, prom. 1880s, U.S., fraud. In the mid-nineteenth century, hundreds of potions and miracle elixirs were made available to those gullible enough to believe their sensational claims. One of the boldest "cure-alls" was the "Microbe Killer", invented by a Texas gardener, William Radam. He claimed that all disease was caused by microbes; therefore if one destroyed microbes, one destroyed disease. Government analysis determined that the Microbe Killer was 99.381 percent water, while the infinitesimal remainder was hydrochloric and sulfuric acids and red wine. Radam sold enough of the formula to move from Texas to a New York mansion overlooking Central Park. In 1889, physician -pharmacist R.G. Eccles exposed the formula and accused Radam of being a "misguided crank intent on outquacking the worst quacks of this or any other age." Eccles further stated that "a universal microbe killer would necessarily be a universal life destroyer." Further attacks against the quacks and shamans continued until 1906, when progressives enacted the Pure Food and Drugs Act. In 1913, after Radam's death, the wording on his product's label was judged fraudulent. Production of the Microbe Killer was banned and existent inventory was ordered destroyed.
Raviere, Raymond la
, b.c.1904, U.S., big.-fraud. Frequently during the 1940's, the following advertisement would appear in a U.S. newspaper: "Refined business gent seeks room with refined surroundings in a private home." That was the calling card of Raymond la Raviere. Often, a wealthy widow would answer the ad, and fall victim to the refined gent's charm. They would get married, but the groom would quickly disappear, always with a hefty portion of the widow's money.
In 1948, Raviere was arrested. Police found a notebook which contained the names of fifty women he had married and bilked. He admitted that he had married them at a rate of five or six a year and had made more than $200,000. Before his trial, with the evidence mounting against him, he swallowed a poison capsule. On his alleged death bed, he made a complete confession of his crimes. However, he miraculously recovered, and had to serve the eight-year sentence that was handed down at his trial.
Reavis, James Addison (AKA: Baron de Arizonaca, Caballero de los Colorados)
, d.1908, Mex.-Port.-Spain-U.S., fraud-forg. A land swindle of monumental proportions withstood the close scrutiny of some of the finest legal minds of the American Southwest for nearly a decade before a Spanish scholar and linguist named Mallet Prevost took a closer look. Only then did he discover that James Addison Reavis, the notorious "Red Baron of Arizona," was not the real-estate mogul he pretended to be. The vast acreages of land he had acquired over the years was the result of an elaborate forgery which took shape in the early 1870s.
James Reavis, who would have otherwise been doomed to a life of obscurity, served in the Confederate army during the Civil War. During this period he discovered his talents as a "penman." Armed with a forged pass, he succeeded in fooling the camp sentries to slip away from his regiment. His ability to duplicate the signatures of his commanding officers kept him away from the front lines for the duration of the Civil War. When the South was defeated and Reavis' military career came to an end, the forger returned to private life in St. Louis where he found work as a streetcar conductor. This was not to his liking, however, and in time he decided to open a real-estate business that pandered to a somewhat shady clientele. One of his customers promised a sizable commission if Reavis could come up with a quitclaim on a large parcel of land. The forger put his talents to good use by producing an authentic -looking document that was accepted by the courts without question. Encouraged by the ease with which he had deceived the authorities, Reavis went on to help other St. Louis residents forge property titles. But when the police became aware of certain improprieties, Reavis closed shop and headed west.
By the time he reached Santa Fe, N.M., he had squandered the bulk of his small, illegal fortune. But he managed to find a job in the records division of a governmental agency which handled the claims of Spanish and Mexican residents whose lands were ceded to the U.S. at the close of the Mexican War. The U.S. was bound by the terms of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to restore the rightful land to the owners and to honor all legitimate claims. While toiling over reams of documents--much of it printed in Spanish--Reavis stumbled upon an idea that on the surface seemed so simple one could only wonder why no one had thought of it sooner.
What he decided to do was to forge Mexican and Spanish land documents--some of which had been prepared by religious monks hundreds of years earlier--and then lay claim to existing properties under the name of Miguel de Peralta, a fictional character Reavis invented to lend legitimacy to the fraud. Reavis carefully went over the quality of the parchment paper, the type of ink the ancient scribes used, going so far as to whittle an identical quill. He attached an identity to the imaginary nobleman Miguel de Peralta. According to Reavis' own account the Spanish don was a lineal descendent of King Ferdinand, who had been awarded a princely title, military honors, and fabulous wealth. He went on to say that he was related to the family. His half-brother was Juan de Peralta, an itinerant gambler who had arrived in Arizona in 1851 to purchase a large tract of land.
