Thursday, September 22, 2005


Fugitive pastor caught in MT

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. — A two month manhunt is over, but the legal troubles are mounting for a Port Charlotte pastor accused of contracting without a license. Jack Ruff allegedly scammed dozens of Hurricane Charley victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The search ended in a place deputies never thought to look.

"He used his real name. That tells us he wasn't concerned of being caught," said Paul Guyton.

Jack Ruff is accused of contracting without a license. He allegedly scammed scores of hurricane victims throughout Southwest Florida.

After a two month manhunt, ruff was picked up Tuesday by police in the tiny town of Livingston Montana. Deputies say ruff was allegedly posing as a Katrina evacuee from Louisiana.

A good Samaritan took Ruff into his home, but immediately became suspicious and entered Ruff's name in an internet search.

"Almost immediately found a news bulletin that had him as an unlicensed contractor who has a warrant for his arrest," said Guyton.

The man called police which brought Ruff's life on the run to an end.

Besides a long list of alleged victims, Jack Ruff left behind the church he ran with his family. The pastor's arrest brings uncertainty for the future of the congregation at Praise Tabernacle.

No one was at the church on Wednesday, but the news of ruff's arrest is good news to Dave Cohn, who says he was scammed out of more than $10,000.

"People wanted their property fixed up and repaired. For someone to take the situation that existed and take advantage of people, that's just wrong," said Cohn.

The fugitive pastor is now an inmate. His next stop is home to Southwest Florida.

See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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