Steven Jay Russell (born September 14, 1957) is an American con artist known for escaping from prison multiple times. I Love You Phillip Morris, a film about his life and crimes, was produced in 2009. In 2011, his crimes were featured on the TV show I Almost Got Away with It in the episode "Got a Boyfriend to Support". He was also the subject of the 2005 On The Run episode "King of Cons" on Discovery Channel.
On March 20, 1998, Russell posed as a millionaire from Virginia in an attempt to legitimize a $75,000 loan from NationsBank in Dallas; when bank officials became suspicious and alerted the police, Russell feigned a heart attack and was transported to a hospital. Russell was placed on security watch but he impersonated an FBI agent and called the hospital on his cell phone to tell them he could be released.
U.S. Marshals later tracked down Russell in Florida, where they arrested him on April 5, 1998, when he went to retrieve a fax. Russell was sentenced to a total of 144 years in prison (99 years for the escapes and 45 years for subsequent scams).
As of 2010, Russell is in in the Polunsky Unit on a 23-hour lockup, only having one free hour a day to shower and exercise. He was previously held in the Mark W. Michael Unit. His release date from prison is July 18, 2140.
Internet and print media
Since the movie went into production and Steven Jay Russell's story became more popular, several articles appeared in print and online uncovering lesser known details of his exploits. Esquire magazine interviewed both Steven Russell and Phillip Morris for its feature, "The Great Escapee", while The Guardian published "I Love You, Phillip Morris: A Conman's Story".