Ace of Spades
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Alias Soapy Smith

The Arrest.



Denver Post, August 25, 1922

$1,000,000 Ring Smashed Here
Church Used as Jail in Raid
Organized crime in Denver has been dealt its death blow!
Unknown to police, District Attorney Van Cise, assisted by Adjutant General Hamrock and eighteen State Rangers, Thursday and Friday arrested thirty-four men, alleged members of a $1,000,000 international confidence game ring.
Prisoners captured in a score of raids in prominent Denver hotels and business houses and on crowded downtown streets were spirited away to a temporary jail established in the First Universalist church, East Colfax avenue and Lafayette street, in the heart of the fashionable Capitol Hill district.
There they were held incommunicado, to prevent word of the raids being "tipped off" to the underworld.
The series of secret raids is the culmination of a campaign on the part of Van Cise lasting for more than a year. Fifteen thousand dollars was contributed by prominent Denver men and women to finance the cleanup of what is known as the notorious "Florida-Denver gang." This gang, formerly directed by Joe Furey, said to have been the world's cleverest confidence man, is reputed to have mulcted Denverites and tourists here of at least $1,500,000 in the last two years.
Co-operating with Van Cise in rounding up members of the gang was F. Frank Norfleet of Fort Worth, Texas, known as "the Nemesis of the confidence man." Norfleet, who has caused the arrest and conviction of fourteen confidence men thruout the United States in the last two years, has been in Denver for two weeks, posing as a wealthy "sucker," to gather evidence against the ring. Among those arrested in the series of raids are:
A. W. Duff of 1019 Lincoln street.
Walter F. Byland, who is charged with check frauds in Texas aggregating $28,000 and who is out on bond after being arrested by federal authorities in Denver upon indictments returned by a federal grand jury in Texas.
Audley H. Potts, alias Charles Zeller, alias John Fox, alias Jack Hendricks, alias Martin Norris, said by authorities to be one of the cleverest confidence men in the country.
Thomas Beech.
J. R. Farrell, who is said to be wanted in Los Angeles.
Riley W. Wilson, alias Louis Yancey, alias Charles Sootes, alias Charles Clark, alleged St. Louis "con" man.
Arthur Cooper of Little Rock, Ark.
James R. Sullivan, alias George Sullivan, alias Grove Sullivan of Santa Monica, Calif. Harold Johnson.
Robert Davis.
The raids were conducted from the Universalist church, where the prisoners were jailed, to prevent them being "tipped off" if they had been made thru regular channels, Van Cise says.
"Had either the city or the county jails been used to house these men, every crook in Denver would have known of the raids within five minutes," Van Cise said.
The success of the raids was largely due, Van Cise says, to the fact that one of the very first places raided was the "tip-off" headquarters of the gang at 929 Seventeenth street.
The "tip-off headquarters," he says, was conducted as an organized center for the dissemination of advance tips concerning intended arrests.
His first act was to put the "tip-off headquarters" out of business thereby enabling the officers to make the various arrests without advance information having been given out. Several alleged members of the gang were placed under arrest when they called at this place.
Another place raided early Thursday was the "Big Store," also know as the "Big Mob," at 309 American Bank and Trust company building. Adolph Duff and others were arrested at this place, which Van Cise says is the headquarters of the leaders of the ring.
The place has been conducted as a brokerage office.
A complete fake "stock exchange" was raided at 226 Denham Theater building. Here a quantity of money and "phony" telephones and telegraph instruments, false stock exchange quotation tickets, a large stock exchange blackboard and other paraphernalia were seized.
