fool for love

Yesterday I saw “I Love You Phillip Morris” starring Jim Carrey and Ewen McGregor. I’m not a fan of Carrey’s work nor did I like the script but I was intrigued enough to investigate the true story it was based on…..

image found here

Nine years into a 144-year jail sentence for assorted charges, including felony escape and embezzlement, Russell is one of the Michael Unit’s most notorious and closely guarded inmates. Ask him why he is here, incarcerated and alone, and he will answer without missing a beat that it is because he was a fool for love.

Bryan Ferry was also once a Fool for Love

Steven Jay Russell has many other names. As well as the 14 known aliases he used while fabricating bogus credentials and passing himself off variously as a judge, a doctor, an FBI agent and a bar student, he has been nicknamed “Houdini” and “King Con” for his remarkable ability to escape from prison. From 1992, when he was imprisoned for the relatively minor charge of insurance fraud, Russell managed to escape four times from several different Texan jails over a five-year period.

Houdini image found here

Russell’s shenanigans were driven by his obsessive love for a fellow inmate called Phillip Morris whom he met in jail. Russell and Morris, who was serving a sentence for failing to return a rental car, were both released on parole in 1995. Setting up home together in Houston, Russell went in search of money to lavish on his lover. He persuaded a medical insurance company to hire him as their chief financial officer on the basis of a greatly exaggerated CV with all references directed back to him. In five months, he embezzled $800,000 from dormant accounts to fund the couple’s glamorous lifestyle of Mercedes-Benz cars, jet-skis and matching Rolex watches. Russell even had his teeth capped and plastic surgery on his eyes.

Steven Russell found here

Eventually, he was found out and sent back to jail, but not before impersonating a judge over the telephone and demanding his own bail money be lowered from $900,000 to $45,000 (he paid with a cheque that later bounced). Despite managing repeatedly to outwit the federal authorities, Russell was always caught because, each time he escaped, he would end up beating a path to Morris’s door.

Phillip Morris found here

Russell’s escapes were never violent but they were ingenious. Twice, he simply walked through the front gates. In 1993, while languishing in the Harris County Jail in Houston for making a false insurance claim about an injured back, Russell disguised himself as a workman with a walkie-talkie and a pair of women’s black trousers stolen from the infirmary. “I tapped on the security gate with my walkie-talkie and the guy let me through,” he explains, nonchalantly.

Jim Carrey as Steven Russell found here

Three years later, he stockpiled green felt-tip pens from prison art classes, squeezing the ink from the cartridges into a sink of water and dying his overalls the colour of surgical scrubs. “You have to be very careful because if you wring them out, you get streaks in the material,” he says matter-of-factly. Underneath the makeshift medical clothes, Russell taped plastic bags tightly to his body so that police dogs would not be able to follow his scent once he was on the run.

Surgeon’s scrubs USB keys found here

He was out but not for long. Within the year, he was back in jail, this time plotting his most daring escape ever. Over a 10-month period in 1998, Russell began to feign the symptoms of Aids. He ate almost nothing and took laxatives in order to look as emaciated as possible. He wrote up fraudulent health records on the prison library typewriter and sent them to the relevant department in the internal mail system for inclusion in his medical file. Astonishingly, Russell was so persuasive that the Texas authorities never ran their own tests and he was transferred to a nursing home. From there, he posed as his own doctor over the telephone and received permission from parole officers to take part in a non-existent treatment programme. A few weeks later, the bogus doctor called the prison to let them know that, sadly, Russell had died.

In reality, Russell was very much alive and on his way, once again, to be with Phillip Morris. “That escape was the most difficult,” says Russell. “I had to completely discipline myself to lose the weight and did lots of reading up on the symptoms of Aids. But now he claims that he is resigned to a future behind bars – he says that planning all those escapes was “exhausting”

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62 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You always provide the best escapist literature, NM.

    • Do you like my barcode?

      • Even more than your turn-key project managment skills.

  2. Goodness, what an ingenious fellow!

    • You’re up late Syncy 😉

      • I stayed awake all night fiddling with pictures and checking out how much I can do of my blogging from my new phone.

  3. That’s what he says.

    • He usually escapes on Friday 13th. So keep an eye on the news in May.

  4. phillip morris? looks a bit like christopher walken… not sure i’d starve myself for him, though.

    • I think he looks more like Bill Gates

  5. The man is clearly brilliant and it amuses me how many law enforcement agencies he duped, some in the simplest ways.

    • He has an IQ of 163 apparently

  6. The irony here is that the conman/escape artist cons himself best of all and cannot “escape” his behavior and the resultant consequences.

