October 23, 2019
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On eve of indictment 24 years ago, this Maine accountant vanished

BANGOR, Maine — Facing $4 million in fraud charges, Bangor accountant Roderick Hotham vanished 24 years ago, on Sept. 16, 1992, the very day he was set to share with the state attorney general the information he claimed implicated others in serious crimes. The Bangor Police Department still lists Roderick Hotham as a fugitive from justice.

Yet Tim Hotham insists that his brother, who would now be 62, is dead and that the Maine State Police searched for his body just west of Dover-Foxcroft in 2005.

Because it is an ongoing case, state police won’t say whether such a search took place and continue to call Roderick Hotham a missing person.

“He was murdered the day he disappeared,” said Tim Hotham, adding that his mother had gotten a call in 2002 from someone saying, “I know who killed your son.”

“The evidence I brought to the Maine State Police 12 or 13 years ago spells it out. While they work on that, the public up there has been in a coma,” said Tim Hotham.

He declined to name a suspect or provide more specifics but said state police investigated the possibility that a hired killer had buried his brother’s remains.

The accountant’s mother, Elaine Hotham, said, “This isn’t just a simple missing person case.” Reached by phone at her Presque Isle home, she said, “He was destroyed for what he knew, what he discovered. He was an accountant and had his own business, and he discovered wrongdoing.”

The U.S. attorney’s office in Maine, meanwhile, has continued to keep an eye on Roderick Hotham’s relatives, covertly tracking a dozen phone numbers between 2011 and 2015, according to wiretap requests unsealed in 2015.

And the FBI, once the lead agency in the bank fraud and money-laundering case against Roderick Hotham, is now in a supportive role, only assisting the Bangor Police Department and Maine State Police when requested.

The disappearance

Roderick Hotham grew up in Presque Isle and came to Bangor to attend Husson College, now Husson University, where he graduated in 1972. He became a certified public accountant and opened an accounting firm at 60 Columbia St. in Bangor. His clients included the Penobscot Indian Nation and Unity College.

Before he disappeared, he had been living with his wife, Lisa, and their three children at a house on State Street. He was an owner or part owner of the Heritage Bowling Center in Hermon, Stucco Lodge in Veazie, Beal College in Bangor and the Firepond Restaurant in Blue Hill.

He was a member of the Bangor Noontime Rotary Club, treasurer of the Bangor YMCA, a vice president at Husson and chairman of the Bangor Water District.

By age 38, when he vanished, Roderick Hotham was well-known in Bangor’s social and civic circles.

His disappearance made headlines. At the time, rumors about his fate ranged from the notion that he was at the bottom of Penobscot Bay or a refugee in the Cayman Islands or in a witness protection program, which officials deny.

On the day the accountant went missing, an acquaintance said he believed he saw Roderick Hotham about 11 a.m. standing alone by his blue Dodge Caravan on Coldbrook Road near Dysart’s truck stop in Hermon, according to testimony offered in 1993 in Penobscot County probate court.

About noon, Roderick Hotham was at the Stucco Lodge where an employee gave him $9,000 from a check cashed the day before, the testimony revealed. The employee and a private detective, who was to accompany Roderick Hotham to then Maine Attorney General Michael Carpenter’s office later that day, also testified that Roderick Hotham had several boxes of “incriminating evidence” of white-collar crime that he planned to deliver to Carpenter.

The Stucco Lodge employee was the last person that authorities are aware of having seen Roderick Hotham, who never showed up at the attorney general’s office.

After examining six boxes of material left behind by Roderick Hotham, Carpenter said, “It became clear that, if there was any significance to the documents, we would need Mr. Hotham here to explain it.”

Roderick Hotham had purchased a 9mm pistol six months before his disappearance and a .357-caliber Magnum pistol on the day he vanished, witnesses told then attorney Bruce Jordan, guardian ad litem for Roderick Hotham’s estate at the time. Jordan investigated and concluded in 1993 that Roderick Hotham “voluntarily disappeared,” he told Penobscot County Probate Court.

About six months after Roderick Hotham vanished, the probate judge named Tim Hotham conservator of his brother’s estate, and, according to the family, the federal Social Security Administration declared Roderick Hotham dead several years ago.

But Roderick Hotham remains one of four people whose missing persons’ cases are still under investigation by Bangor police. Richard Morse, William Hilderbrand and Sharon Smith are the other three.

Bangor Detective Josh Kuhn, now the lead investigator on Roderick Hotham’s case, said in a recent email to the Bangor Daily News, “He is currently wanted as a fugitive from justice.”

The 17-count federal indictment

The accountant had known for at least nine months that the government was investigating his business dealings. He had been interviewed by the FBI, and investigators had taken handwriting samples from him for what in 1992 was Maine’s largest bank fraud case.

