40 years after airman disappears in North Dakota, his secret double life in Florida is exposed

A 64-year-old man is in Air Force custody more than four decades after he allegedly deserted the U.S. military and began living a double life in Florida.

According to WTFV, Jeffrey Michels went missing from North Dakota’s Minot Air Force Base in 1977 and allegedly lived the intervening years in Terra Bella, Florida, under the alias Jeffrey Lantz.

Reports indicate the Ohio native used his false identity to conduct an array of official business in Florida, including the establishment of a construction business in 1998 and the purchase of a Seminole County home.

Efforts to find the ostensibly missing airman continued throughout the years.

Upon announcing the arrest on Twitter, WFTV’s Jeff Levkulich included a screenshot from one of the most recent social media campaigns on Michels’ behalf.

He was arrested Thursday evening on suspicion of desertion.

As the International Business Times reported, the charge carries a wide range of possible punishments — from a dishonorable discharge to the death penalty.

While WFTV reported Michels is expected to face a trial in a military court, the New York Post quoted Air Force Lt. John P. Longmire, who indicated Michel’s punishment will be on the low end of that scale.

“He has been brought back onto active duty at his previous rank of E-3,” the lieutenant said. “He will be given a discharge under ‘Other Than Honorable’ conditions.”

He reportedly lived in the Florida home with his wife and children.

[Featured image: Seminole County Sheriff’s Office]