Posts Tagged ‘confidence men’

“Three Go For Trial In Train Hold-Up Case,” Toronto Star. November 15, 1918. Page 04.

John Lett, Walter Lett, and Gordon Dougal Committed on Story to Detectives.

On their own admissions as given to Detective Mitchell after being cautioned, John Lett, Capt. Walter Lett, and Gordon Dougal, were committed for trial by Col. Denison in the Police Court to-day. The Crown submitted that it was not a case for bail, and the trio remain in custody.

The men are the alleged conspirators in the hold-up near Sunnyside on October 23 when $20,000 was stolen from messengers of the Canadian Express Company.

‘John Lett, when cautioned,’ Detective Mitchell testified, ‘admitted holding up the two messengers at the point of a revolver, taking $20,000, and jumping off the train at Sunnyside, with the money.’

‘Where was it, in a box or safe?’ queried the colonel.

‘Safe, I think,’ replied Mitchell.

‘He admitted throwing a parcel of it away in the High Park district. I later accompanied him there and found the package. It contained $9,000.’

Walter Lett, the detective continued, admitted going to Barrie the day before the arrest and receiving $1,000 from John Lett, knowing it to have been stolen. He further admitted that his brother had come to his farm at Jordan and had told him of the proposed hold-up. He further said that the day after the robbery he came to Toronto to look for John, his brother.

What Dougal Says.
Gordon Dougal admitted, after being cautioned, that John Lett and he met the night prior to the robbery to discuss the robbery. It was arranged then that Dougal was to meet him the morning of the robbery at Sunnyside, which he admitted leaving the house to do. The meeting did not take place. He further admitted after arriving at the Union Station he had a telephone message from Lett about 8 a.m. – a hour after the robbery. Lett told him that he had got the money. Lett said that he was phoning from a church and wanted to know why Dougall didn’t meet him. He told him he had got the money and had hidden it under a rock pile.

In the church the police a black club bag, which belonged to Williamson, the Canadian Express messenger. The bag contained $99.90 in silver and papers belonging to the company.

Cross-examined by Frank Denton, K.C., counsel for the Letts, Detective Mitchell replied that the admissions included references to another man.

‘Did not the admissions allege that this man was the brains behind the hold-up – that he prompted John Lett and Dougal?’ ‘Yes.’

‘Was there any admission that Dougal was to get any of the money?’ asked Mr. W. K. Murphy, counsel for Dougal.

‘That was not suggested.’

‘If the Crown Attorney of the other court wants the other man he is able to get him,’ Col. Denison commented.

Find Reservoirs
The crocks of exhilaration cached beneath the sidewalk belonging to Mrs. Annie Portchuk, Adelaide street west, did not waste their sweetness on the desert air. According to police evidence in the Women’s Court to-day, they formed the reservoir from which the pop bottles which the lady retailed at $3.50 per, were filled. This marks the second time within the week that the Porichucks have moved in court circles. The record of to-day’s visit includes the fine, $200 and costs or three months.

Murdock Henry had a clothes sideline. He pleaded guilty to-day to augmenting his wardrobe with some $50 worth of garments to which he had no right. Most of these, the police stated, had since been recovered. The colonel was told that the quick change of costume set had been Henry’s first bad break. The colonel gave him the right to don the becoming Jail Farm uniform for the next 15 days.

Found guilty of defrauding Mrs. Dorothy Whitaker, wife of a soldier overseas, out of five $100 Victory Bonds, and of stealing an automobile the property of Jas. O’Leary and Ed. Murphy, W. F. Grimwood goes to the Ontario Reformatory.

Mrs. Whitaker stated that she had given him the Victory Bonds, 1917 issue, last November to put in a safe in the Bank of Montreal. She had since asked for them and couldn’t get them. In connection with these, Mr. S.N. Gibbons testified to having sold a motor car to Grimwood for $700. ‘In part payment for this, I received four 1917 Victory Bonds from Grimwood,’ Mr. Gibbons said. Mrs. Whittaker further remarked that she had given Grimwood $1,700 in Government pay checks and her own savings. This she gave him, she said, to invest in the Mossop Hotel, which he told her he was to convert into a club.

Two offenders against the O.T.A. got docked $300 and costs or three months in as many minutes. Harry Hurd was a retailer. He kept the bowl flowing on the broad highway. He that ran might drink, if he stopped and paid $1 for the quencher. John Parker added to the H. C. of L. He likewise retailed. His wee deoch and doris cost $5.50 per. Art Penn both makes and sells. ‘He has his own labels and makes a profitable business of it,’ said the Crown Attorney. Fined $800 and costs or five months.

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“At Niagara Camp – Alleged Canadian Deserter Poses as U.S. Officer,” Toronto Globe. August 22, 1918. Page 07.

(Canadian Press Despatch.)
Niagara Camp, Ont. Aug. 21. – W. B. Buckner of the Canadian Railway Troops Depot is in detention here in the uniform of an American military officer. He is charged with desertion, and is said to have cut quite a swatch across the border in the guise of an officer of the United States. A private’s uniform is being prepared for him, as his present appearance is not regarded as in keeping with a Canadian soldier under arrest.

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alias Francis J. Alvany, alias Henry F. Post.


Thirty-six years old in 1886. Born in United States.
Married. Speculator.  Medium build.
Height, 5 feet 9 inches. Weight, 163 pounds. Brown hair, brown eyes, light
complexion. Dresses well. Has a beardless face generally. Large nose, and heavy
scar on his chin.

“Hungry Joe,” the name he is best-known by, is a
very persistent and impudent banco steerer. He is a terrible talker — too much
so for his own good — and he is well known in every city in the United States.
Although arrested several times, he has never served more than five or ten days
in prison at one time. This man has victimized more people by the banco game
than any other five men in the profession.

