Archive for the ‘Scams’ Category



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Fort Dodge Times Dec, 23, 1870


Sheriff Walz, has returned from a flying trip to Missouri, whither he went in search of a friend of Dr. Olney. It appears that a certain individual by the name of Freeman (no relation to W.D.J.) came to this city, some time during the past season, and represented himself as an agent of a wholesale house in the east, for the sale of Pianos. The Dr. wanted a Piano, and bought one of this man, giving his note for the amount, to be paid at some future time. The note was sold to Mr. Dwelle, at a discount. The Piano failing to arrive, as per agreement, the Dr. became uneasy, and, upon inquiry, soon lerned that the fellow was “non est.” An indictment was found by the Grand Jury in October last, a warrant for his arrest issued, and Sheriff Walz unearthed him down in Missouri, arriving home on Wednesday, via the D.M.V.R.R. (Des Moines Valley Railroad) Freeman is well, and in jail. No cards.


Mayor Has Hoboe Cleaned Up

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: Aug. 14, 1905

Mayor Has Hoboe (sic) Cleaned Up

Man Found Begging With Over One Hundred Dollars on His Person

Unable to Speak English

Mayor Has Him Fixed Out at Barber Shop, Buys New Suit of Clothes for Him Out of His Money and Sends Him Out of Town

Residents of the east part of the city telephoned in Saturday afternoon to police headquarters stating that a hoboe (sic) was begging at the residences of that part of the city.

The patrol was sent out in response to the call and a stout looking young foreigner with one arm in a sling found in the act of asking assistance from the back door of a dwelling. He made a race for cover as soon as he sighted the officers but was captured and placed in the wagon.

Later, while on the way down town he leaped from the vehicle and started out on the dead run. The officers with the aid of bystanders succeeded in capturing him again, though only after a hard fight and this time he was held in the back of the patrol until the jail was reached.

On searching him Chief Tullar was surprised to find that almost every pocket in his clothes contained a bag of money. Six separate sacks and purses each containing bills or silver were taken from him.

A count of the money brought to light that he had a total of $132.06 (about $3,323 today) in the following denominations: bills, $45; gold, $5, dollars, halves and quarters, $27.50; nickels, $4; loose change, $3.21; pocketbook, $6.75.

Mayor Bennett found in police court this morning that he was unable to speak a word of English. An onlooker stated that his talk sounded like Polish and Tom Robinson was summoned. Robinson stated that he spoke Bohemian and a person of that nationality who happened to be in the room volunteered to talk to him. Little was learned other than that the fellow readily admitted having begged the money that he carried, Smiling when telling about it and evidently thinking that it was an exploit to his credit.

Under instructions from Mayor Bennett he was told that he was fined $15 for begging and that the marshal would be instructed to take him to a barber shop, give him a bath, shave, hair cut and shampoo, buy him a suit of clothes out of his money and send him out of town.

He objected strenuously to parting with his money, begging to be let go without being fined, or having to pay for a new suit of clothes and for getting cleaned up out of his hoard, but the mayor was obdurate and still protesting he was led to a tonsorial parlor. After his bath, shave, etc., he emerged a changed man. He really semed (sic) to enjoy getting cleaned up after being forced to do so and grinned with delight when he surveyed himself in the mirror.

He was taken to a down town clothing store by Chief Tullar and fitted out with a neat well fitting suit of clothes and with his hoard of money lightened considerably, instructed to get out of town and go to work.

Joe Kelley of Council Bluffs was found asleep in an alley in a badly intoxicated state yesterday. He was allowed to leave town.


Passed Bogus Check

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The Messenger: March 27, 1907

Passed Bogus Check

S.R. Crego Arrested by Manager Duncombe House This Afternoon – The Monday not Found.

Man giving his name as S.R. Crego and residence as Cresco was arrested this afternoon by the polnce (sic)on complaint of the manager of the Duncombe House where he was stopping on the charge that he had obtained $50 ($1.155 today) under false pretenses. Crego is not an entire stranger to the manager and when he presented a sight draft on the Cresco bank and asked him to endorse it, it was done. Shortly after he learned that he had attempted to get a check cashed at the Fessler clothing store for $15 ($346) in payment for a hat and this raised a suspicion in the mind of the landlord who at once took steps to learn the validity of the draft cashed only to find that he had been duped.

He lost no time in looking up his man and at once had him taken into custody. He had acquired something of a load of “wealthy water” in the meantime and when arrested at the city hall had in his possession besides several bottles of dope and poison, a partially filled bottle of common booze. Although officer Grant made a careful search he failed to find the fifty. He did find, however, pinned to his vest, a private detective star, although the prisoner was unable to give any reasonable explanation as to how he came in possession or by what authority he was wearing it. He was placed in the city bastile (sic) until his brain cleared sufficiently to enable him to give some explanation of his actions.


