James Hogue

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James Arthur Hogue
Born (1959-10-22) October 22, 1959 (age 61)
EducationUniversity of Texas at Austin, University of Wyoming, Princeton University
OccupationCon man

James Arthur Hogue (born October 22, 1959) is an American impostor who most famously entered Princeton University by posing as a self-taught orphan.

Early life[edit]

Hogue was raised in a working-class family in Kansas City, Kansas and graduated from Washington High School in 1977.[1]

Hogue attended the University of Texas at Austin in the 1980s but left without a degree.[1] He also attended community college.[2] In the late 1970s, he was a student at the University of Wyoming before dropping out when he did not perform well on the cross country team.[3][4]

Criminal career[edit]

In September 1985, Hogue, now 25 years old, stole the identity of a deceased infant and enrolled as a student at Palo Alto High School as Jay Mitchell Huntsman, a 16-year-old orphan from Nevada.[5] On October 7, 1985, Hogue entered the Stanford Invitational Cross Country Meet.[5] Hogue ran far ahead of the field and won the race, but did not report to the officials' table, arousing suspicion.[5] Due to his mysterious background and physical prowess, local sports reporters dubbed him the "Mystery Boy".[6] Jason Cole, a reporter covering the event for the now-defunct Peninsula Times Tribune, uncovered Hogue's identity theft, and Hogue left town.[7]

In 1987, Hogue applied to Princeton University, using the alias Alexi Indris-Santana, a self-taught orphan from Utah, where he was then living. Hogue's application materials claimed that he had lived outdoors in the Grand Canyon, raising sheep and reading philosophy books.[8] Princeton invited Hogue to attend in the fall of 1988, but he deferred admission for one year, telling Princeton his mother was dying.[3] In reality, Hogue had pled guilty to possessing stolen bicycle equipment, and had been sentenced to five years in prison.[4]

Hogue served nine months before being paroled from Utah State Prison in March 1989.[4] Having also received a financial aid award from Princeton, he immediately left for the college, in violation of the terms of his parole.[1] For the next two years, he lived as Santana, was a member of the track team, and was admitted into the Ivy Club, one of Princeton's most exclusive eating clubs.[5]

His real identity was exposed when Renee Pacheco, a former classmate from his days as "Jay Huntsman" at Palo Alto High School, recognized him. She contacted reporter Jason Cole, who exposed Hogue a second time. On February 26, 1991, Hogue was arrested in class and charged with forgery, theft, and falsifying records.[9] In October 1992, Hogue pled guilty to third-degree theft for taking more than $22,000 in scholarship money and was sentenced to nine months in jail.[9] Hogue served 134 days in jail.[10]

At some point in 1992, Hogue was briefly employed by the Harvard Mineralogical Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a part-time cataloguer.[10] At the time, Hogue was taking a course in mineralogy at the Harvard Extension School.[10] In April 1993, the museum discovered that gems, mineral specimens, microscopes, and other items worth $50,000 had disappeared, and suspected Hogue as the result of a tip.[10]

On May 10, 1993, police arrested Hogue in Somerville, Massachusetts and charged him with grand larceny.[10] On May 26, 1993, Harvard police returned to Hogue's Somerville apartment and recovered $600 in electronic equipment reported stolen from a New Jersey electronics firm where Hogue worked in the summer of 1992.[11] In June 1993, Hogue was charged with two counts of larceny and one count of receiving stolen property by the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office.[11] Hogue's theft was one of the largest in the history of the Harvard University Police Department.[11]

Hogue violated the conditions of his parole by returning to Princeton and hanging around the campus using the name Jim MacAuthor; he had not officially enrolled, but had attended social functions and eaten in the cafeteria. After a graduate student recognized him, he was arrested on February 19, 1996, and taken into custody by the Princeton Borough Police – who later released him on his own recognizance.[citation needed] He was later incarcerated in the Mercer County Correctional Center on a conviction for defiant trespass.[citation needed]

Hogue was released from prison in 1997 and vanished from the public eye.[citation needed] Between 1997 and 2003, Hogue was arrested at least twice for theft.[12]

In January, 2005, police with a warrant searched Hogue's home in San Miguel County, Colorado, finding 7,000 items, worth over $100,000, stolen from nearby homes where Hogue had worked as a remodeller and repairman. The stolen goods "packed his house and a small secret compartment he'd built."[13] He was apprehended in Tucson, Arizona on February 4, 2006 by Deputy United States Marshal Richard J. Tracy Jr.[14][15] and deputies from the Pima County, Arizona Sheriff's department while Hogue was sitting in a Barnes & Noble cafe, surfing the internet.

On March 12, 2007, Hogue pleaded guilty to theft, in return for limiting his sentence and dropping additional charges.[16] He was released on probation in 2012.

On November 3, 2016, Hogue was arrested in Aspen on a misdemeanor theft warrant from Boulder County, Colorado.[17] Aspen police discovered Hogue living in an illegally constructed, camouflaged shack on Aspen Mountain,[12] and possibly in the midst of building a second illegal structure on the mountain.[17] Hogue gave a false name when apprehended and may be charged with criminal impersonation.[17]

In popular media[edit]

In 1999, filmmaker Jesse Moss tracked Hogue down in Aspen, Colorado to interview him for a documentary. Moss was a student at Palo Alto High School when Hogue disguised as a student. The completed film, entitled Con Man, was released in 2003.[6][12]


  1. ^ a b c Farber, James Barron With M. A. (1991-03-04). "Tracing a Devious Path to the Ivy League". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  2. ^ "The Almost Too Strange to be True Story of Alexi Santana". Runner's World. 2008-09-22. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  3. ^ a b "Documentary probes life of 'Mystery Boy' / Filmmaker and ex-classmate analyzes drifter who duped Palo Alto High, Princeton". SFGate. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  4. ^ a b c "Business | Marathon Hoax: Track Star, Liar, Ex-Princeton Student In Jail | Seattle Times Newspaper". community.seattletimes.nwsource.com. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  5. ^ a b c d "The Runner". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  6. ^ a b Stannard, Matthew B. (2002-03-18). "Documentary probes life of 'Mystery Boy' / Filmmaker and ex-classmate analyzes drifter who duped Palo Alto High, Princeton". SFGATE. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  7. ^ "The con artist next door – The Denver Post". Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  8. ^ "The unbelievable story of the imposter who came to Princeton". The Tab Princeton. 2016-03-01. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  9. ^ a b "Princeton 'Student' Gets Jail Sentence". The New York Times. 1992-10-25. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Bogus Princeton Student Held in New Crime". The New York Times. 1993-05-16. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  11. ^ a b c "Student Indicted for Stealing Gems From Harvard Museum | News | The Harvard Crimson". www.thecrimson.com. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  12. ^ a b c Auslander, Jason (November 2, 2016). "Cops: Aspen Mountain shack squatter is notorious con man | AspenTimes.com". Aspen Times. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  13. ^ "Hogue Pleads Guilty to Theft". Telluride Daily Planet. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  14. ^ Fugitive "Con Man" from Colorado Nabbed in Tucson, United States Marshals Service, February 4, 2006 Archived September 23, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Suspect in thefts near Telluride has led life of cons, Aspen Times News, February 8, 2006. Archived September 18, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Hogue pleads guilty to felony theft charge, Denver Post, March 13, 2007.
  17. ^ a b c "Con man arrested at Pitkin County Library | AspenTimes.com". www.aspentimes.com. Retrieved 2016-12-08.


  • Samuels, David. The Runner: A True Account of the Amazing Lies and Fantastical Adventures of the Ivy League Impostor James Hogue, ISBN 159558188X