The first arrest was made at 7 o'clock Thursday morning. Van Cise, all his regular deputies, a number of special deputies sworn in for the occasion, a dozen prominent Denver business men who volunteered their aid, and fifteen Colorado Rangers commanded by Capt. O. L. Dennis, took part in the raids.
The Rangers had been called into Denver by Adjutant General Hamrock from various parts of the state Wednesday night. All except those guarding prisoners in the basement of the church-jail wore plain clothes.
"I have nothing but praise for the Rangers," said Van Cise Friday morning. "The Rangers are the most efficient body of men I have ever known. I would have been helpless without their aid."
Charges of conspiracy to commit a confidence game were filed against each of the men now under arrest, Van Cise announced.
Later other charges will be filed against individual prisoners as the circumstances of each case warrant.
Investigation which led to the raids disclosed that steerers were employed upon a commission basis to work the streets and hotel lobbies of Denver and other cities. All their net gains except 40 per cent were turned over to the organization, which in turn offered protection, tips and information to the steerers.
Those who took part in the raids were:
District Attorney Van Cise and the following regular deputies: L. D. Mowry, A. J. Reynolds, Roy O. Samson, Kenneth W. Robinson, Fred W. Sanborn and Bernard Gates.
Special Deputies Harold M. Webster, Oliver Toll and Herbert J. Wilkins.
Volunteer committee of citizens: William Loughridge, Paul Loughridge, Harold Healy, Christopher Cusack, Cass Herrington Jr., Dr. L. W. Linville, Brooks Johnson, W. W. Grant Jr., Robert G. Bosworth, George Cranmer, F. W. Hart, A. H. Wilson, George Kassler, W. D. Sanborn, Russell Jordan and J. C. Griffith of Boulder.
Rangers: Adjutant General P. J. Hamrock, Deputy Superintendent Paul P. Newlon, Capt. O. L. Dennis, Secretary Thomas Elkins, Sergeant Charles Scarbrough, Corp. L. M. Scherf, and Rangers F. H. Steffan, Robert E. Swingle, Robert M. Perry, C. J. Harrington, J. A. Chase, C. D. Donald, E. P. Bell, A. H. Oster, C. Arnbrecht, Otis Mathis, F. J. Soward and Claude J. Head.
By 6 o'clock Thursday night twenty-nine prisoners had been captured. Van Cise, reluctant to place them in either the city of the county jail for fear the activities of the raiders would be "tipped off," divided them into two groups and sent them to the Adams county jail in Brighton and to the Jefferson county jail in Golden, to be held overnight. Neither jail was large enough to hold all the prisoners.
The prisoners were not booked at either jail and were kept under a heavy guard of rangers and deputies thruout the night.
Friday morning they were brought back to Denver.
Chief of Police Williams and Captain of Detectives Rinker inspected the prisoners at the church Friday morning to identify all possible from police records.
After the inspection by Chief Williams and Captain Rinker, the prisoners were taken to the city jail.
One of the prisoners made a desperate attempt to escape while being taken from the church-jail to the Jefferson county jail, but was recaptured.
At East Sixteenth avenue and Broadway he leaped from a moving automobile. He was caught by a ranger guard but put up a terrific fight, and was almost knocked unconscious before he was subdued.
With few exceptions, all the prisoners taken from the church Thursday evening to the Adams and Jefferson county jails were handcuffed in pairs. The prisoner who made the break for liberty was not handcuffed.
So thoroly had the whole affair been planned that, despite the number arrested and the number of officers taking part, not a dozen persons outside those actually involved knew what was afoot. Even tho arrests were made in all parts of Denver, in the principal hotels and on the most crowded downtown streets, the police were ignorant of the activities of Van Cise's deputies and the rangers, and few others suspected that more than a single arrest was being made.
