Air Force deserter captured using a fake ID

Tuesday, 12 Jun, 2018

According to a news release, Hughes admitted his identity during an interview with the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service as part of a passport fraud investigation.

Air Force Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr. started at Kirtland in 1981, working on NATO's command, control and communications surveillance systems.

At the time of his disappearance in 1983, Hughes, then 31, was assigned to the Kirtland-based Air Force Operation Test and Evaluation Center. Hughes, a Seattle native was arrested without incident on Wednesday.

A high ranking Air Force officer who had gone missing 35 years ago, was apprehended by officials in California. Hughes was single when he disappeared and said he had lived in California as O'Beirne since.

Hughes told authorities after his capture on Wednesday that he was depressed about being in the Air Force and made a decision to leave.

At the time of his disappearance, the Air Force said Hughes had a "Top Secret/Single Scope Background Investigation" clearance.

Hughes was last seen the New Mexico area withdrawing $28,500 from 19 separate banks.

Hughes was 33 years old and worked on classified planning and analysis of NATO's control, command and communications surveillance systems during the Cold War.

At the time of his disappearance he had just returned from the Netherlands, where he had been working with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers. Hughes was charged with desertion and is being held at Travis Air Force Base.

Air Force captain William Howard Hughes
Hughes said he was depressed about being in the Air Force

Hughes was due back in Albuquerque in August at the time he vanished, and on December 9, 1983, the Air Force formally declared him a deserter.

There was even speculation that Hughes may have been abducted by or defected to the Soviets.

United States deserters can face a number of charges once they are found, including prison time, being dishonourably discharged and losing pay.

An article from Maddy Hayden for the Albuquerque Journal referenced a story from journo Tad Szulc about Hughes' disappearance in 1986, which suggested he'd defected to the Soviet Union. Hughes was recently apprehended 35 years after he is alleged to have deserted.

A spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations told the Albuquerque Journal there's no sign Hughes leaked classified information or was involved with the Soviet Union, but that investigations are underway.

"He is worth his weight in gold to the Russians in terms of future 'Star Wars, ' if we have them", one intelligence officer told the Times.

"We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily", his sister, Christine Hughes, said in a 1984 Associated Press article, according to USA Today.

"They (AFOSI investigators) said at this point there's no indication that he had any classified information or that he gave any classified information", Card said.

"Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story", she told the newspaper.