizarre life of lies detailed in our previous coverage below. But this time around, Hogue may not get any jail time.

Regarding his most recent offenses, the Aspen Daily News reports that Hogue's structure, apparently assembled using tools and materials he'd swiped from area construction sites, was discovered by Aspen Skiing Co. employees this past November — and after it was torn down, he set out to rebuild it. Unfortunately for him, he was caught in the act by authorities before he'd done much more than dig a six-foot hole for a foundation. He managed to get away by running into the nearby woods, but he was later spotted at the local library and taken into custody.

After agreeing to a plea deal, Hogue admitted that he was guilty of possessing burglary tools and theft of between $2,000 and $5,000 worth of material, as well as the more minor offense of obstructing a police officer. However, the judge agreed to consider sentencing him to probation or a stint in a halfway house at his next hearing, slated for March 20.

Presumably said halfway house will already have been built. Continue to see our earlier report.

Original post, 5:56 a.m. November 4, 2016: Here at Schmuck of the Week headquarters, we firmly believe that if you're going to be a schmuck, you should be the biggest schmuck possible.

On that score, James Hogue has definitely succeeded.

Among the most notorious criminal impersonators ever in Colorado (and arguably modern U.S. history), Hogue has been the subject of a major New Yorker article that writer David Samuels expanded into a book — The Runner, published in 2008 — and a documentary simply titled Con Man.

But none of that notoriety has paid off for Hogue, whom we featured in our 2008 slideshow "Catch 'Em If You Can," a rogue's gallery of con men inspired by the bizarre tale of Amadeus Harlan. Yesterday, he was arrested at the Pitkin County Library, a facility to which he'd wandered after being ousted from an illegal cabin on Shadow Mountain, where he may have been living for two-plus years.

The website Swallow the Camel offers a good oversight of Hogue's misadventures. The account notes that Hogue was an outstanding cross-country performer as an actual high-schooler in Kansas City, Kansas, setting national records. But after an ignominious effort at a University of Wyoming meet, he left the squad and ultimately dropped out of school entirely.

In the years that followed, Hogue briefly attended college before turning to theft, for which he was busted in 1983 at age 24; he was sentenced to parole. But two years later, he enrolled at Palo Alto High School in California as a sixteen-year-old freshman — and he soon proved his athletic prowess by winning the Stanford Invitational Cross Country Meet.

Victories like this one attracted the attention of a reporter for the Peninsula Times-Tribune, who soon learned that Hogue wasn't exactly a kid anymore — and that he'd "stolen the identity of a baby boy deceased at birth," Swallow the Camel notes.

After this discovery, Hogue left Palo Alto High but hung around the area long enough to be caught forging checks, an offense that earned him a ninety-day jail sentence. Upon his release, he headed to Colorado, where he portrayed himself as a "bio-engineer with a doctorate from Stanford," the account continues, and managed to land a job at Vail's Cross Training Clinic — at least until a co-worker blew the whistle on him in early 1987.

Mere months later, Hogue applied to attend Princeton University under the identity of Alexi Indris-Santana, an eighteen-year-old worker at the Lazy T Ranch in St. George, Utah — and remarkably, he was accepted. He had to defer his enrollment by a year thanks to a six-month sentence for stealing bicycle parts, but by 1989, he was an Ivy Leaguer, albeit one who was actually 28 rather than his claimed age of nineteen.

For the next two years, Hogue/Indris-Santa excelled in class and as part of the Yale track team — but he was eventually unveiled, arrested and charged with wrongful impersonation and more.

Over the years following his release from prison, Hogue continued his criminal ways, often in Colorado. In 1997, he was charged with resisting arrest in Aspen. The next year, he was ordered to perform community service after being caught stealing food and Rogaine from an Aspen-area market — and an employee of the Aspen Daily  News filed a restraining order against him for harassment and trashing her car.

Here's a Hogue mug shot from Aspen circa the late 1990s.
Cut to 2006, when, as we reported, Hogue was nabbed by authorities in Telluride just before he was able to flee with a horse trailer full of a staggering 7,000 stolen items with an estimated value in excess of $100,000.

Before long, he was living at a new address: the Four Mile Correction Center in San Miguel County.

This booking photo demonstrates that his days of posing as a fake teen were definitely behind him.

In recent years, the Aspen Times reports that Hogue was living in a shack illegally built on Aspen Mountain, near a ski lift — and after that structure was demolished, staffers with the Aspen Skiing Co. found him apparently trying to rebuild it a mere 100 feet away from its previous location.

Then, yesterday, a patron at the Pitkin County Library recognized the now-57-year-old Hogue and alerted the cops.

When confronted, Hogue reportedly gave an officer a false identity — David Bee from Ontario, Canada — before admitting who he was upon his arrival at jail, where he was booked on a misdemeanor warrant from Boulder County regarding theft of an item between $750 and $2,000. A charge of criminal impersonation is also likely.

We'd expect nothing less from the sort of schmuck that other Schmucks of the Week likely worship as a god. Here's the trailer for Con Man.