Reavis spent years putting it all together. He created generations of Peraltas, awarding Miguel's descendants with ten million acres of prime land in Arizona which had once been the province of Spain. By 1870 the real estate huckster had traveled through Guadalajara, Lisbon, Madrid, Seville, and Mexico City placing his forged deeds, mortgages, and family wills in all the important libraries, monasteries, and archives--exactly where the lawyers were mostly likely to look.
At last everything was in place and Reavis was ready to spring his little surprise on the people of Arizona. He appeared in Prescott some time in the late 1870s with an accomplice named Dr. George Willing. Reavis claimed that the doctor had purchased rights to a portion of the Peralta lands in Arizona for $1,000. But then he was poisoned to death (by Reavis, allegedly) and the grant reverted back to the con man for $30,000. The forged documents proved it, of course. In 1881 Reavis went before the surveyor general of the U.S. with certified copies of the falsified papers. Notices soon appeared in the towns of Silver King, Pinal, Florence, Globe, Casa Grande, and Tempe advising the residents who owned homes on Reavis property that they were obligated to pay taxes. Not even the Southern Pacific Railroad or the Silver King Mine, which had business interests in this area, were exempt. A battery of lawyers, many of them employed by the railroad and mining concerns, did as Reavis anticipated. They searched through state torrens records and the ancient parchment land grants only to discover to their dismay that Reavis' claim of ownership was valid.
The Southern Pacific was obliged to pay $50,000 as a first down payment for a right-of-way through Arizona and New Mexico. The Silver King Mine contributed $25,000, and thousands of ranchers, homesteaders, and business people were forced to follow suit. Reavis collected his taxes and rental fees with impunity. Overnight he had become one of the wealthiest land entrepreneurs in Arizona. But in the back of his mind he feared that he may have gone too far. To fool any government people who might be snooping around, he plucked a young Mexican woman off the street, sent her to a finishing school, and then married her. Reavis told his business associates that the woman, Maria Sanchez, was a direct descendent of the Peralta royal line. They had twin boys, who were educated by private tutors and attended to by a battery of servants. The family lived ostentatiously in opulent mansions in New York, Washington, St. Louis, and Mexico. Reavis even took his family to Spain where they received all the courtesies of the royal house, including an audience before King Alfonso.
In March 1890 the charade ended unceremoniously when the Spanish historian and expert linguist Mallet Prevost took a second look at some of the parchment documents. Through chemical analysis he determined that while the first few pages of each file were genuine, the succeeding sheets of paper were produced in a much later period. Mallet further noticed important differences in the script. The writing of the genuine Spanish monks was done in iron ink. Reavis' forgeries were written in common dogwood ink. Important birth register pages had been noticeably altered. It was not like the ancient scribes to change a record after the fact.
With these facts in hand, James Reavis was brought before the Land Grant Court in Santa Fe, where his frauds were exposed. He was charged with criminal fraud and sentenced to serve six years in the Phoenix Penitentiary beginning in April 1890. He emerged in 1899 a broken, dissolute man without family or friends. Reavis' wife had divorced him years earlier and had taken the children to Denver. The remaining years of his life were spent on the streets of Santa Fe, where Reavis hustled for spare change. He died in 1908.
Reis, Arthur Virgilio Alves (Arthur), 1896-1955, and Bandeira, Jos, d.c.1950, and Hennies, Gustav Adolf, and Marang, Karel, prom. 1920s, and Bandeira, Antonio, d.1933, and Reis, Maria Luiza Jacobetty D'Azevado
, d.c.1953, Port., count. Artur Virgilio Alves Reis perpetrated a $15 million counterfeit operation in Portugal that eventually shook the faith of the Portuguese people in their government and paved the way for a dictatorship.