In one instance, where a deputy and a ranger came upon two alleged "con" men while the latter were dividing a roll of bills totaling $1,400, the prisoners broke and fled down Seventeenth street. They were recaptured before they had gone more than a few yards. The sight of the two fleeing men, each with a handful of currency, failed to arouse more than passing comment, so quickly were they spirited into an automobile and whisked away. None of the persons who witnessed this capture reported it to the police.
Deputy Kenneth Robinson arrested one man in a prominent downtown hotel, but the man's companion was not in the place when the arrest was made Thursday morning. Robinson handcuffed his prisoner and locked him in a closet in the man's own room and then waited three hours for the arrival of his pal, who also was arrested.
The utmost secrecy surrounded the incarceration of the prisoners in the church-jail. Altho deputies and rangers were entering the church with prisoners at all hours of the day and night, only to leave a few moments later on a new raid, none of the neighbors living in the fashionable Capitol hill homes and apartments adjoining the church even suspected that anything unusual was in progress.
The offices were forbidden to approach the Lafayette street or Colfax avenue fronts of the church-jail. As each group of deputies and rangers would make an arrest, they would drive to the alley in the rear of the church. There the prisoners would be quickly unloaded and the car would drive on and halt at some spot within a block or two of the church.
The prisoners, with an officer in front and rear, would be taken down the narrow walk to the basement entrance of the church. The basement door was barred and was opened only to those who gave three knocks at intervals.
Two prisoners who had put up resistance when arrested again attempted to resist when they reached the church. One was streaming with blood from a cut behind the ear and another cut on the right hand. These two were marched into the church at the points of drawn pistols in the hands of their captors.
"Take me to the chief," demanded one of the prisoners as he was admitted to the church-jail. "I demand to see the chief right away. This is sure a ---- of a note."
After being admitted thru the basement entrance, the prisoners were taken to the pastor's study on the first floor. There their names, ages, addresses and complete description were taken, and they were compelled to undergo a minute search. All their valuables were taken and were placed in canvas sacks, each sack labeled with the name of the prisoner.
At the booking desk were Deputy District Attorney Harold Webster, Special Deputies Harold Healy and William Loughridge, Ranger Secretary Tom Elkins and Ranger Sergeant Charles Scarbrough.
Sergeant Scarbrough searched the prisoners from head to toe, requiring each to remove his shoes, and in certain cases where a prisoner was suspected of concealing papers or drugs, other articles of clothing.
Most of the prisoners gave aliases when asked for their names.
"If you name is Bob Williams, how does it happen that your belt buckle bears the initials 'J. S. R.?'" was a typical question of Sergeant Scarbrough, after examining the clothing of the prisoner. "Oh, that happened this way," would come the glib reply in almost every instance. "I had a very dear friend who died suddenly and his wife gave me his belt as a memento."
One or two of the prisoners adopted a sullen attitude, and refused to give their names. Many of them had railroad tickets in their pockets. Almost without exception they would say they were expecting to leave Denver immediately for Omaha, Salt Lake City or Chicago.
The examination of the prisoners made an extraordinary picture - a scene unlike anything that has ever taken place in a pastor's study before. The prisoners, sullen, defiant, or laughing as they stood between their armed guards, glanced curiously about the study, which was filled with tobacco smoke, and whose walls were covered with tracts, bookcases and religious pictures.
"This is the funniest --- --- jail I ever saw," exclaimed one man, who, like most of the others, did not realize he had been brought to a church.