  7. I always enjoy escapist literature.

  8. It’s amazing the number of (male) prisoners who manage to walk casually out of prison by pretending to be a woman/ a workman/ a visitor/ the local vicar. It’s strange that women don’t seem so good at escaping.

  9. I’m going to have to watch the film now… I can’t help but admire the ingenuity.

  10. Is it just me, or does Phil Morris look a lot like clever old Bill Gates?

    • No it’s not just you Cindy. I think so too.

  11. What people will do for love! Actually, all that planning and stuff probably kept him mentally active and relatively sane. There’s nothing worse than having nothing to plan for or do…

    I kind of like Jim Carrey. Sometimes he is rather over the top, but I think he is a pretty good actor and one of our favorite movies by him is the Truman Show, a film well worth seeing.

    • I thought he was good in Truman show too. Majestic was another decent performance.

  12. I’m not a fan of Jim Carrey either …… Bryan Ferry might turn me though ……

  13. Wow! I can’t even lie about taking out the trash without getting busted!
    I’m not a huge Jim Carrey fan, either, although I did really like him in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and I thought he was okay in Man in the Moon, too. I’ll even admit to being a Dumb and Dumber fan (although most of those types of his movies seem like the same act over and over again). 🙂

  14. Just proves if there is a will there is always a way out of prison. Real genius though. He looks a little like Bruce Willies in that photo.

  15. What a great story. I love tales from the outlaw world.

  16. Jim Carrey AND Ewan McGregor – two good reasons not to see a film.

    When I first saw the name I assumed the film was some sort of ironic reference to a tobacco company.

  17. The things we do for love… But a 144 year sentence for a non violent crime? Jesus that is ridiculous!

  18. 144 years??? That’s gross!

  19. He wouldn’t get out of our dungeon.

    Great read though, I guess he liked to smoke Phillip Morris.

    The King

    • What dungeon?

      • Don’t tempt me!

        The King

  20. Say what you want about AIDS, but it sure as hell make you drop those pounds…

  21. You had me at the kilt.

  22. I’ve been meaning to check out this film. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Let me know what you think of it. I would have preferred it to be filmed as a drama.

      • Just watched it yesterday with a friend, we both loved it!

  23. A ‘fool for love’ indeed. But, like others have said, 144 years for making idiots out of his jailers seems to be a tad excessive.

  24. This story provided me with some enjoyable escapism.

  25. Wow. That’s love. I’ve read a couple of stories about these various con artists and I must admit that I find them totally fascinating. I’d rather read it than see Carey portray it though.

  26. Intriguing indeed, I must find out more about this interesting gent. I salute you for your knowledge on this subject.

    • Thanks Jimmy, always nice to see you here

  27. When I saw the title I thought the Nurse had some revelations about cigarettes.
    Who else remembers this, the Philip Morris advert?

    But this post is so much more fun to read! Thanks, Nurse.

  28. That is an awesome story. The guy is absolutely brilliant. I’d be rotting in jail like a good doobie.

  29. Sounds more like addiction than love to me.

  30. Hey, wouldn’t you do all that for all that Phillip Morris Cigarette money?

    (Yes, I know it is not the same Phillip Morris)

  31. Well this does have movie material all over it. I haven’t seen Jim in anything as of late. Wonder what he is up to. Sounds like that may be a good thing for you 🙂

  32. What a story. Now I want to see the film.

    Did you like it?

    • No, not really. I didn’t enjoy Jim Carrey’s performance and I don’t think the story worked very well as a comedy.

  33. That has to be one of the best love stories i’ve ever heard!!! I never even knew such a movie existed and i pride myself on being an Ewan Mcgregor fan! Thanks Nurse dear

  34. *Gasp* Why do i have such a weird looking Avatar?? What happened to my crab??? I liked the feller….

  35. What a fascinating story and a very clever man. In an odd way it’s very much a testimony to the power of love.

  36. No matter how smart a person is, they always have a fatal weakness. That’s a fascinating story!

    “The Truman Show” is Jim Carrey’s best work, IMHO.

  37. HA, I’m thinking this guy was also the most captured criminal of all time. Is he still in jail (gaol)?

    • Yes he is. Though maybe he’ll escape again on May 13

  38. Most excellent story. I’m intrigued now.

  39. i truly enjoyed the movie and both the stars’ performances. it was very easy to swoon over ewan, what a doll he played.

    • Hello Miss Desmond, welcome to the gimcrack

  40. I’m going to watch it because McGregor is a fucking dreamboat.

    • And I’ll probably be angry, because I really can’t stand Jim Carey.

  41. Pretty sure Steven Russell is my new hero.

  42. did n-e one happen to catch the bruce almighty reference?
    about god being a mean kid with a magnifying glass and him being the ant, lol

  43. Just got around to seeing the movie today. Made me cry, actually …

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