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Mystery man has local ties

Chad Abraham
James Hogue after his 1998 arrest in Aspen.
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A recently arrested serial impostor who has led a life of fantastic lies once ran afoul with the law in Aspen because of his hair. Or lack of it.Agents with the U.S. Marshals service arrested James Hogue, who lived here for a couple of years in the late 1990s, on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz. He is accused of stealing thousands of dollars worth of items from mansions in Mountain Village, near Telluride, and keeping them in a hidden room in his small residence.Hogue, 46 – the subject of a 2001 New Yorker profile, “The Runner,” and a 2002 Cinemax documentary, “Con Man” – has long been a man of secrets.When he was 26, he enrolled as a 16-year-old at a California high school and became a track star, according to media reports. Using the moniker Jay Mitchell Huntsman – the name of an infant who died the year Hogue said he was born – Hogue told people that he was a Swedish orphan who was raised on a Nevada commune.

He later applied to Princeton University while he sat in a Utah jail. He told university officials that he was Alexi Indris Santana, a self-taught ranch hand. He was accepted – Hogue’s SAT score was 1,410 – and became a track star, stellar student and member of the prestigious Ivy Club. Until, that is, his identity was blown, as it had been at the California high school. For the Ivy League ruse, he was arrested and charged with forgery, wrongful impersonation and falsifying records, according to a report in Tuesday’s Denver Post.He apparently did not fake his harrier skills, as he worked as a cross-country running coach in Vail and could run a mile in less than four minutes, the Post reported.His crimes in Aspen were mundane. In 1998, he was arrested at City Market for trying to steal Rogaine, a hair regrowth treatment, and some food items. He was sentenced to community service, according to police and court records.A year earlier, he was arrested in Aspen on suspicion of stealing a bike and pushing a police officer. The theft charge was dropped, and Hogue was convicted of resisting arrest. He was given a year in county jail and credit for 77 days served.Contacted Tuesday, the grocery store security guard who detained him said he couldn’t recall Hogue; neither did a former Aspen police officer who helped arrest him. And that doesn’t surprise a local who knew Hogue when he was here.

“He was quiet as a mouse,” the source said. “He didn’t exhibit very much of a personality. He went to work like everybody else did and then came home. He didn’t have any big deal of a social life that I knew of.”The source’s identity is being protected because the person fears possible retribution from Hogue. The suspect is to be extradited from Arizona next month to face the charges in Mountain Village.Despite the meek beginning in Aspen, the source said, a sinister side to Hogue emerged. Court records show that a woman familiar with Hogue, known in Aspen as Jim Haag, received a permanent restraining order against him. The woman told the court that her “life or health” would be in imminent danger if the restraining order was not granted.Hogue vandalized the woman’s car and her roommate’s vehicle, and made “repeated harassing phone calls,” a court record says. The restraining order was in effect at her home and then-place of employment, the Aspen Daily News.The woman also sent police a letter and an audio tape of messages Hogue left. She said one of the messages showed Hogue stole items while he was in Aspen.

“Regarding the second message, I think Jim’s reference to ‘spring cleaning’ means that he is getting rid of all the stolen clothing he possesses in anticipation of the police searching his room,” the letter says.The source said Hogue worked as a “gopher” for the Aspen Skiing Co., transporting film for Mountain Photo, among other tasks.Cinemax’s “Con Man” portrays Hogue as consistently pretentious about his background. That changed in Aspen, the source said.”He said the bare minimum necessary to get through the course of any given day,” the person said. “When they talk about still waters running deep, they mean it.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com


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