Above the desk where the prisoners were booked hangs the first psalm, printed in huge red and black letters. Many of the prisoners stared long at the Scripture passages, which began:
"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly nor standeth in the way of sinners nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
"But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night.
"For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish."
From the pastor's study the prisoners were taken upstairs to the kindergarten Sunday school rooms on the second floor. There, amid tiny red chairs, blackboards, a sandpile and mottoes lettered by the smallest of the Sunday school children they were submitted to a searching examination by District Attorney Van Cise.
There Deputy District Attorney Roy Samson compared the prisoners with rogue's gallery photographs from Leavenworth and other places.
In one corner, among the little red chairs, were piled papers and paraphernalia seized in the various raids.
In one case was a "phony" telephone and a fake telegraph instrument. This case contained numerous documents used in various swindling, wire-tapping and confidence games. There were several bonding forms, one printed upon the stationery of a large Denver bank, setting forth that the holder was bonded in some particular bank for $100,000.
These forms are usually "accidentally" dropped where the "sucker" can find them, thus learning, as he supposes, that the smooth-tongued gentleman expecting to sell him oil stock is a man of great responsibility.
There were many record sips of the "International Exchange," and numerous letterheads of prominent banks and other business houses in Denver and elsewhere, used, Van Cise says, for the "con" men to write themselves letters of recommendation and indorsement.
There also was a large stock listing bulletin board, with quotations of various stocks chalked upon it.
In one lot, seized from one man, were twelve bundles of currency which, according to their wrappers, totaled $135,000. The money is genuine, but the bundles in each case consist of a packet of ninety-eight dollar bills, with a $100 bill on top and another on the bottom, leading the "sucker" to believe the packet is made up altogether of $100 bills. Most of these packets were labeled "$20,000." In actual money there was about $1,500 in all these packets.
After their examination by Van Cise and comparison with rogue's gallery photographs, the prisoners were taken back to the church basement.
There they were led to a large assembly room. A space had been roped off in the center, leaving about four feet between the edges of the roped area and the walls. The prisoners were permitted to sit on the assembly room chairs, or to walk or lounge about, so long as they kept within the roped area.
District Attorney Van Cise Friday afternoon announced that the following persons had been arrested in the two-day raid:
Tip Belcher, Grow Sullivan, Leonard Rogers, George Walker, T. J. Brady, Ed C. Loftus, Robert Williams, G. C. Bailey, Robert Nash, John Ellison, John J. Grady, Wm. Dougherty, Peter Jones, W. L. Straub, Thomas Beech, Lewis Muschnick, Walter Byland, G. Williams, Robert G. Davis, A. H. Potts, Roy Farrell, John D. Berry, Arthur Cooper, William Jones, Roy Coine, Frank Jones, J. W. Reed, Harry Jones, A. W. Duff, John Clark, A. R. Smith, E. S. King.
Criminal informations charging conspiracy have been prepared by Deputy Prosecutor K. W. Robinson, and will be filed in the west side court Friday afternoon, according to that official.
"We are going to insist upon bonds of $25,000 in each case," said Robinson. "Of all offenders, the confidence man has the foremost reputation as a bond jumper. We have a man in this very bunch who recently left $50,000 bail behind."
The prisoners will be arraigned before Judge Warren A. Haggott Saturday morning, according to present plans. The court will be asked by the district attorney to fix the bond at the amount set forth by Robinson.

