Famed con man who lived in Ajax shack arrested again in Aspen
James Hogue, 61, who has storied history as impostor, is out of prison and back in Aspen
A notorious con man and lifelong thief caught four years ago living in a well-appointed cabin he built on Aspen Mountain is back in town and back in trouble.
James Hogue, 61, was arrested Monday by Aspen police officers investigating a burglary and charged with parking illegally and stealing power from a nearby apartment building, said APD Sgt. Mike Tracey. Hogue was not taken to jail and, instead, issued a summons for trespassing and tampering, which are low-level offenses.
Aspen police continue to investigate the burglary, which took place inside the parking garage of an apartment building in the 200 block of East Cooper Avenue, Tracey said.
Hogue — who has a history in Aspen dating back to the late-1990s when he was arrested twice for minor theft — was most recently arrested here in November 2016 after police caught him living in the Aspen Mountain shack. The camouflaged building on Shadow Mountain above the Shadow Mountain Condominiums was insulated, equipped with lights, laptop computer and a bed, and served as Hogue’s home for at least a year and possibly two.
He bolted out a back window with a “go bag” when a police officer knocked on the locked front door in September 2016, but was subsequently arrested two months later while trying to construct another shack in a nearby location. Police later found $17,000 in cash in his car and ledgers indicating he’d sold about $70,000 worth of stolen goods on eBay, which led to felony charges.
In March 2017, Hogue appeared in Pitkin County District Court and pleaded guilty to felony theft, felony possession of burglary tools and a misdemeanor charge. District Judge Chris Seldin sentenced him to six years in prison, which was on the high end of the possible sentence he faced, because he was a lifelong thief and unlikely to be rehabilitated.
“You are a very consistent thief, Mr. Hogue, but you’re a very bad thief because you get caught a lot,” Seldin said at the time. “And what it tells the court is if Mr. Hogue isn’t in jail or prison or otherwise incarcerated, he’s committing a crime. That’s his way of life.”
Despite the six-year sentence, Hogue was paroled Feb. 25, 2019, from the Colorado Department of Corrections and discharged from parole April 2, DOC spokeswoman Annie Skinner said Tuesday.
Jeff Fain, a former Aspen police detective who investigated Hogue in 2016-17, said Hogue has been living in Aspen since he was released from prison. Fain, now a detective with the Glenwood Springs Police Department, said he knows that because he saw him walking down the street in 2019 and checked up on the situation.
Aspen police officers encountered him Monday afternoon while talking to the resident of the Cooper Avenue apartment building who reported the burglary, Tracey said. The officers and the resident were talking inside the parking garage, where the burglary occurred, and in the middle of the conversation, Hogue walked into the garage through the unsecured front entrance.
Hogue saw the officers and exited the parking garage through a back door, Tracey said. About a half-hour later, the officers found Hogue’s BMW SUV parked in a private parking space behind the building. He had run a power cord from an outside outlet attached to the apartment building into the vehicle, Tracey said.
“He was plugged into an outlet there and appeared to be living out of his vehicle,” he said.
Officers noticed many items inside Hogue’s SUV, though none matched items reported stolen in the recent burglary, Tracey said.
Hogue’s Hollywood movie-like criminal resume began some 35 years ago, when he posed as a Palo Alto high school student — he was 26 years old at the time — and earned a track scholarship to Princeton. He allegedly stole $50,000 worth of jewels from a Harvard museum in the early 1990s and served another prison sentence in the late 2000s for allegedly stealing $100,000 worth of property from homes in Telluride.
He was arrested in Aspen in 1997 for stealing a bicycle and again in 1998 for stealing from a grocery store. A former Palo Alto classmate tracked Hogue to Aspen in 1999 for documentary titled “Con Man,” which came out in 2003.