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American Greed: The Fugitives

10 hideout cities for fugitives

Celia Watson Seupel, Special to CNBC
10 hideout cities for fugitives
Ekaterina Nosenko | Flickr | Getty Images

Where would an American fugitive run to flee the long arm of the law? You can see some shameful stories on "American Greed: The Fugitives. "

Legal and law-enforcement experts won't comment on "best" hideouts, but they do note that in a foreign country, local police must do the arresting; U.S. diplomatic relations with local law enforcement agencies are critical to extradition.

About 100 countries (some listed here) don't have extradition treaties with the U.S. An American fleeing American justice could hide in plain sight in any one of them. The only problem is, many are rife with poverty and disease—at best unpleasant and at worst intolerable.

Most countries in the Western hemisphere do have extradition treaties with the U.S. So maybe some risk of extradition is worth living in a more pleasurable environment.

What follows is an unscientific list of the 10 hideaway cities for Americans on the lam. It was calculated using a matrix of risk/pleasure factors, including whether or not countries have extradition treaties with the U.S. and how good relations are; size of city population and ease of getting "lost"; and these subjective factors: how westernized the city is and activities and culture available in the city.

—By Celia Seupel, special to CNBC
Posted 21 Nov. 2013

—CNBC follows the money trail in search of the most wanted white-collar fugitives. "American Greed: The Fugitives " Thursdays, at 10 p.m. ET.

10. Lyon, France
Karen Desjardin | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

France deserves consideration as a flight destination. For one thing, there's the food. And at times, France seems to be reluctant to extradite. This June, France refused to extradite Michael and Linda Mastro because of their age, unless the U.S. promised not to send them to jail. (See the whole story on "American Greed: The Fugitives. ") Indicted on charges including money laundering and bankruptcy fraud (to the tune of $570 million, according to bankruptcy trustee James Rigby), Michael Mastro, 88, and Linda Mastro, 63, are hiding in plain sight in the French Alps.

Not as obvious as Paris, Lyon—one of France's largest cities—has a sizable population in which to get lost (over 2 million in the urban area). The city has a lively business and cultural life, and of course, great food. Located on the Rhone River and not far from the Alps.


Extradition Treaty: Yes

Pleasure: Medium-High


9. Marseille, France
Walter Bibikow | AWL Images | Getty Images

With a population similar to Lyon, Marseille has the bonus of being on the Mediterranean. It has castles, museums, beaches (300 days of sunshine per year) and lots of small businesses—not to mention gangland drugs that keep police busy.

Extradition Treaty:Yes

Pleasure: High


8. Belem, Brazil
Street scene in Belem, Brazil
Getty Images

While Brazil has an extradition treaty with the U.S., many fugitives have hidden in this big, burgeoning country over the years. It seems easy to get "lost" in Brazil. But U.S. marshals have a "great working relationship" with Brazilian law enforcement, according to William Sorukas, chief of international investigations at the Marshals Service. So the pleasure of living in Brazil should be weighed against the risk.

Belem has a big population in which to get lost: 2.25 million. The "entrance to the Amazon," Belem's airport, bus station and water routes make for easy escape. And a fugitive in the "City of Mango Trees" gets to lounge on one of 14 freshwater beaches.



Extradition Treaty: Yes

Pleasure: High


7. Tianjin, China
Tianjin, China
Yew Kwang | Flickr | Getty Images

Only a two hours' drive from Bejing, but so much more unexpected as a hideaway, Tianjin is a sprawling port city on the Grand Canal by the Bohai Gulf in northeast China. Population is about 10 million. The local water park features lakes and willow trees (that is, no wave pools or rides); in general, expect non-Western culture.

Extradition Treaty: No

Pleasure: Low.

6. Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Shopping street in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Sovfoto | UIG | Getty Images

Formerly known as Gorky (as in author Maxim Gorky), this city of over a million residents has its own Kremlin, medieval monasteries and modern industry. Nizhny is fairly obscure but generally gets good travel reviews. However, the weather might give you pause: snow almost every day November to March. Even summers are cool.

Extradition Treaty: No

Pleasure: Medium-Low


5. Salvador, Brazil
Salvador, Brazil
Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP | Getty Images

A city of industry and trade, Salvador also is known for its arts, music, food and beaches. The population is plenty large—over 2 million, and getting lost is a snap at the huge Carnival of Salvador de Bahia, touted as the world's largest street festival. Though risky (Sorukas says the Brazilian authorities are "extremely cooperative and responsive" to U.S. requests), the pleasure factor places it mid-range in the list for American fugitives.

Extradition Treaty: Yes

Pleasure: High


4. St. Petersburg, Russia
People walk around Dvortsovaya square covered by snow in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Kirill Dudryavtsev | AFP | Getty Images

The "Venice of Russia," St. Petersburg is threaded with canals, castles and cathedrals, full of history and a center of the arts (location of the Hermitage. Population: about 4.5 million. The northern location on the coast of the Gulf of Finland makes for "white nights" (no darkness) in the summer but lots of winter darkness; proximity to water moderates the temperatures, down to about 14 degrees F. in winter and up to the mid-80s in summer.

Extradition Treaty: No

Pleasure: Medium


3. Escaldes-Engordany, Andorra
Roc Blanc Square, Escaldes-Engordany, Andorra
Alfredo Maiquez | Lonely Planet Images | Getty Images

In case you're wondering, Andorra is a happy mini-country squeezed between France and Spain. Its flourishing economy is based around tourism, skiing and shopping. Andorrans have one of the longest life expectancies on the planet, averaging 85. Escaldes is famous for its natural hot spas, especially the luxurious destination, Caldea. The town's population is only 14,000 but tourists keep it hopping. And since Andorra has neither extradition treaty with U.S. nor even a consulate, hiding in a crowd probably isn't necessary. Cold winters, cool summers.

Extradition Treaty: No

Pleasure: High


2. Macau, China
Casinos in Macau, China.
Brian Sytnyk | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

Located across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong, Macau has no extradition treaty with the U.S (unlike Hong Kong). Tourism is high but population size is modest—about half a million people. However, there may be no need for a fugitive to hide. A Chinese "administrative region," center of gambling and recently cited by Business Insider as a place for China's rich to launder money, Macau may be a prime site for Americans fleeing justice.

Extradition Treaty: No

Pleasure: High


1. Andorra la Vella, Andorra
Andorra La Vella, Andorra
Christian Kober | AWL Images | Getty Images

Not far from the hot spas of Escaldes, picturesque Andorra la Vella is the country's capital with a population of about 20,000. Perfect if you like skiing, soaking and shopping. Easy access to France and Spain.

Extradition Treaty: No

Pleasure: Very High


"American Greed: The Fugitives"

A spinoff series from the producers of "American Greed " that focuses on active cases of alleged white-collar criminals, accused of orchestrating elaborate scams to dupe investors and to ultimately evade capture. Each episode features interviews with law enforcement, prosecutors and victims, all sharing the goal of bringing these fugitives to justice.

CNBC follows the money trail in search of the most wanted white-collar fugitives. "American Greed: The Fugitives " Thursdays, at 10 p.m. ET.