Local Officials Join Nationwide Hunt For Fraud Suspect

By Dina Kaplan

(LOUISVILLE, July 13th, 2004, 6 p.m.) -- A story fit for a Hollywood blockbuster has prompted Louisville law enforcement officials to join a nationwide manhunt for a suspect who uses technology and charm to steal millions of dollars worth of cars. WAVE 3's Dina Kaplan reports.

Police say the suspect, who is wanted in Kentucky and 15 other states, has stolen nearly three dozen cars -- $1.8 million worth -- and that number continues to grow.

Mike Smithers with the Secret Service, says the suspect has dozens of identities. "He's kind of like the 'Catch Me If You Can' guy."

So far, more than 70 people across the country have fallen victim, including one Kentucky resident we'll call "David." Like every victim of the scam, David was selling a truck in a local magazine. Edward Raifsnider answered the ad, saying he wanted to buy the truck.

So the two set up a 2 p.m. meeting. "He called at 4 p.m., which was two hours after we were supposed to meet, and said he was conducting a business deal and he was running a little late."

Raifsnider showed up at 6 p.m., well after the banks were closed, and gave David a check. David had originally planned to verify the check at a bank, but accepted it in exchange for the car he was selling. "We looked at the check very, very closely, and it looked authentic."

The check looked so authentic in fact that the bank didn't notice it was fake until three days after it was deposited.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Rich Knighten says the suspect is "pretty good at deception."

Raifsnider is now wanted in 17 states. Agents from the U.S. Marshal's Office are joined in the search by agents from the ATF for weapons charges and by the Secret Service for fabricating checks -- and because Raifsnider steals the identities of people he buys cars from, even making licenses with their names.

In the movie Catch Me If You Can, the wanted man played by Leonardo DiCaprio, escaped jail by working for the FBI. That won't happen this time. "He will be working for a federal prison system when he's picked up. Hopefully making license plates for the victims he's taken license plates from."

Raifsnider is so good at what he does, he slipped away after being arrested for a traffic violation in 2002. Because the fake driver's license he was carrying matched the car's registration, he was able to bond out of jail before he was fingerprinted.

Online Reporter: Dina Kaplan

Online Producer: Michael Dever