NOTE: Lou Blonger was one of the first arrested in the day-long raids of August 24, 1922, but his name did not appear in the Denver Post's story the next day. Why? As Philip Van Cise mentioned in his book, Fighting the Underworld, Blonger was a friend of Post co-publisher Harry Tammen, who ordered Blonger's name withheld.

Van Cise (p. 213) gives the following account given by reporter Forbes Parkhill:

Unlike [co-publisher Fred] Bonfils, Tammen would occasionally chat with reporters in the Post editorial rooms. The Saturday night following the raids, he sat on my typewriter desk and talked at length about the case. I mentioned that I thought it odd Blonger's name had been suppressed at first.
Tammen said: "Yes, that was done by my orders, because Lou was one of my best friends. I hated like hell to use his name, but the story became so big we couldn't possibly hold it out any longer. You know, son, Lou taught me the most valuable thing I ever knew. He taught me how to catch a sucker."
A moment later, he added: "I caught one." He jerked his thumb toward Bonfils's office and finished: "I've still got him."


New York Times, August 25, 1922

Denver Florida Gang Is Broken Up by 33 Arrests Today.
Two Wealthy Men Owning Property Are the Brains.
DENVER, Aug. 25.—With the arrest here of 33 alleged confidence men the district attorney's office believes that the famous national "bunco trust" has been broken up. The gang had maintained elaborate offices here and swindled victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The group were known as the Florida gang. Victims of the gang were chiefly members of the tourist classssed of considerable money, who were fleeced by means of a fake stock exchange. The roundup just completed came after an investigation, during which $15,000 were expended. The money had been advanced by several prominent business men in Denver. Loub Longer [sic] and Adolph Duff, both wealthy men and owning property in Denver, are alleged to be the "brains" of the organization. Charges against members of the gang will be made today. The formal charge to be filed will be that of "conspiracy to commit a confidence game." It is alleged that members of the ring have jumped their bonds in other cities. The bonds have ranged upward as high as $50,000 cash. The ring is also alleged to have offered bribes as high as $25,000 to secure the release of other members of the gang arrested and placed in jail in Los Angeles, Calif., several years ago.
Charges against the 33 men will be made formally this afternoon and the prisoners will be permitted to arrange for bond. A systematic roundup is under way with headquarters in the First Universalist Church. The prisoners are taken to the basement of the church, which serves as a temporary jail.


New York Times, August 27, 1922

'Million Dollar Confidence Ring' Is Believed Broken by Captures at Denver.
Operations at Miami and Atlanta Are Said to Have Netted $1,500,000.
DENVER, Col., Aug. 26.—Harry D. White, said to be wanted by Federal Post Office Inspector H. E. Graham on a charge of swindling S. Tuch of Plainfield N. J., of $60,000 at Miami, Fla., on March 17, 1921, was arrested late today by agents of the Denver District Attorney's office, who have been conducting raids on an alleged "million dollar confidence ring."
White, according to District Attorney Van Cise, has also been known under the names of Sam Bennett, Harry Witting, H. Lafler and Harry Whitney. He was arrested when he attempted to cash a $100 money order said to have been sent to him by another alleged swindler whose activities local authorities have been investigating.
Homer French, said by local authorities to have served a sentence in the Federal Penitentiary at Atlanta, Ga., and to be known in New York and Atlantic City, was arrested last night at Estes Park, Col. Thirty-three alleged members of the confidence ring had previously been arrested here.
None of the men arrested have been able to furnish $25,000 bond, the amount fixed by the Court, with the exception of Lou Blonger and W. Duff, who were released yesterday. Judge Haggott today refused a petition for a reduction in the amount of the bond.
District Attorney Van Cise, who brought French to Denver today, charges that he was involved in the "confidence game" at Miami, Fla. A tip that French was in Estes Park was received yesterday at the District Attorneys office and he was traced last night with the aid of State rangers, Mr. Van Cise stated.
The District Attorney stated today that French had admitted that there is an indictment against him in Florida in connection with an alleged fake promotion scheme in Miami.
Twenty-nine of the men arrested here yesterday pleaded not guilty to a charge of "conspiracy to operate a confidence game," when arraigned before Judge Haggott in the criminal division of the District Court today. Authorities explained that the other four men were not arraigned because their correct names were not known.
Believe They Are Wanted in Atlanta.
ATLANT, Ga., Aug. 26.—Following receipt here of information reporting the arrest at Denver, Col., of thirty-three alleged "bunco men" who are said to have fleeced tourists of $1,500,000, a representative of John A. Boykin, Solicitor General of Fulton County, was en route to Denver today with photographs and descriptions of thirty-five men wanted here for "bunco" operations in 1920.
Atlanta authorities have expressed confidence that some of the men wanted here were among those arrested in Denver. Floyd Woodward, a leader in the Atlanta gang, and nearly a score of men under indictment by the County Grand Jury are still at large.
MIAMI, Fla., Aug. 26.—Homer French was indicted here with two others by the Grand Jury last May for the allegedswindling of $120,000 last winter from Peter Nicholson, Middle Western banker and mine operator, and bond in the sum of $50,000 was fixed for each of the defendants in the event of the arrest.
Nicholson came here personally to present his complaint to the Grand Jury, and the authorities believe that his home is near Cleveland, Ohio. The alleged swindle took place at a clubhouse here which the authorities never were able to locate.
A secret indictment was returned which was not made public until nearly three weeks later, when State Attorney Grambling told the Court he had reason to believe that the defendants knew the indictment had been handed down. The others indicted with French were Walter Madden, alias George Falo, alias George Falatico, and Ed Harly, alias Walter Hayes.




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