On the day that he vanished, the federal grand jury in Bangor was expected to indict Roderick Hotham. He actually was indicted two months later on eight counts of bank fraud and nine counts of money laundering. A federal arrest warrant also was issued for him.

The indictment was the result of a 14-month investigation by the now-disbanded New England Bank Fraud Task Force, made up of federal prosecutors, bank regulators and FBI agents.

The accountant was accused of defrauding five federally insured financial institutions, four in Maine and one in New Hampshire, of about $4 million through false representations and promises.

In the federal grand jury indictment unsealed in December 1992, the government detailed a complicated series of transactions in which Roderick Hotham allegedly used the names of three prominent people from Bangor and Old Town to get credit from local banks. He was the financial adviser for all three but obtained the funds without their knowledge, according to the indictment.

The missing accountant also used his majority interest in a New Hampshire bank to obtain funds illegally, according to the government.

Recent steps taken

Roderick Hotham’s brother says press coverage of the case has been inadequate.

“There is a lot more than you guys have been reporting,” Tim Hotham said by phone from Florida. “Rod’s dead. And he can’t speak for himself, so I will.”

Even though the case was featured on Fox Network’s television program “America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back” in 2001, it was a 2002 BDN story about the 10th anniversary of the disappearance that spurred someone to talk, Tim Hotham said.

He said that a man whom both he and his mother refused to identify reached out to his mother shortly after the anniversary story ran and said, “I know who killed your son.” Tim Hotham said he “approached the Maine State Police with the evidence, and they have been investigating it as a murder.”

He said state police even searched for his brother’s body back in 2005 on land in Mayfield Township, in Somerset County.

“We‘ve been up [there] with cadaver dogs,” Tim Hotham said of the unsuccessful state police search he said was conducted on June 28, 2005.

“It was a Tuesday,” he recalled.

Lt. Troy Gardner, commander of the Major Crimes Unit for the northern part of the state, said on Sept. 2 that the state police typically do not discuss ongoing investigations, but “we do follow up on information … and we do follow the case.”

He said that because of the investigation he could not say whether state police searched for Roderick Hotham’s body in 2005 in Mayfield Township. And any search warrants the state police would have filed in the case are only held for a decade, according to a Somerset County Judicial Center criminal clerk, who added, “If it did exist, it’s already been destroyed.”

While Gardner cannot discuss details of the investigation, the missing man’s younger brother says people need to know that state police have taken action in the time since his brother made headlines.

“They’ve looked at other cases and are actively spending money looking for Rod’s body,” Tim Hotham said. “This is extremely significant.”

State police investigators are working the case, according to spokesman Stephen McCausland, who said Aug. 31 that he could not provide any specifics.

“State police have been involved with this missing person’s case for years, as we’ve worked with Bangor PD and the FBI,” McCausland said. “He is on our missing persons list on our website.”

Special Agent Kristen Setera of the FBI Public Affairs office in Boston said recently that, “It’s an interesting case.”

The FBI had at least two agents from Boston working on the case at the beginning, according to court documents.

Setera said the bank fraud case is currently closed and that the Maine State Police and Bangor Police Department “have the lead in the missing person case. We are only assisting.”

She added that when Roderick Hotham was featured on “America’s Most Wanted,” he also was featured on the FBI website. The show resulted in only three calls to the tip line, none that panned out.

The U.S. attorney’s office also has spent years keeping an eye on Roderick Hotham’s loved ones through their phone records. Between 2011 and 2015, the agency obtained a dozen warrants for phone records, with the requests kept secret until Oct. 7, 2015, when they were unsealed. The efforts did not lead to Roderick Hotham being found.

“We don’t have anything to say,” Donald Clark, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Portland, said recently about the case. “There is nothing new.”

Tim Hotham said Sept. 2 that he did not know federal agents were keeping tabs on who calls him or others in his brother’s family.

‘Big trees are going to fall’

Tim Hotham said he is so convinced that his brother is dead that he thinks federal officials are wasting their time looking for him. Their sister, Regina Craig, said she just wants closure.

“It’s an unbelievable tale,” Tim Hotham said. “We have local authorities looking into a murder, and we have federal officials looking for him. This is the biggest thing since sliced bread up there in Maine.”

Lisa Hotham reportedly moved to Vermont with her children shortly before her husband disappeared, his family has said, because their home had been broken into and Roderick Hotham was being followed. Attempts to contact her or the children for this article failed.

Elaine Hotham recalls her son telling her before he disappeared, “Mom, big trees are going to fall.”

But more than two decades without answers to his whereabouts has led her to conclude, “He was the one who fell.”

 



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