Steven Jay Russell

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Steven Jay Russell
Born (1957-12-31) December 31, 1957 (age 66)
OccupationCon artist
Known forMultiple successful escapes from several prisons

Steven Jay Russell (born December 31, 1957) is an American con artist, known for escaping from prison multiple times.

I Love You Phillip Morris, a film about his life and crimes, was produced in 2009.

Life and crimes[edit]

Allan B. Polunsky Unit, where Russell is located

Russell was adopted in 1957 after his birth parents divorced[1] by Georgia and David Russell, whose family owned a produce business.[2] At the age of 18, he began working for the family business, and he also volunteered as a reserve sheriff's deputy and played organ for his church.[1][2] In 1976, he married Debbie Davis, daughter of the police chief's secretary, and their daughter, Stephanie, was born two years later.[3] Russell and his wife divorced after he revealed to her that he was gay.[2]

Russell began to support himself through a variety of scams including faking slip and fall accidents and selling counterfeit Rolex watches, leading him to be arrested for fraud.[3] In 1995 he began a relationship with fellow inmate Phillip Morris.[4]

On March 20, 1998, Russell posed as a millionaire from Virginia in an attempt to legitimise a $75,000 loan from NationsBank in Dallas; when bank officials became suspicious and alerted the police, Russell feigned a heart attack and was transported to the hospital. Russell was placed on security watch, but he impersonated an FBI agent and called the hospital on his mobile telephone to tell them he could be released.[5]

U.S. Marshals later tracked Russell to Florida, where they arrested him on April 5, 1998, when he went to retrieve a fax. Russell was sentenced to a total of 144 years in prison (99 years for the escapes and 45 years for subsequent scams).

As of 2010, Russell is in the Allan B. Polunsky Unit[6][7] on a 23-hour lockup, only having one free hour a day to shower and exercise. He was previously held in the Mark W. Michael Unit and the W.J. Estelle Unit.[8][9] His maximum sentence date is March 13, 2113, and he became eligible for parole on December 15, 2020.[6]

On February 7, 2023, Russell was granted parole. His release date is still pending.[10]

In media[edit]

A film about his life and crimes was produced in 2009, named I Love You Phillip Morris, starring Jim Carrey as Russell[11] and Ewan McGregor as his boyfriend Phillip Morris.[12]

Since the movie went into production and Russell's story became more popular, several articles appeared in print and online uncovering lesser known details of his exploits. Esquire magazine interviewed both Russell and Morris for its feature, "The Great Escapee",[3] while The Guardian published "I Love You, Phillip Morris: A Conman's Story".[1]

In 2011, his crimes were featured on the television series I Almost Got Away with It, in the episode "Got A Boyfriend to Support". He was also the subject of "On The Run", a 2005 episode of The Discovery Channel series King of Cons.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Day, Elizabeth (September 6, 2009). "I love you Phillip Morris: a conman's story". The Guardian.
  2. ^ a b c McVicker, Steve (March 16, 2011). "To Hollywood and back". Fort Worth Weekly.
  3. ^ a b c Hannaford, Alex (February 2010). "The Great Escapee". Esquire. pp. 88–93. Retrieved November 13, 2022 – via Scribd.
  4. ^ Day, Elizabeth (September 26, 2009). "King Con: A passion for escape". Fort Worth Weekly.
  5. ^ The Lakekand Ledger, April 10, 1998, via google news, with a photo of S. Russell, page B5 (10 in the google reader).
  6. ^ a b "RUSSELL, STEVEN L Archived November 17, 2020, at the Wayback Machine". Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on November 30, 2019. TDCJ ID: 00760259, SID: 05138971
  7. ^ Stein, Joshua David. "Ewan McGregor: Filthy and Gorgeous." (Archived August 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine) Out. Friday February 12, 2010. Retrieved on December 10, 2010. "[...] the two live lavishly until Russell gets caught and goes to prison for the rest of his life (Escape, Case No. 9,856-C). Russell -- Inmate No. 00760259 -- has a maximum sentence that would keep him imprisoned until July 12, 2140 -- 47,595 days after the film opens."
  8. ^ Day, Elizabeth. "I love you Phillip Morris: a conman's story." The Observer. Sunday September 6, 2009. Retrieved on December 10, 2010.
  9. ^ McVicker, Steve (February 6, 1997). "King Con". Houston Press. Retrieved July 9, 2021.
  10. ^ "Parole Review Information". Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved February 9, 2023.
  11. ^ "Jim Carrey Loves Phillip Morris".[dead link]
  12. ^ Rodney (December 18, 2007). "Ewan McGregor Cast In I Love You Phillip Morris". The Movie Blog. Retrieved November 16, 2022.

External links[edit]