Reis was born in the Sao Tiago area of Lisbon, Port., the son of a government worker. After finishing his studies in engineering at the Escola Politecnia, Reis forged a diploma from Oxford and in 1916 went to work for the government as a railroad inspector in Angola. In 1918, he married Maria Luiza Jacobetty D'Azevado in Portugal, and they settled in Angola. There, Reis became the inspector of public works and created a firm to prospect for minerals in the south of Angola. He received an exclusive permit in 1923 to capitalize on the region's copper, oil, and precious minerals, but, by 1924, he had run out of funds to operate his company. He found a way to finance his business when he learned that Ambaca, the Royal Trans-African Railway Company of Angola, had $100,000 in unused capital and conceived of a plan to finance his business. Reis purchased shares of Ambaca, became company president, and embezzled the
$100,000. He was arrested in Lisbon on July 5, 1924, tried, and convicted. Reis was freed on bail and three months later, after friends with clout lobbied on his behalf, was acquitted by a higher court on the grounds the case was not criminal, but civil.
During Reis' stay in jail, he conceived of a counterfeiting scheme. Although the Bank of Portugal was limited to the distribution of banknotes worth three times the bank's paid-up capital, it had distributed more than 100 times its paid-up capital to 1924. Reis' scheme began to take shape when he also discovered that the bank had no auditing department to verify serial number duplication.
In 1924, Reis began making contacts. One of these, Jos Bandeira, the brother of Portugal's minister to the Netherlands and an agent for German and Dutch investors considering oil speculation in Angola, already had three convictions for theft in South Angola. Through Bandeira, Reis met Karel Marang, a Dutch financier who also acquired honorary offices and titles for profit. Bandeira also introduced Reis to Gustav Adolf Hennies, a German entrepreneur who had been involved in counterfeiting in Brazil. Hennies put Reis in touch with a lawyer in Berlin who told Reis which documents he would need to persuade a printing company to make banknotes.
On the attorney's advice, Reis forged a document agreeing that his company would give Angola $5 million in cash for permission to distribute Portuguese currency of 100 million escudos ($5 million). Reis forged the signature of the high commissioner of Angola, got the document notarized, and had French, German, and British consuls confirm the signature of the notary. Reis next reproduced Bank of Portugal stationery and created letters of introduction, including one from diplomat Antonio Bandeira, Jos Bandeira's brother. When the documents were ready, Reis sent Marang to London to call on Sir William A. Waterlow, chairman of Waterlow & Sons, Ltd., the company that had printed Portugal's 500 and 1,000 escudo notes following WWI.
On Dec. 4, 1924, Marang met with William Waterlow. Stressing confidentiality, Marang convinced Waterlow that he was authorized by the Bank of Portugal to place an order for the Vasco da Gama note of 500 escudos. He said the notes would be sent to Angola and marked "Angola" there. Waterlow asked for and later received a document written on letterhead of the Bank of Portugal. Reis had forged the signature of Sr. Comacho Rodriguez, the governor of the Bank of Portugal.
On Jan. 6, 1925, Waterlow and Marang made a contract for the printing, and although Waterlow sent a letter through the mail on Jan. 7, 1925, to the real Rodriguez confirming receipt of his letter, the counterfeiting plan continued. The counterfeiters received shipments on Feb. 10, Feb. 25, and Mar. 12 for a total of $5 million. The serial numbers on the bills matched those of authentic currency so that suspicion would not be aroused. As soon as the counterfeiters received the bills, they changed the order of the bills so they would not be consecutively numbered. They took the bills to Lisbon avoiding detection at customs because Bandeira had documents giving him diplomatic immunity.
Reis's problem of how to distribute the notes was solved after he applied for and received permission to open a bank, the Banco Angola e Metropole, with branches in Oporto and Lisbon. The bank opened in early July and the counterfeiters began funneling the fake notes though their bank. The bank became extremely popular and within the month, they needed more money. They contacted Waterlow on July 29 and ordered more Vasco da Gama notes for a total of $9.5 million.
On Dec. 4, 1925, the fraud was discovered. A bank teller at another bank also worked part-time for a jeweler, for whom he purchased foreign currency. He noticed that the serial numbers of the new bills he received from Reis' bank were not in numerical order and told someone at the bank where he worked, who then notified the Bank of Portugal. The Oporto branch of Reis' bank was closed by police on Dec. 5, and branch manager Adriano da Silva was arrested. Reis, his wife, and Marang were also arrested, as well as the governor and vice governor of the Bank of Portugal during the confusion. Waterlow came forward and was nearly arrested. The Bank of Portugal suffered when some runs on the bank occurred. And the Portuguese citizens were so shaken that a military coup occurred in May 1926, setting the stage for Dr. Antonio de Oliveira Salazar's dictatorship.
