June 11 (UPI) — An officer of the U.S. Air Force who disappeared 35 years ago, and was ultimately classified a deserter, has been found in California living under another name, authorities said.
Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr. vanished in 1983 after returning from duty in Europe and withdrawing nearly $30,000 from his bank account.
The Air Force classified Hughes, who had a “Top Secret/Single Scope Background Investigation” clearance, as a deserter a few months later.
Hughes was identified and questioned last week as part of an investigation into passport fraud. Officials said he was using the name Barry O’Beirne.
“After being confronted with inconsistencies about his identity, the individual admitted his true name was William Howard Hughes Jr., and that he deserted from the U.S. Air Force in 1983,” the USAF said in a statement. “Hughes claimed that in 1983 he was depressed about being in the Air Force so he left, created the fictitious identity of O’Beirne and has been living in California ever since.”
Hughes was arrested near San Francisco and is being held in pre-trial confinement. The Air Force didn’t say where in California Hughes had lived under the O’Bierne name, or what charges he faces.
Military officials said Hughes had access only to secret information pertinent to NATO.