This is an ongoing series by FOXNews.com that looks at some of the most wanted criminals in the United States.
On paper, John Donald Cody seemed to have it all: a degree from Harvard Law and another from the University of Virginia, a background in military intelligence, and his own law firm in Sierra Vista, Ariz.
But paper rarely tells the whole story. Cody is also a fugitive, accused of bilking his clients out of $100,000 before vanishing in his Corvette in 1985, when he was 36.
By then, Cody was thought not only to be a thief and a fraud, but also a complete oddball -- infamous for his wild accusations, his haphazard appearance and most of all, his bizarre addictions.
“He was just totally off the wall,” said former Cochise County prosecutor Jim Reilly, who worked with Cody. “He always carried this large jar of Vaseline that he would set down on counsel table. And during presentations, whether it was a trial or hearing, he would open the jar, scoop some out and start applying it to his face.”
Cody also used eye drops at an alarming rate, believed to be due to radiation poisoning he endured in the Army that left him without tear glands.
“Most people who use eye drops or eye sprays will tilt their head back and squeeze a couple of drops into their eyes. This guy could stand there, face on and talking to you, and be squirting stuff in his eyes without missing a beat!” Reilly said.
Adding to Cody's strange habits was his appearance. Co-workers said he was always wearing the same out-of-date bell bottom pants and clothes that never looked washed.
“He had this bouffant hairdo that everyone was betting was a wig. It was so outrageous and it was kind of an orangey color,” Reilly said.
Cody's strange manners followed him into the courtroom. He was always spewing a new conspiracy theory; according to reports, he once accused county prosecutors of wanting to kill him.
“The guy had a tremendous imagination for creating unbelievable issues — unbelievably complex and just totally off the wall,” said former prosecutor Pat Elliston. “Nobody ever thought about anything like this before.”
Yet despite his odd mannerisms, Cody claimed a long and successful career -- practicing law in Hawaii, New York City, Washington, D.C., and California before setting up his own practice in Arizona. He was known among prosecutors for his tough tactics, and he reportedly won an acquittal in a high-profile murder trial.
“You couldn’t dismiss him.” Reilly said, “You couldn’t take him lightly, because he was a public defender and looking out for the financial interests of his clients representing defendants in serious cases.”
That all changed in when Cody went from being strange, but harmless, to being an FBI fugitive. After he was reportedly threatened with a contempt citation for making false statements to a judge, he began missing court appearances.
“He did not appear in court for a number of scheduled proceedings.… I think that’s what initiated an investigation,” Reilly said.
Federal investigators discovered Cody was allegedly skimming money from his clients' probate funds by writing travelers' checks against the accounts, which he transported from Arizona to Virginia. Cody also allegedly made false statements to a bank and brokerage firm to try and get a $25,000 loan.
When authorities clued into Cody's scam, he went on the lam, closing his law office and emptying $100,000 from client accounts, officials say.
Despite his notoriety and odd mannerisms, Cody managed to escape Arizona unnoticed. Seven weeks after his disappearance, investigators found his car at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International airport.
“He had left his Corvette in the parking lot, unlocked with the keys in the ignition,” Reilly said.
In August 2004, the FBI issued a "Wanted" poster. But Cody has eluded authorities nonetheless.
Three years after his disappearance a federal warrant was issued on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service, charging Cody with several financial crimes, including interstate transportation of stolen money and making false statements to a bank and brokerage firm.
"He has a very valuable skill-set he obtained in the Army," Deputy U.S. Marshal Edward Recor told the Arizona Republic newspaper. "I would not rule out that he is using his intelligence training to stay ahead of the law."
Cody is 61-years old now. He is 5-foot-10, an estimated 150 pounds, and he has a scar on his shoulder and a missing fingertip.
FBI investigators say he has used a host of aliases, including Richard Barstow, John Acosta Devine, Richard Larsen, John J. Ocean III, John Redfern, Dennis Reinhart and Harry Walter Phillips.
Anyone with information concerning Cody should contact their local FBI office or the nearest American embassy or consulate. The bureau is offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to his arrest.