This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY — A man’s push to find his real dad has instead landed him in trouble with the federal government.
Ronald Fisher said he believes his father may be the late Donald Fisher, founder of Gap, Inc.
“Well, we’ve definitely got the same jaw line,” Ronald Fisher chuckled, referencing photos of the two men. “It’s very pronounced!”
The resemblance isn’t so obvious or even relevant in the eyes of federal prosecutors, who allege Ronald Fisher committed wire fraud while lying about a potential inheritance to an undercover FBI agent.
The allegations have kept Ronald Fisher behind bars in the Weber County Jail for the past 9 months on what the prosecutors have said amounted to one of several violations of his supervised release.
Ronald Fisher has previously served over a decade in prison for white collar crimes, his lawyer, Emily Swenson, acknowledged.
“Ron approached me with wanting to prove the truth,” Swenson said, with her client joining her by phone from jail. “They’re claiming he’s making this up.”
A motion filed by Swenson to have Donald Fisher’s remains exhumed for potential DNA evidence was recently denied by a judge.
“I thought for certain my motion to compel the DNA evidence would have been granted,” Swenson said. “I was actually shocked.”
While Ronald Fisher has no definitive proof of a link to the Gap founder, he pointed to several circumstances in his life that he believes raise questions about a potential connection.
Like Donald Fisher, Ronald Fisher lived in the Bay Area in the 1950s. He was raised by his grandparents, apart from his mother and the father he never knew.
“My grandmother had told me some stories and so forth about my father because I never really met him — at least anything I remember because I was so young — but he was a successful businessman up in the San Francisco area,” Ronald Fisher said. “The thing that was so puzzling was why all the pictures and everything had been taken out of the family albums and why there was this complete separation and no real contact.”
Ronald Fisher said more questions surfaced in the early 1970s when he lost his ID while working on a fishing boat off the Ivory Coast and had to talk to the U.S. consulate.
“When my records came back, it came back Ronald Daniel Fisher and I had been raised as Daniel Charles Steele,” Ronald Fisher recalled.
Roughly four decades later in 2012, Ronald Fisher claimed to have had a mysterious meeting while in prison with lawyers he had never met before, where he was allegedly told he may be related to the Gap founder.
“That’s when it became more apparent this was a different set of circumstances than I had initially thought it was,” Ronald Fisher said.
Swenson said once Ronald Fisher was out of prison and on supervised release, he told several people he knew about the potential relationship and even marveled about a possible inheritance.
One of those people, Swenson said, turned out to be an undercover FBI agent.
In a motion that opposed Swenson’s attempt to compel DNA evidence, prosecutors alleged Ronald Fisher “knowingly and willfully participated in a scheme to defraud an investor … out of $400,000 and to obtain $400,000 through false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises.”
Shortly after Ronald Fisher attempted in 2016 to deliver a hand-written note to Donald Fisher’s widow, he was arrested.
Swenson denied that her client ever used his story of a potential inheritance to defraud the undercover agent.
“(Ronald Fisher’s) position is, ‘hey, if I am related, maybe I am in that trust, maybe I am entitled to the money or the proceeds,’ and so the government’s claiming that he’s broadcasting that and telling that to people, and that it’s not true,” Swenson said. “We’re just simply wanting to say, ‘hey, either it is or it isn’t.’ And if you go with Ron’s version of it, it is absolutely true. We’re just wanting to prove that.”
Prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City declined an interview on the case and instead referred back to court documents in which the prosecutors maintained Ronald Fisher’s alleged status as Donald Fisher’s biological son was irrelevant to Ronald Fisher’s alleged federal crimes.
Attorneys representing Donald Fisher’s family had not returned with a comment or statement as of late Tuesday.
Despite having been locked up for 9 months, Ronald Fisher remained hopeful that someday his questions would be answered.
“I’m a very positive person by nature — maybe a little too optimistic in some situations,” Ronald Fisher said.
Swenson said a “facial DNA” test that compared facial features in photographs of the two men came back with an 88.71 percent “total match percentage.”
“Anything over 50 percent is a high likelihood that they’re related,” Swenson said.
Ronald Fisher said he’d simply like to compare DNA somehow.
“Ron just wants the truth, you know, and he’ll face it,” Swenson said. “Everyone should want the truth in the justice system.”