Steven Jay Russell

Steven Jay Russell
Born (1957-09-14) September 14, 1957
Elizabeth City, North Carolina, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Con artist
Known for Multiple successful escapes from several prisons

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.[1]

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 the Allan B. Polunsky Unit[2][3] 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.[4] His maximum sentence date is July 12, 2140.[2]

In media


A film about his life and crimes was produced in 2009, named I Love You Phillip Morris, starring Jim Carrey as Steven Jay Russell[5] and Ewan McGregor as his boyfriend Phillip Morris.[6]

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",[7] while The Guardian published "I Love You, Phillip Morris: A Conman's Story".[8]


  • McVicker, Steve (June 25, 2003). I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks. Miramax Books. ISBN 0-7868-6903-8. 
  • McWilliams, James (July 4, 2003). "The Master Manipulator". The Texas Observer. Archived from the original on October 2, 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-19. 


  1. The Lakekand Ledger, April 10, 1998, via google news, with a photo of S. Russell, page B5 (10 in the google reader).
  2. 1 2 "RUSSELL,STEVEN L" (Archived December 27, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.). Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on December 28, 2015. TDCJ ID: 00760259, SID: 05138971
  3. Stein, Joshua David. "Ewan McGregor: Filthy and Gorgeous." Out. Friday February 12, 2010. Retrieved on December 10, 2010. "[...] the two live lavishly until Russell gets caught and goes to prison for good (Escape, Case No. 9,856-C). Russell -- Inmate No. 00760259 -- has a maximum sentence that would keep him imprisoned until July 12, 2140 -- 47,595 days after the film opens."
  4. Day, Elizabeth. "I love you Phillip Morris: a conman's story." The Observer. Sunday September 6, 2009. Retrieved on December 10, 2010.
  5., "Jim Carrey Loves Phillip Morris"
  6. Ewan McGregor Cast In I Love You Phillip Morris |The Movie Blog
  7. Hannaford, Alex. "The Great Escapee | Prison | Crime & Justice". Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  8. Day, Elizabeth (September 6, 2009). "I love you Phillip Morris: a conman's story". The Guardian. London.
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