Short Change Man on Central

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: Feb. 5, 1903

Short Change Man on Central

Gentleman With Deft and Oily Fingers Works Smooth Graft

A Nebraska Man His Victim.

Son of the Soil, Out to See the Sights, Exchanges $50 for Meagre (sic) Roll of $15.

Waterloo, Io., February 5. – Marshal Simmering this morning received a letter from Cyrus Alton of Elmwood, Nebraska, stating that he had been victimized to the extent of $35 on the Illinois Central passenger train between Waterloo and Manchester Saturday night. He gave a description of the grafter and told how the game was worked.

Shortly after the train pulled out of Waterloo a well dressed stranger sat down in the seat beside Alton and began conversing with him. Alton readily fell into the snare. Judging by his letter he is a farmer. He had become weary of the long ride and was glad of the opportunity to break the monotony. Soon after the stranger worked himself into the good graces of Alton he told him how badly he wanted to exchange some small bills for a large one to give to a relative who would leave the train at Dubuque. Alton liked to be obliging and inquired how large a bill was wanted. The stranger thought a $50 would do and Alton pulled out his roll and selected a fifty. The stranger had a number of small bills and counted them out. They appeared to be $5 bills. There was just $50 the first time he counted them out, but in order to escape a mistake he counted them again. Sure enough there was just $50. Alton took them and placed them in his pocket, not suspecting the fraud. However, when he arrived in Chicago he took an inventory and found that the roll contained just $15 a number of $1 bills having been substituted for the $5 ones.


Would Victimize Mayor Bennett

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: Dec. 13, 1905

Woud (sic) Victimize Mayor Bennett

Latter Thinks an Attempt Has Been Made to Work a Graft on Him.

Mayor Bennett is of the opinion that an attempt has been made to work a smoothy graft on him, in a letter received by him this morning. The letter states that one Sidney J. Bennett took a government claim of 160 acres in 1874. It says that the writer, an abstractor in Washington, D.C., is of the opinion that he is not the Sidney J. Bennett who did this and asks him to state as much and put a price on his right to take claims. The mayor things that the writer desires to get him to state that he is not the Mr. Bennett who took such a claim, and to purchase his right. He would then sell this right for a large sum to some third party. It would be discovered that Mr. Bennett had once taken a claim when the third party attempted to use the purchased right, and he could be prosecuted for attempting to defraud the government.


There Are Fools and Fools Still

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: Dec. 6, 1905

There Are Fools and Fools Still

Fort Dodge People Taken in By Man With Latest Kind of Graft.

He Got More Than $500

Police Investigate Report as to Operations of Fake Clairivoyant (sic) and Find Them All Too True – Twenty-five Were Stung.

Investigation by the police of the story given them yesterday by an unknown woman to the effect that an alleged clairvoyant had victimized a number of people through the city for considerable sums, has proved the report all too true.

Secured About $500.

Captain Long, who took the matter in hand, reported this morning that he learned that the man gave his name at  T yler and advertized in the local papers that he would discover lost articles, give advice as to the future and tell the past. He was located at 502 Third avenue north and at this place the officer thinks he fleeced Fort Dodge people out of $500.

How He Operated.

One lady visited Tyler to learn how to act in some mysterious matter. He told her to secure two ten dollar bills and a five dollar bill and to bring them to him in a neat silk package. This she did, and he hung the sack about her neck, telling her to return in two weeks. She felt no uneasiness, because she could feel the bills in the sack. Others had the same trick played on them. Tyler would request them to bring two twenty dollar gold pieces or a couple of bills of some denomination. When this was done he would place them in a sack and tie it about the neck of the person, telling them to return in two weeks. On the appointed day about twenty-five persons gathered at Tyler’s place, and he was found to have flown. Examination of the silk sacks disclosed the fact that instead of bills they contained wads of paper and instead of gold pieces two half dollars.

Won’t Give Names.

Those who played the sucker act kept quiet about the matter, but in the manner related in yesterday’s Messenger it came to the notice of the police by a woman calling them over the phone. Some five or six of the parties that were taken in have been visited by Policeman Long and in each case they have begged him to withhold their names. Chief Tullar has a description of Tyler and will forward the same to the city marshals in neighboring towns.


Has Work for The Police

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: Dec. 5, 1905

Has Work for The Police

Woman Says That Hpynotists (sic) Fleeced Fort Dodge People of Large Sums.

An unknown woman called up police headquarters this morning and stating that she had some work for the police of the city, called for Captain Long.

To this gentleman she divulged the information that a hypotist (sic) with rooms on Third avenue north, had by means of his power fleeced Fort Dodge people out of more than a thousand dollars during the last two weeks. She stated that he had enticed parties in the neighborhood to the place and had persuaded them to return later bringing all their spare cash.

