The Man Who Escaped Prison By Simply Walking Out The Door

For con artists, lying comes as naturally as breathing. They're able to thrive in pretty much any social situation, since their chameleonlike personalities can create an identity tailor-made to get them what they want. And even though our laws aim to punish con artists who use their abilities to bamboozle people, companies, and governments, deep down we're fascinated by such characters. We turn charismatic fraudsters like Frank Abagnale into the incorrigible heroes of films like "Catch Me If You Can."

Another famous con artist from the 20th century, Steven Russell, was so convincing that he not only landed high-paying jobs for which he was absolutely unqualified, he even used his skills to think up some of the most insane ways to escape from prison, not just once, but four times. His MO: just walk on out. And according to The Infographics Show while his story is dramatic enough to have inspired the 2009 film "I Love You Phillip Morris," the authorities in Texas, where Russell made his multiple ingenious escapes, were not as entertained as the rest of us. He's now serving 144 years in a Texas prison, a sentence that some advocates have said outweighs the gravity of the crimes he committed. Let's take a look at the outrageous things Steven Russell did to get into prison and the mind-boggling ways he managed to walk right out again.

Steven Russell escaped from prison because he was in love

"This is a love story," Russell told The Guardian in his first interview after the release of the film made about his life. "It's about what a person will do, who is in love, who can't see the forest for the trees." Indeed, love was the motive behind every one of his escapes from prison. The first time was in 1992 when, locked up on a minor insurance fraud charge, Russell escaped a sentence of just six months. He took such a seemingly unnecessary risk because the man he loved was dying from AIDS on the outside, and he was determined to be with him in his final moments.

He pulled off the first of the four escapes that would go on to earn him the nicknames "Houdini" and "King Con" using his most powerful weapon: his confidence. He somehow got a hold of a walkie-talkie and a pair of black trousers from the prison infirmary, and even though they were women's pants, he used them to pass himself off as a prison workman. "I tapped on the security gate with my walkie-talkie and the guy let me through," he said. Then he just walked to freedom. But the law caught up with him, and he was soon back in jail. While in prison this time, he met and fell in love with a man named Phillip Morris. And when Steven fell in love, he fell hard.

Steven Russell couldn't stand to be away from Phillip Morris

Steven Russell and Phillip Morris were both paroled in 1995, and had they been content with being law-abiding citizens, they'd still be happily together to this day. Instead, Steven conned his way into getting a job as the chief financial officer of a medical insurance company. He had absolutely zero financial or medical experience, but he was able to embezzle $800,000 from the company. He and Phillip had a great time buying luxury cars, jet-skis, and a pair of matching Rolex watches, until the authorities caught up with them.

The judge had set Russell's bail to a whopping $900,000 in light of his history of skipping town, but the conman was able to get that lowered to $45,000 by calling the county clerk and impersonating the judge of his own case. He paid the bail with a check that later bounced and walked right out of prison again.

But the Texas authorities caught up with him in Florida and put him in jail again. This time, he used felt-tip pens he filched from the prison art classes to dye his overalls green and walked right out of the maximum security facility disguised as a member of the prison medical staff. He arrogantly gave the prison the finger after walking into the woods outside. He then convinced a man at the first house he came across that he'd been in a car accident coming back from his job at the prison, and the man gave him a ride into town.

Steven Russell's final escape was an impressive act

Steven and Phillip tried to make a life for themselves in Mississippi, but the chagrined Texas authorities were relentless in their search, and in 1998 Russell was back in prison. The stage was now set for his magnum opus. Figuring the only way to get the state off his back was to make it think he was dead, Russell started eating very little and used laxatives to make himself lose weight. Using a typewriter in the prison library, he forged medical records reading that he had been diagnosed with AIDS and used the internal mail system to send them to the pertinent office. They were convincing enough to be included in his medical file without question.

As prison doctors watched him waste away, they attributed it to the AIDS diagnosis and had him sent to hospice care. While there, he posed as his own doctor on the phone, first telling authorities that his patient was going into a treatment program that never really existed. He called again a few weeks later to notify them of his death. Russell walked right out of the hospice unit, and later even sent his own fake death certificate to the court.

But the embarrassed Texas penal system wasn't fully convinced, and he was eventually tracked down in Florida. Despite his love for Phillip Morris, Russell told The Guardian that were he able to do it all over again, he would have made better decisions. "I would never put myself or anyone else through that," he said.