On June 5, during a passport fraud investigation, the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service interviewed an individual claiming to be Barry O'Beirne; after being confronted with inconsistencies about his identity, the individual admitted his true name was William Howard Hughes Jr., and that he deserted from the U.S. Air Force in 1983.
Investigators said this week that Hughes had returned to the United States and begun living under an assumed name.
An undated picture of Capt. William Howard Hughes, Jr.
While working at his permanent duty station at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, the Air Force assigned Hughes to a temporary duty station in the Netherlands in July 1983. Hughes, a Seattle native was arrested without incident on Wednesday.
After the Air Force formally declared Hughes a deserter in December 1983, his family said in an Associated Press article printed in the Journal on January 20, 1984, they believed he had been abducted.
Finally, they obtained surveillance video that captured him withdrawing more than $28,000 from 19 different banks in the Albuquerque area on July 22.
Hughes was involved in classified planning and analysis of NATO's control, command and communications surveillance systems during the Cold War.
Hughes was supposed to travel to the Netherlands in July 1983 to work with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officers on the operations of AWACS electronic surveillance planes.
He told his parents he was supposed to come back from the Netherlands on August 1.
The Air Force classified Hughes, who had a "Top Secret/Single Scope Background Investigation" clearance, as a deserter a few months later.
But an Office of Special Investigations spokesperson Linda Card told the Albuquerque Journal there was no indication Hughes was involved with the Soviet Union or that any classified information was leaked. He could face up to five years of confinement, forfeiture of all pay and dishonorable discharge from the Air Force.
His family did not appear to know about his disappearance with the Albuquerque Journal reporting that his sisters said at the time that they thought he might have been abducted.
Hughes' sister, Christine Hughes, told the Associated Press in a January 1984 article that the family believed he had been abducted, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
"Szulc quoted an unidentified intelligence officer who told him, "[Hughes] is worth his weight in gold to the Russians in terms of future 'Star Wars, ' if we have them".
But more than 30 years after he dropped off the grid, Hughes was caught.
"Until we have the whole story, we don't have the story", Card said.