He was once known as the barefoot bandit – a notorious teen fugitive who stole cars, boats and airplanes and toyed with police during an epic two-year crime spree.
But in his dress shoes and collared shirt, Colton Harris Moore could have passed for a typical young professional as he was spotted for the first time since swapping a prison cell for work-release.
The 25-year-old is staying at a half-way house and has started a part-time clerical job for his former defense attorney, John Henry Browne.
The supervised assignment is the final phase of the seven-year prison term dished out in 2011 for a trail of thefts and burglaries spanning from Washington State to the Bahamas.
He has vowed to obtain a pilot’s license and will set about becoming the aviation industry’s answer to Donald Trump when he’s formally released in January.
But for now the 6ft, 5in, felon is restricted to fetching boxes of files and answering phones.
Baby-faced Harris Moore kept a low-profile as he headed to Browne’s downtown Seattle office Tuesday morning in dark sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt.
But in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, he opened up about the ‘living hell’ of prison, his dream of building an aviation company and the simple first meal he enjoyed in the outside world – a Starbucks panini and chocolate frappuccino.
‘It looked like a work of art,’ he joked. ‘I don’t recall exactly what was in the drink but it was very, very good. Thank God I’m not diabetic but I probably will be after drinking a few more of those.
‘We’ve gone to a few other restaurants but it’s not a huge deal. I don’t care about a lot of things a typical 25-year-old guy cares about.’
The high school dropout gained international notoriety when he bolted from a half-way house at age 17 and hopscotched across the United States in a fleet of stolen vehicles.
At the height of his infamy, he boasted 77,000 Facebook followers and was likened to Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Catch Me If You Can for his ability to stay one step ahead of the police.
He even inspired a line of ‘Barefoot Bandit for President’ t-shirts, referencing the nickname Harris-Moore earned from carrying out burglaries bare-footed and leaving behind chalk-outlined footprints as a calling card.
After spending six years languishing at a Washington state prison Harris Moore told DailyMail.com he was focusing solely on a law-abiding future.
‘My mom died, my dog died – the things I cared about most in this world are dead,’ he added. ‘It’s been a living hell, it’s not been fun and it’s not gone fast.
‘But now that prison is totally done, my life is moving forward physically, I’m not just talking and thinking about it.
‘Something that people don’t realize is that I’ve wanted to work my entire life. I know that sounds counter-intuitive because what people know about me is running through the woods and doing other things.
‘You don’t associate being a fugitive with wanting to build a career but at some point in the very near future I’m going to be building companies.
‘The last six years I’ve been forced to sit in a box and do nothing. For somebody like me that’s very difficult because I have a lot of energy and there’s a lot of things I want to do.
‘I always tell people that I have “Donald Trump” energy – I want to work 18, 20 hours a day. But now I’m at a point when things are building speed. It’s been very busy and very exciting.’
Harris Moore’s transition from incarcerated outlaw to regular citizen began in late September when he was transferred to Seattle’s Reynolds Work Release facility, which houses around 100 inmates classified as low-level risk.
He is subject to a curfew but allowed out each day to work for Browne, a high-profile lawyer who once represented Ted Bundy and has just released a memoir, The Devil’s Defender.
‘I’m doing just about everything a paralegal would do but it’s not where my heart lies,’ added Harris Moore. ‘Some people have actually said I should get a law degree but John is a very big advocate of people doing what they love to do.
‘Ultimately I’m going to be working with airplanes. That’s what I was born to do, that’s where my passion is, flying machines.
‘I get released in mid-January and by mid-February I’ll have a pilot’s license. But I’m not interested in being hired as a pilot, more the engineering side.’
Harris Moore says that when his sentence formally expires he wants to move to New York City to boost his career.
The 24/7 lifestyle will be a far cry from his bleak childhood on the remote island of Camano, Washington, where he lived in a trailer with his alcoholic mother and spent periods living wild.
Harris Moore began stealing from neighbors when he was just 12 years old but would later claim this was so he didn’t starve to death.
As he grew older his crimes escalated and he began to steal cars, boats and eventually planes, which he was able to fly with skills picked up from instructional DVDs and video games.
He began his legendary flight from justice in April 2008 after fleeing a minimum security juvenile facility where he was serving three years for burglary.
After living rough in woodland near his home, Harris Moore took to the skies in a plane he stole in Anacortes, Washington, and flew to the San Juan Islands.
He would go on to swipe another from an aircraft hangar in Idaho and only narrowly survived after running out of fuel and crash landing near Granite Falls, Washington.
Harris Moore later made his way to Oregon aboard a 32ft stolen boat – stopping first to leave $100 at an animal shelter.
From Oregon, he traveled across the United States, committing alleged robberies and thefts in South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois before finally stealing a Cessna 400 in Indiana to flee the country.
This time he made for the Bahamas where his 1000-mile flight ended with a crash landing in a swamp.
He was later reported to police by a server after he walked into a bar barefooted and downed a beer.
By the time local cops shot out the engine on his latest stolen boat and took him into custody in July 2010, Harris Moore was suspected of more than 100 crimes in nine states.
He also had an army of online fans who followed the antics of their ‘folk hero’ via the Facebook page he updated from a stolen laptop.
Prosecutors branded Harris Moore a ‘menace’ to society but a judge expressed sympathy for the ‘mind numbing absence of hope’ in his childhood and sentenced him to a relatively lenient seven years in prison.
He was handed a six year sentence in federal court a year later to be served concurrently and with time already served both terms expire in the New Year.
The rights to his life story have already been sold to Twentieth Century Fox for $1.3 million – but every penny will be paid to Harris Moore’s victims in restitution in a deal he himself engineered and insisted upon.
Harris-Moore, whose mother died of lung cancer in May as he tried to raise money to have her cryogenically frozen, says that’s where his cooperation with filmmakers ends.
‘As far as the movie goes it’s not something that I ever wanted,’ he explained. ‘It was a game of chess to get Fox to pay my restitution and whether they ever made the movie or not was something I was willing to gamble on.
‘I’m totally against it. I think it’s a bad idea and I don’t think it would be an accurate portrayal of my life. I think that my life amounts to more than the sensationalism of Hollywood.’
Harris Moore doesn’t, however, rule out finding love, but says he’s taking life one step at a time.
‘I’ve been alone my whole life, I’m accustomed to it, I like the solitude,’ he told DailyMail.com. ‘My career is my top priority so I don’t want to have to dedicate time and energy to someone else.
‘When you’re working 18 to 20 hours a day it’s really hard to spend time with other people and I don’t want to be in a position where I’m disappointing somebody.
‘But you can’t predict the future, I might meet somebody, fall in love – you never know. Like every other aspect of my life, I’ll figure it out when I get there.
‘If I had never been caught in the Bahamas I would have continued to Venezuela and Hugo Chavez would have given me citizenship when he was still alive.
‘But now I’m going to be building my company in this country as a legal citizen. Life has a way of coming together in ways you can never predict.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail – Ben Ashford