After a week of this kind of transaction she claimed that he left the city. The police think that the entire affair is utterly without foundation, but will nevertheless give the premises where the grafter is said to have been located, a visit.


Swindler Comes to Unexpected Grief

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: Sept. 20, 1906

Swindler Comes to Unexpected Grief

Man Who Attempted to Rob Andrew Hower is Caught by Police in Wisconsin

After attempting to swindle Henry Hower, a member of the upper Central Avenue business firm, Hoffman & Hower, John Mueller a clever crook, came to grief at Hudson, Wisconsin, in attempting to work the same dodge upon D. Hoffman, the proprietor of a small grocery store.

Mueller reached Hudson on the same day with a carnival company billed in there for the week. He was rather seedy looking, and passed himself off for a retired farmer residing near Albert Lea, Minnesota. On the day of his arrival he approached Hoffman for the sale of his store, saying that he had just disposed of his farm near Albert Lea, and was looking for a business location. Hoffman arranged for the transfer of his business to Mueller for the consideration of $4,000 ($95,798 today), Mueller giving Hoffman a worthless check, drawn on the State Bank at Albert Lea for $500.00 ($11,975), asking for a receipt for the same.

When Hoffman made the receipt out Mueller seemed rather careless and indifferent to it, which aroused the suspicions of the grocer. He at once sent his daughter to the telephone office to talk with Albert Lea, and learn the amount of the deposit and standing of Mueller in the Minnesota city. She learned that there was no such a depositor on the books of the bank, and more over that he was wanted in Albert Lea to answer to the charge of swindling.

She hastened back to her father, in the mean time warning the city police who arrested Mueller when he attempted to make a swift “getaway.”

Mueller was in the city the early part of the week, and attempted to purchase, with bogus checks, a portion of some city property owned by Mr. Hower. While he was at the bank depositing the five dollar check ($120) given him to bind the bargain by Mueller, the swindler attempted to secure a loan of ten dollars ($239) from Mrs. Hower, who was too shrewd to give it to him. He left before the return of Mr. Hower.

(Editor’s note: There seems to be some confusion about names. Mr. Hower is referred to as Andrew in the drophead and Henry in the article. I’m not sure if there is confusion about Hoffman, since the article refers to Hoffman & Hower, and to D. Hoffman, a grocery store proprietor in Hudson, Wisconsin.)


The Graft Didn’t Work This Time

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: Sept. 16, 1905

The Graft Didn’t Work This Time

Fort Dodge Citizen Receives Letter From an Alleged Real Estate Agent.

A Fort Dodge citizen who isn’t very sleepy received recently an alluring offer of a real estate firm from an Iowa city to sell his farm for him. A contract was sent for him to sign. It was so arranged that a casual reading would lead one to think that the contract was to pay the firm 50 cents per acre for selling the land. The blank is really a request from the farmer to the real estate man to try and sell his farm, to advertise it, etc., for which they are to receive a commission of 50 cents per acre when the land is sold. Not sold by the firm, but when sold. The citizen wrote the firm that he didn’t care to give them $160 ($3,832 today) for trying to sell his land and he thought he could advertise it cheaper himself. He offered to pay them the commission when the land was sold by them or through their efforts. He has heard nothing more from this firm. We notice form newspaper reports that this firm is catching many suckers. These generally rush to an attorney for help but without avail as the contract says that they will pay the fifty cents per acre to the firm for trying to sell the land and there is no escape from the contract.


Excursionists Are “Buncoed” at Tara

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: June 20, 1905

Excursionists Are “Buncoed” at Tara

Small Boys Reap Harvest by Selling Them Colored Water For Beer.

Every Trainload Would “Bite”

Young Grafters Managed to Sell a Dozen or So Bottles on Each Train Before the Ruse Would Be Found Out.

Among the amusing incidents that have developed during the past few days, in connection with the events of  Sunday’s excursion to Chicago there is none so ingenius (sic) in its nature or so mirth provoking as a story which has been reported from Tara.

In that place, it seems a number of small boys hearing of the size and nature of the excursion, secured some two or three days before the day set, a number of empty beer bottles and during their spare hours filled them with colored water and by means of a little ingenius work sealed and labeled them, making them look very similar to bottles fresh from the establishments from which the amber fluid is sent forth.

As fast as a train would pull into the station the youngsters would pass along the platform with an arm-full of bottles offering them for sale to the excursionists at twenty-five cents each. A dozen or so bottles would be sold before the trick would be “tumbled” to but by that time the train would be ready to pull out and the “buncoed” excursionists would be without recourse.

The boys would simply wait until the next train pulled in and then the trick would be worked over again on a fresh crowd. Out of the fifteen or sixteen trains that passed through the town, it is said the youthful grafters cleared a total of forty or fifty dollars.

(Editor’s note: The 2010 equivalent is $5.99 each for the “beers” and $956 to $1,197 total.)