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Air Force officer who disappeared 35 years ago caught in California

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Posted at 8:46 AM, Jun 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-11 15:08:34-04

(KGTV) - An Air Force officer who disappeared 35 years ago was found in California, military investigators announced.

Investigators said William Howard Hughes Jr. was labeled a deserter in 1983 after failing to report to Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. Hughes’ duties involved NATO and surveillance operations, and at the time, Hughes had top secret clearance and access to sensitive military information.

According to investigators, Hughes “deserted the Air Force in July 1983 after returning from temporary duty in Western Europe. Hughes was last seen in the Albuquerque, N.M., area withdrawing $28,500 from his bank account at 19 different branch locations.”

As part of a passport fraud investigation earlier this month, federal investigators interviewed a man named Barry O’Beirne. Hughes eventually admitted that he had taken on the Barry O’Beirne name after deserting the Air Force.

Hughes, according to investigators, said that he was depressed about being in the Air Force and decided to leave in 1983. He had been living in California as Barry O’Beirne ever since.

10News obtained records that show someone with the name Barry O’Beirne lived in the San Diego area from 1990-2003.

10News reached out to Air Force officials to confirm that O’Beirne/Hughes resided in San Diego during that span.

Hughes was taken into custody at his home on June 6 and is being held at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California.

Investigators said it does not appear Hughes leaked any classified information.