PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Fingerprint comparison has confirmed that a 62-year-old man who died from a gunshot wound after a confrontation with officers in southeast Oregon was a fugitive who disappeared from Indiana 12 years ago.
Oregon State Police Lt. Gregg Hastings identified the man on Friday as Phillip Ferguson. An autopsy conducted by Oregon state Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson found the cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head from a small-caliber weapon.
Ferguson was a stockbroker and financial consultant accused of bilking investors out of $30 million. He vanished in 2000 while his Indiana investment business was under a federal investigation. Grant County prosecutors later charged him with 90 counts of security violations.
Ferguson’s case has been featured on “America’s Most Wanted.”
Hastings said earlier that initial evidence indicated it was unlikely that shots fired by the Harney County sheriff and a sergeant hit the man Wednesday as he fled in a pickup. Late Friday, Hastings said the county district attorney’s office had not authorized him to discuss the manner of death.
Neighbors in the remote area near Burns, Ore., knew the man as an alfalfa farmer named Vernon Cox. Authorities said Roy Vernon Cox was an alias Ferguson used.
According to Hastings, an FBI special agent and two local officers were tipped about a fugitive and drove to the man’s home. As the three drove up a dirt road, they spotted the man’s pickup driving along a parallel dirt road separated by a fence.
The vehicles stopped on opposite sides of the fence, and the man briefly spoke with the authorities before fleeing. Sheriff David Glerup and Sgt. Brian Needham fired at the pickup. The man’s body was found in the pickup about a quarter-mile away. A rifle was next to him.
Ferguson “basically sold investments that didn’t exist,” said Brad Skolnik, who was the Indiana securities commissioner back in 2000. “He printed up bogus account statements and other documents that allowed him to cover up the scheme.”
Skolnik said Thursday that most of the alleged victims were elderly people who thought they were putting their money in safe investments.
Oregon neighbor Bec Stoddart, 86, said the man she knew as Cox told her that his wife had died and he moved to the Burns area because he wanted to try his hand at alfalfa farming.
Stoddart said Cox was a busy man, so she didn’t have a lot of interaction with him. She remembered a time when he plowed her road after a big snowstorm, allowing her to get in and out.
“He didn’t want any thanks for doing it; he just did it,” she said. “He’s been a good neighbor. He even took care of my dog when he ran away.”
The Oregonian reported that he lived in a single-wide mobile home on roughly 160 acres he bought in 2004 for $105,000, sharing the home with ranch hand Kenny Bush and Bush’s girlfriend.
Bush said his employer cleared the land of sagebrush, planted alfalfa and installed a wheel-line irrigation system, working long days to bring in a crop.
He said little about his past, didn’t like doctors and didn’t like banks, Bush said.
“He was a happy man,” Bush told the newspaper. “He was like a father to me. He was the guy I called and went to if I had a question. I don’t know who I’m going to call now.”