Ariz. man who fled 1976 rape trial sent back to NY

Frank Eltman
Associated Press

Yaphank, N.Y. — A man living in Arizona for more than 40 years after allegedly jumping bail during his rape trial on Long Island was captured after he applied for Social Security benefits using the name of an acquaintance who had died in 2005, New York authorities said.

Todd Matus was convicted in absentia of rape and sodomy in 1976 and will now be sentenced to five to 15 years in a New York state prison for that crime, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said at a news conference Friday.

According to court documents, a then-21-year-old Matus attacked an 18-year-old woman in a wooded area on Long Island in 1975. A spokesman for the district attorney’s office said that woman has expressed interest in giving a victim’s impact statement when Matus is sentenced July 7.

Matus was arraigned Thursday in Suffolk County Court on a charge of bail-jumping and was remanded, pending sentencing. He was represented by an attorney from Legal Aid, which has a policy of not commenting on pending cases.

Matus, 62, was returned to New York this week after being arrested last fall while living in Flagstaff, Arizona. He served about nine months in jail there on forgery and identity theft charges after being caught applying for Social Security benefits under an assumed name. Authorities there turned him over to New York law enforcement when he completed his sentence.

Sini said circumstances of how Matus was able to elude capture for so long are still being investigated. He said authorities believe he spent some time in Vermont, Nevada and Hawaii, but had lived in Arizona for much of the past 40 years. He was believed to have worked in the real estate field, Sini said.

“What’s amazing about this story is the fact that he was a fugitive living under an assumed name for more than 40 years and then he had the gall to apply for Social Security benefits,” Sini said. “I don’t know what type of individual it takes to make that decision — obviously the type of individual who raped and sodomized an 18-year-old in the woods and beat that person.”