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Fugitive eludes police

| August 17, 2005 12:00 AM

A Nebraska fugitive still on the run after the arrest of his partner last week near Glacier Park is wanted in Lincoln County on theft charges dating to late 2003 and early 2004.

Michael Dugan, 44, escaped from a jail in Oshkosh, Neb., on June 28 along with two other men. One of the men, 24-year-old Michael Caudill, was arrested a month later in Colorado. The other, 18-year-old Joshua Hansen, was arrested Thursday in Flathead County after leading police on a chase in a stolen car.

Police had been notified earlier in the week that Dugan and Hansen might be coming to the Whitefish area because Dugan had a "base of support" there. A detective following up on a tip found the pair at the Blue Moon Nightclub Casino and Grill at the intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and Montana Highway 40. They had reportedly been working there for about a month and caused no trouble, saying they moved there from the Yaak.

The two men ran from the restaurant and apparently fled in a vehicle. Hansen was later spotted stealing a car in Columbia Falls; the owner of the car reported seeing Dugan fleeing the scene on foot. Hansen was arrested after crashing the car into a roadblock set up by law enforcement officers at the entrance of the park. A full-scale manhunt for Dugan was called off over the weekend.

The local charges against Dugan stem from a period of time in 2003 and 2004 when he lived in the Rexford area. He faces felony theft charges in connection with an apparent internet scam that took money from victims in Michigan, California, Canada and Ireland in exchange for vehicles that were never delivered.

Dugan's co-defendant in the case, Kristine Holt, 39, recently received a five-year suspended sentence for felony theft after entering into a plea agreement with the county attorney's office. According to court documents, the scam brought in a total of $8,500 from four separate "buyers," who never received anything.

Unfortunately for Dugan and Holt, two of the victims in the case were police officers from Toronto, said County Attorney Bernie Cassidy. The officers put together a case file and handed it over to local authorities.

"This is just a matter of somebody who said, 'I'm not going to be conned by these guys,'" Cassidy said.

By the time the warrants were issued against Dugan and Holt, the pair had abandoned their residence in Lincoln County and were apparently traveling across the country, amassing additional charges in other states. Holt eventually turned herself in to authorities, claiming she had been traveling with Dugan against her will, Cassidy said.

Dugan was being held in Nebraska on theft charges at the time of the escape. He and the other two men are alleged to have overpowered a jail guard before breaking into a locker to retrieve their civilian clothes and then stealing the jailer's car.

Because Dugan was arrested in Nebraska, authorities in that state had "first crack" at pressing their charges against him, Cassidy said.

"I don't think we were the only state in line with charges against him," Cassidy said.

Dugan is described as 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighing about 150 pounds. He has black hair, is balding, and has hazel eyes and a beard.

Anyone who sees him is advised to contact law enforcement immediately and not approach him