With the news this morning that Bayouâ€™s Samuel Israel has turned himself in to police in Southwick, Mass., the long and often bizarre saga of his legal battle, sentencing, faked suicide and RV flight seems to be at an end. His capture certainly is good news from a law-and-order perspective, as he did cheat Bayou Group investors out of some $400 million. But as observers to this strange tale, we canâ€™t help but be a tad disappointed at what appears a rather anticlimactic ending.
Mr. Israel no doubt had his reasons for surrendering, just as he probably had some reason, albeit twisted, for running a pyramid-style scheme on investors in the Bayou fund group. But someone with the determination to flee the law, orchestrate a false suicide, and go on the run with a fully equipped recreational vehicle would seem as though he already had nothing to lose. Why turn himself in now?
In these times of war, uncertainty and painfully high gas prices, we could use a folk hero. Mr. Israel doubtless would be a poor choice, but some effort would be appreciated. Was it too much to ask for a cross-country chase packed with quirky characters and zany hijinx?
We envision Israel (played in the â€śinspired by true eventsâ€ť road comedy movie by William H. Macy) cruising down an upstate New York highway on June 9, windows down, Hawaiian shirt flapping in the breeze as he tunes a radio station announcing that authorities had found his car, with its M*A*S*H-themed suicide slogan. From there, nights spent on backwoods roads, covering the RV with branches before sleeping under the stars; perhaps some comic relief in the form of a down-on-his-luck hitchhiker possibly played by Seth Rogan, and the always-present threat of capture by the ruthless federal agent out to settle an old grudge. (Tommy Lee Jones would be an obvious choice, but in a perfect world it would be Jackie Gleason in full Buford T. Justice mode.)
Israel might make as far as the Midwest before he hears the only news worth turning around forâ€”the arrest of Debra Ryan, his one true love, for assisting in his escape. (Cheryl Hines could portray Ms. Ryan in the movie.) After some soul-searching over some corned beef hash at a roadside diner, he would have no choice but to turn around and head straight back into the lionâ€™s den, all the while concocting a harebrained scheme to bust Ms. Ryan out of the pokey. More chases and near-captures would ensue after their reunionâ€”there would of course be an intrepid journalist on their tail, a la Jane Fonda in the Electric Horseman, and a surprise appearance by a leather-clad Jim Rogers, astride his signature BMW, could make for a nice Smokey and the Bandit tribute scene. (Weâ€™d pick Jack Lemmon to play Mr. Rogers.)
Back across the country Mr. Israel and Ms. Ryan would go, bickering and wisecracking and stopping in Vegas for a quick Elvis wedding, until the Feds corner them on a lonely stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway. With nowhere left to go, Mr. Israel would turn the RV onto a lengthy pier, phalanx of flashing cherries in his rearview mirrorâ€”and then he would put the pedal to the floor. Puzzled, the agents would give chase, but Mr. Israel never slows, and as the RV approaches the end of the pier he and Ms. Ryan would be seen climbing onto the vehicleâ€™s roof in time to catch a rope ladder tossed down by, say, John Devaney of United Capital Asset Management, having reclaimed his beloved helicopter from the auction block. One hand clutching the ladder and the other around Ms. Ryanâ€™s waist, Mr. Israel would fade into the sunset with a mischievous wink, as the Feds stomp and curse and toss their hats on the ground. And it would leave things wide open for a sequel!
Alas, itâ€™s not to be. Mr. Israel probably canâ€™t be charged for cheating the world out of this story the way he cheated investors out of hundreds of millions of their dollars, but itâ€™s a shame nonetheless.