Upon Fugitive's Arrest, 'the Only Thing to Do Was Smile'

'Atavist' examines the wild life of Howard Farley Jr., former Nebraska drug king
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2022 11:24 AM CDT
Updated Jun 12, 2022 8:28 AM CDT
Fake ID Saved Fugitive, Then Eventually Did Him In
Howard Farley Jr.   (Marion County (Florida) Jail)

The life of Howard Farley has been irresistible fodder for writers since Farley's dramatic 2020 arrest in Florida at age 66. Dramatic because everybody in Florida—including his Vietnamese wife—knew Farley as "Tim Brown." Friends and neighbors didn't know that Farley assumed his "Brown" alias after running a large drug network in Nebraska that was busted in the 1980s. Now, Greg Donahue takes a long look at all this in Atavist magazine, tracing Farley's life from days as a rebellious teen in Lincoln to the restlessness that prompted him to take his life savings of $30,000 and buy cocaine to flip at a profit. The story details the growth of his "loose-knit, blue-collar" drug network through its demise, and Farley's narrow escape into life on the lam.

He'd planned for the moment, having earlier successfully applied for a Social Security card using the name of a baby who'd died in the 1950s. It worked: Farley lived a carefree life in Caribbean nations before settling, boldly, in the Florida community of Love's Landing. But that fake ID eventually did him in, with his name popping up on the computer of a specialist in passport fraud in 2020. "I had mentally prepared myself for being caught," Farley would later say. "When it happened, with men pointing guns at me, the only thing to do was smile." The drug charges against him had expired, but Farley was convicted of identity theft charges and was sentenced last year to four years in prison. (Read the full story for much more on the made-for-Hollywood tale.)

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