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Man living in shack had $17K cash, stolen gear, report says

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Posted at 1:43 PM, Nov 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-14 15:43:33-05

ASPEN, Colo. -- Police have seized cash and what they believe to be stolen merchandise from a man accused of building an illegal shack on Aspen Mountain.

James Hogue was arrested Nov. 3.

Hogue has a long history of fraudulent behavior, but he most recently came to the attention of police when Aspen Skiing Co. employees reported the illegal structure in September. When police went to knock on the door of the shack, a man responded before jumping out through a window and disappearing into the woods.

After Hogue was arrested, police seized nearly $17,000 in cash from Hogue’s SUV as well as nine pricey ski jackets, three pairs of ski pants, a $1,000 cashmere sweater, burglary tools, postal supplies and ledgers detailing what he sold, where he sold it and for how much, Aspen Police Dept. detective Jeff Fain told the Aspen Times.

Fain added that records from eBay indicate Hogue sold about $70,000 worth of items during the past couple years.

“It looks to me like he was running a gear-swap operation out of the back of his car,” Fain told the newspaper. “He’s a professional thief.”

Hogue's beginnings

Hogue was born Oct. 22, 1959, in a working-class neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas, and graduated from Washington High School in 1977. A lengthy New York Times piece described Hogue as an "A/B" student and a talented runner.

After graduating high school, Hogue went to the University of Wyoming and earned a spot on the varsity cross-country team during his freshman year. After finishing 226th in a field of 250 competitors in the 10,000-meter race, Hogue dropped out and never graduated, the New York Times reports. 

From college to high school, to college again

Hogue would not be heard from again for another eight years, when, under a fake identity, he enrolled at Palo Alto High School in California in 1985.

Using the name Jay Huntsman, the supposed 17-year-old teenager was known by some as a San Diego native who had moved to a Nevada commune at the age of 6-years-old with his family. The alleged high schooler went on to win the Stanford Invitational Meet, the most prestigious high school race in the country, an article in The New Yorker states.  

Police would eventually begin to doubt his story after reporters started asking questions about the skilled runner and once Hogue got word that law enforcement was investigating, he left town for good. 

The runner goes to Colorado 

After leaving California, Hogue would turn up in Colorado where he took on a new title, telling people there he had a doctorate from Stanford and was part of the faculty at that university. 

Hogue -- under the alias of "Alexi Santana" eventually got a job with a sports cross-training camp, the New York Times reports, but his stint ended when the founder of the camp got a tip from a runner about Hogue's past. 

Hogue's athleticism turns into his undoing

The man's running skills would eventually get him a scholarship to Princeton University, where he continued to go by the alias of Alexi Santana, a self-taught young ranch hand from Nevada. 

A sophomore, Hogue was discovered when a a senior at the university recognized him during an Ivy League track meet in 1991 from his school days in Palo Alto, where Hogue posed as a 17-year-old high school student. 

He was arrested and charged with forgery, wrongful impersonation and falsifying records. Those charges landed Hogue nine months in jail. He also had to pay back nearly $22,000 in financial aid, according to a brief article from TIME magazine

Crime spree continues well into the 90s and beyond

Hogue was arrested a few months after being hired as a security guard for a Harvard museum and was charged with grand larceny for stealing jewelry worth $50,000, TIME magazine also reported. 

It wasn't until 1997 when Hogue would again pop up for a second time in Colorado, this time in Aspen. 

The Aspen Time reports Hogue was taken into custody for resisting arrest in connection with a stolen bike. "A year later, he received community service for stealing food and Rogaine from an Aspen grocery store," the newspaper reported. 

Before this week, Hogue was last reported on in 2007, when he pleaded guilty to felony theft and also confessed to having stolen about 7,000 items worth some $100,000 from Colorado homes over several years, the TIME article states

Hogue has been arrested more than 10 times and had seven felony convictions for theft, forged checks, impersonation, fraud, trespassing and larceny, according to a Denver Post article from 2006.

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