No one Escapes the World Wide Web Even In Guatemala.

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Les Rogge, the man with a knack for robbing banks and dodging the FBI, finally met his match – not in a high-speed chase or a dramatic shootout, but in the hum of a 56k modem.

Sebastian Strzalkowski vividly recalls the day his Uncle Bill, the neighborhood’s go-to guy for fixing everything from boats to broken hearts, came over to install a modem and drag their household kicking and screaming into the information age.

Bill Young, or Uncle Bill as Sebastian called him, was a staple in their tight-knit expat community in Antigua, Guatemala. Bill was always ready with a cold beer and an even cooler story, like the time he "allegedly" rigged a boat in under an hour. What Sebastian didn't know was that Bill's real talent wasn’t just in home repairs, but in heisting banks across the country.

As it turns out, Uncle Bill's actual name was Leslie Rogge, and he was America's Most Wanted's version of a Where’s Waldo book – but with more tattoos and less red-and-white stripes. Rogge's resume wasn’t just impressive; it was downright criminal.

Rogge's journey to infamy started in the 1940s in Seattle, where he discovered his talent for boosting cars. After a joyride that lasted longer than some people’s marriages, he ended up in juvenile court. The judge decided the best place for a young delinquent was the Navy. Spoiler alert: stealing cars didn’t quite mesh with the military's values, and Rogge was soon back on the streets with a dishonorable discharge and a new plan – robbing banks.

He treated bank robbery like a 9-to-5 job. Only instead of a cubicle and coffee breaks, he had stolen cars and cash bags. With a police scanner and a suit that screamed "trust me," he cleaned out banks from Arkansas to Texas like he was on a misguided quest to collect state quarters.

His technique was simple: show up in a stolen car, make an appointment with the manager (because who robs a bank without an RSVP?), and then kindly inform them they were being robbed. Rogge made off with millions, much of which he probably spent on hiding places and hair dye to cover that telltale white streak in his hair.

Fast forward to the late ‘80s, and Rogge was the FBI’s worst nightmare: elusive, charming, and a dead ringer for the "Where's Waldo?" character in a lineup. Meanwhile, he was buying boats and hiding cash under hotel beds, like any respectable fugitive would.

In the spring of 1996, in the heart of Guatemala, teenage Sebastian’s dad decided it was time to check out the internet. The Strzalkowskis lived in a place where "tech support" meant your neighbor with a toolbox and some duct tape, but now they had an internet connection that Sebastian would use for gaming and, inadvertently, for busting bank robbers. What am I saying, I live in Guatemala and in 2024, tech support is still a big hammer.

The rumors were flying faster than Rogge could dodge an FBI poster. People whispered that Uncle Bill’s past was more colorful than a rainbow, and when Sebastian's dad suggested looking up the FBI’s website, they found a photo gallery that made them question everything.

The big reveal came when they scrolled through the FBI's most-wanted list and saw a familiar face. That white streak of hair was unmistakable – Uncle Bill was Leslie Rogge, a modern-day Robin Hood without the charity work.

When Sebastian’s parents broke the news at a party, it was like announcing that the town hero was actually a supervillain. The FBI swooped in like a reality TV makeover team, only instead of a new wardrobe, they were bringing handcuffs. Rogge, tipped off and cornered, had no choice but to surrender, becoming the first fugitive to be outsmarted by dial-up internet.

Rogge is now serving a 65-year sentence, proving that no matter how slick you are, you can't outrun the World Wide Web – or a kid who just wanted to play games. As for Sebastian, he’s now a game developer, turning his brush with internet fame into a career.

In the end, the internet not only changed Sebastian’s life but also revolutionized crime-fighting. And if there’s one lesson here, it’s this: always be careful who you let install your modem. They might just be a bank robber with a retirement plan.

This is not the first story whereby new technologies solved crimes. Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen was caught in the year 1910. Specifically, he was apprehended on July 31, 1910, upon the arrival of the SS Montrose in Canada. This historic capture was significant for being the first instance where wireless communication technology played a crucial role in the apprehension of a fugitive.

Captain Henry Kendall of the SS Montrose grew suspicious of the pair. Observing their behavior, he recognized Crippen and Le Neve from photographs published in newspapers.Kendall used the ship's wireless telegraphy system (an early form of radio communication that included telegraph and telephone technology) to send a message to authorities in the UK.This was one of the first uses of such technology in the capture of a criminal.



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Recent Comments

30

Wow, Catherine!! That’s quite a story! 😃

Your life is anything but dull! Haha 👍

I threw away an external 56K dial-up modem just two months ago. It was sitting in a closet gathering dust since the late 1980s. I remember using a dial-up modem in college where the telephone handle fit inside an acoustic coupler. Yup! 😆

I’ll leave you with this thought: If you can’t fix it with duct tape, you can’t fix it! Lol 😎

Frank 🤘🎸

Actually the only thing I have in my first aid kit is duct tape

Haha, I believe it, Catherine! 👍

Check out the image I added of the modem with the acoustic coupler. Remember those?? (See above).

I remember those well ahh the frustration of waiting for an image to upload

When I first started using them in 1973 or ‘74 there were no images. The output was ASCII, Hexadecimal, or Binary.

I’m talkin about the days when I fed punch cards into a hopper, so no keyboards or monitors.

The baud rate on those modems was around 3! Lol

To be fair I was bombing around India at that time and whils I saw them I never used them. When I first did it was Windows 3.1 if I remember

Yeah, that was on mainframe machines, so computer workstations weren’t a thing yet. Data was still being stored on tape, no disks, so no MS DOS.

It was Fortran and COBOL back then. 😎

I remember Windows 1.0.
I was working as a physician for the state of Connecticut back then. It was so slow, buggy, and unstable that it wasn’t even usable on a serious level. Lol

3.1 was no picnic either. I taught myself in a second language I had barely been speaking for 6 months and the help was written in geek

Yeah, Windows 3.1 came just before Windows 95. The last version of Windows I liked was XP.

Then came Vista, which was horrible, except for that 7-second tone upon cold boot, which was recorded at Microsoft by the guitarist for King Crimson, Robert Fripp.

It’s very combersome to use the newer versions of Windows like a real computer.

i concur totally I quite like 11 though it is like 7 stable

Some excellent stories, Catherine!

Jeff

Thanks Jeff

You're welcome, Catherine!

Fun Stories- thanks for sharing,
Sami

Thank Sami

That was an awesome read - Thank You!

Thanks Chuck

This was a fun article to read. You are right. We are all touched by the internet in some way. I don't know how some people manage to navigate through life with some basic knowledged of a computer and the internet.
Jim

me neither it has become an integral part of our lives

That's for sure. Our family has to make a concerted effort just to get a day or two disconnected and it almost drives the kids crazy.
Jim

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