Before Reis' deception was discovered, the crime was only punishable with three years maximum sentence. Before the trial, however, retroactive legislation was passed, increasing the penalty to twenty-five years in prison. The trial finally started on May 6, 1930, with Dr. Simao Jose presiding. Reis pleaded guilty on June 20, 1930, was convicted on charges of issuing 330,000 fake notes and "having falsely used the title of engineer." He was sentenced twenty-five years transportation or eight years imprisonment and twelve years transportation, actually an exile to the Azores. Reis' sentence was commuted in 1931 to twenty years in prison. He began serving his sentence on Oct. 19, 1930, at the Lisbon Penitentiary where he converted to Protestantism and wrote The Secret of My Confession. He was freed on May 14, 1945.
Reis' wife was convicted and sentenced to ten months and eight days. Already having served the time awaiting trial, she was freed. Hennies, tried in absentia, and Jos Bandeira were convicted and each got twenty years in prison. Bandeira died just after his release from prison. Marang was tried and convicted in the Netherlands, and escaped to Belgium while he was free on bail, appealing his case. Antonio Bandeira, Jos Bandeira's brother, was convicted and exiled for four years to the Azores, where he died in 1933. The clerk who put the banknotes out of sequential order before they arrived in Lisbon was also convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. The Bank of Portugal subsequently sued Waterlow & Sons for its role in the scheme, and on Apr. 28, 1932, a special court of five members of the House of Lords awarded $3 million in damages.
Remling, Dale Otto (AKA: James J. "Jimmy" Mangan)
, 1926- , U.S., larceny-fraud-pris. esc. Dale Otto Remling Smooth-talking Dale Remling arrived in Sidney, Mich., in 1972 full of confidence and ready to fleece the suckers. Everywhere he went he inspired trust through his boundless grace, wit, optimism, and good humor. There was one problem, though. The people of Sidney knew him as James J. Mangan, a wealthy cattleman from Glenwood Springs, Colo. A thousand miles to the west the real Mangan worked as a land appraiser for the U.S. Forest Service, unaware that Remling was using his name and his credit rating for fraudulent purposes. It began in 1951 when Mangan lost his wallet containing all his identification in Wichita, Kan., where he was working as a bellhop. Remling found the billfold and began passing himself off as Mangan. His modus operandi was to buy pricey merchandise using bad checks and then sell the items for cash. In 1955 Remling was arrested in California and sent to Soledad Prison. He escaped but was recaptured three days later. In 1969 Kansas authorities charged him with the theft of some cattle. Two years later he wound up back in Soledad after being convicted of grand larceny in connection with the theft of an airplane.
For the second time in fewer than sixteen years Remling managed to escape from Soledad. He made his way back east, arriving in Crystal, Mich., in 1972. There he met James Hansen, owner of a saddle shop. Remling spoke of his interest in horses and impressed Hansen with his aptitude for equestrian sports. Before another year had passed he had established himself as a solid citizen of Sidney, Mich., and had taken Kay Petersen, daughter of the wealthiest man in town, for his bride. "You won't find anybody who'll say a bad word about him," gushed Don L. Petersen about his son-in-law. "He was a very nice fellow and everyone liked him; even the littlest child loved him." Remling concocted a fabulous story for the Sidney people. He told them he was the owner of a lavish cattle ranch back in Colorado. He even took Kay on a vacation to show her the "spread."
If there was any doubt in her mind about Remling's boastful claims, they were put to rest when he showed her a collection of documents concerning a recent sale of some cattle.
Trouble set in a few months after the wedding when Remling's creditors began calling him in on his loans. One night Remling and Dennis Gerbracht of Greenville, Mich., slipped out of the state to pull off a crime they thought would return them a tidy profit. They went to Hooper, Neb., where they seized a family at gunpoint, stole 383 of their hogs, and took the animals to Iowa to sell. However, the two thieves overlooked one important detail. They had forgotten to bring the health records of the livestock and without them the hogs were virtually worthless. Back in Sidney, Remling's debts began to mount. He borrowed heavily from friends and acquaintances and began writing bad checks amounting to $53,000. The merchandise Remling purchased through these bogus transactions was then resold for top dollar.
