18-year federal fugitive found, arrested on Key West houseboat

A woman who failed to appear in court on federal charges in Kansas City 18 years ago was taken into custody Friday in Key West, where she was living on a houseboat under an assumed name, says the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.

Michelle Singleton, 66, was due in federal court in March 1996 for sentencing on charges of payroll check fraud. She never showed up so a federal fugitive warrant was issued for her arrest, the Sheriff's Office says.

Deputy Becky Herrin said the Secret Service recently received information she was possibly living in Key West under the name of Catherine Harris, so an agent from the FBI's Kansas City, Mo., office called Detective Sgt. Donald Catala with the information. He looked at a photo of Harris and recognized her as someone he's seen before, Herrin said.

A computer check showed a woman named Catherine Harris was living in the Hilton Haven neighborhood and had obtained a Florida driver’s license in 2006; it expired in 2012, Herrin said. A comparison of a picture of Singleton with the driver’s license photo of Harris confirmed they are the same person, Herrin said. So a Secret Service agent met with Catala and Detective Dave Chavka.

The trio went to the houseboat she was living on, which is moored at a pier at 15 Hilton Haven Drive; Singleton was there. When they asked her for ID, she gave them her expired license. They then asked for her birth certificate and, when she got it from a file, some other pieces of paper fell out. Those turned out to be the Social Security card and birth certificate for Singleton, Herrin said.

She admitted she was Singleton, Herrin said, and was taken into federal custody on the fugitive warrant.