During Oscar Wilde’s visit to this country he and “
Hungry Joe” were chums for about a week. They lunched and dined together
in the cafe at the Hotel Brunswick, in New York. After a while Joe played the
confidence game on Oscar, in which the latter, it is said, was fleeced out of
$5,000. Joe was not given the money, but a check drawn on the Second National
Bank of New York City. Oscar, realizing that he had been swindled, stopped the
payment of the check at the bank.

Joe was arrested in Detroit, Mich., in 1880, for shooting
Billy Flynn, a notorious character, but was discharged on the ground of self-defense.
He was finally arrested in New York City on May 27, 1885, when he pleaded
guilty, and was sentenced to four years in State prison by Recorder Smyth, for
robbing at banco one Joseph Ramsden, an English tourist, who was stopping at the
Metropolitan Hotel, in New York City, out of five ten-pound notes, valued at
about $250. The following is a very interesting account, clipped from one of
the New York papers of May 22, 1885, of the manner in which Joe victimized Mr.

Among the passengers on board the steamship Gallia, which
arrived from Liverpool on Monday last, (May 25, 1885,) was an elderly English
gentleman of fine appearance but somewhat in ill-health. His name is Joseph
Ramsden, a merchant of Manchester. He came to this country with a view to recuperating
his health. Mr. Ramsden stopped at one of the first-class hotels uptown, and
commenced to admire the beauties and attractions of the metropolis. Tuesday
afternoon he strolled downtown on Broadway.

Reaching the Metropolitan Hotel, Mr. Ramsden was sauntering
leisurely along when he was surprised by a well-dressed stranger familiarly
addressing him with:

“ Why, how do you do, Mr. Ramsden ?”

The latter expressed his inability to recognize the
stranger, but the affable young man soon put the old gentleman at ease by adding:

“Oh, you don’t know me; I forgot. But I know you from
hearsay. My name is Post — Henry F. Post. You came over in my uncle’s steamer
yesterday. Capt. Murphy, of the Gallia, is my uncle, and since his return has
been stopping at my father’s residence. He has spoken of you to us. Indeed, he
has said so much about you and of your shattered health that it seemed to me I
knew you a long time. I could not help recognizing you in a thousand from my
uncle’s description of you.”

Mr. Ramsden had had a very pleasant voyage on the Gallia,
during which Capt. Murphy and he had become very friendly, and thus he was not
surprised that the gallant skipper should speak of him. “ Mr. Post ”
walked arm-in-arm with his uncle’s English friend, chatting pleasantly and pointing
out prominent business houses, until they reached Grand Street.

“ I am in business in Baltimore — in ladies’ underwear
and white goods,” said Mr. Post, “ and have been home laying in a
stock of goods. I should much like to remain a day or two longer and show you around,
but I am sorry that I must return to Baltimore this evening. In fact, I am on
my way now to get my ticket and my valise is already in the ticket

It needed but a few words to induce the elderly gentleman to
accompany Post to “ the office,” in Grand Street, and the two soon
entered a room on that street, west of Broadway. There the young man bought a
railroad ticket of a man behind a counter.

“And now my valise,” added Post.

Throwing the bag on the counter, the young man opened it,
saying, “Here are some muslins that can’t be duplicated in England,”
and exhibited to the old gentleman some samples of that fabric. Near the bottom
of the bag he accidentally came upon a pack of playing cards, seizing which, he

“ Ah, this reminds me. Don’t you know that last night
some fellows got me into a place on the Bowery and skinned me out of $400 by a
card-trick in which they used only three cards? But I’ve got on to the game
and know how it is done. They can’t do me any more.”

At that moment a man, showily dressed, emerged from a back
room and said; “I’ll bet you fix you can’t do it.”

“All right, put up your money,” responded Joe.

The cards were shuffled by the deft hand of the stranger,
and Joe was told to pick up the ace. He picked up a Jack and lost. He lost a
second time, and offered to repeat it, but the stranger said, “I don’t believe
you’ve got any more money.”

“Well, but my friend here (pointing to Mr. Ramsden)

“I don’t believe he has,” sneeringly retorted the

“Oh, yes I have,” interrupted the venerable
Englishman, at the same time pulling a roll of ten crisp five-pound notes from
his inside vest pocket and holding them to the gaze of the others.

The temptation was too great for Hungry Joe. He so far
forgot himself and his uncle’s friendship for the Manchester merchant that he
grabbed the roll from Ramsden’s hand. The latter tightened his grasp on the
notes, but Joe violently thrust the old man backwards, and, getting possession
of the money, ran out of the place, followed by his confederates.

Mr. Ramsden notified Inspector Byrnes that evening, giving
an accurate description of “Capt. Murphy’s nephew,” which resulted in
Hungry Joe’s arrest. Joe was sitting in the basement of the house quietly
smoking a cigar and resting his slippered feet on a chair. He was in his shirt
sleeves. He tried to bluff off the Inspector, as is his custom, but finding it
useless he donned his coat and boots and accompanied the Inspector to

Last night Mr. Ramsden was summoned to headquarters, where
he was confronted in the Inspector’s room by Hungry Joe and eight other men.

“There is the man,” quickly said Mr. Ramsden.

“I never saw you before, sir,” replied Joe.

“You scoundrel,” excitedly exclaimed Mr. Ramsden,
“you are the fellow that robbed me of my money.”

Joe’s picture, though somewhat drawn up, is recognizable. It
was taken in December, 1878.

– Thomas Byrnes, Professional Criminals of America. New York: CASSELL & COMPANY, Limited; press of Hunter & Beach, 1886.

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