He was soon arrested and charged with fraud. It was only then that the truth came to light. Police ascertained Remling's true identity and found out that he was a fugitive from a medium security prison in Sonora, Calif. "This guy has really used me," complained the real Jimmy Mangan, who was notified by telephone following the arrest. "I found out he was using my credit rating and even had a dishonorable discharge from the Navy using my name." In August 1973 an Ionia County Circuit Court judge sentenced Dale Remling to a maximum term of six years and eight months to ten years for attempting to purchase a $2,440 car with a bad check. The residents of Sidney were shocked, outraged, and bewildered. How could such a thing have happened? His marriage to Kay Petersen was annulled by the courts following her husband's arrest.
Remling began serving his sentence at the Southern Michigan State Prison located in Jackson. Nothing more was heard of the bad check artist and con man until June 6, 1975, when he carried out one of the most outlandish prison escapes in the annals of U.S. crime history. At 11:05 a.m. a low-flying helicopter flew over the wall of the penitentiary and landed in a grassy clearing near a spot marked with a red handkerchief. Remling, who was taking his lunch break, scampered toward the aircraft. Within seconds he was safely on board and the pilot of the helicopter lifted off. Because this section of the prison was under electronic surveillance, there were no guards present to thwart the daring escape attempt. The pilot, Richard Jackson, was ordered at knife-point to fly in a northeasterly direction along the M-106 highway. As the craft approached the junction of Meridian Road, the hijacker told Jackson to bring the chopper down. A yellow Volkswagen and a red Plymouth were parked off to the side of the road, but Jackson did not see the men enter the car because Remling and his accomplice sprayed mace in his eyes. An eyewitness later reported that Remling climbed into the red car and drove away. The
Volkswagen and a third car served as the decoys. Several minutes passed. Richard Jackson regained his senses and radioed ahead to the airport. After telling them what had happened he restarted the helicopter and took off in search of the cars.
Jackson noticed a third automobile driving slowly away from the drop site. The state police were notified by radio, and within minutes Mrs. Jolyne Lou Conn, thirty-two, of Webberville was pulled over to the side and questioned. The woman said that she was just the decoy. She implicated a 23-year-old Howell man, Donald Hill, as the one who actually carried out the hijacking. It was Hill, she explained, who presented himself to Jackson at the Mettetal Airport in Plymouth earlier that morning. Hill told the pilot that he needed a ride to Lansing, Mich., to keep a business appointment. Ten minutes into the flight he pulled a five-inch knife on Jackson and ordered him to change course and fly to the state prison. The FBI learned that Hill had recently completed five hours of helicopter flight training at the Greenville, Mich., school for pilots. The real Donald Hill as it turned out, was not involved. The hijacker was 20-year
-old Morris Eugene Colosky. He was arrested near Howell by Livingston County sheriff's deputies and charged with kidnapping.
Remling remained a fugitive for only thirty hours. He was arrested by state police outside a tavern in Leslie. He good-naturedly told news reporters that his aborted escape attempt was well worth it because he got to hear "some birds sing, water trickle, and a fox bark." How had he conceived such a bizarre scheme? The inspiration may have come from a television advertisement Remling had seen promoting a Charles Bronson movie called Breakout, in which a convict is airlifted out of a prison.
Rickson, William (AKA: William Whalen)
, prom. 1915, U.S., fraud. On Nov. 16, 1915, wealthy Baltimore resident Dwight Mallory arranged to meet a friend, M.C. Gill, at a duck blind they shared on Chesapeake Bay, to do some hunting. Mallory left for the blind at noon in his motorboat. When he failed to arrive, Gill filed a missing-persons report with the police. Despite Mallory's public prominence--he was the son and nephew of wealthy machine manufacturers--a six -state dragnet and intensive police investigations failed to produce a clue as to his whereabouts.
On Nov. 30, Mallory's boat was found in Chesapeake Bay containing only one of three life preservers, one shotgun, one oar, one of Mallory's shoes, and strips of white cloth investigators believed the missing man might have used as a distress signal. After the boat was located, a reward of $500 was offered for any information regarding Mallory's whereabouts.
The following night a close friend and associate of Mallory, Charles J. Symington, received a phone call from a man identifying himself as Mallory. The caller claimed to be at the Holland House hotel in Newark, and told Symington that he could not meet him because he was ashamed of himself and afraid to face "Mr. Hoffman," the treasurer of the firm for which Mallory worked. Soon after the caller hung up the Baltimore police received a phone call from a Dr. Smith in Newark saying that Mallory was in the Newark Hospital, having been fished out of Chesapeake Bay the previous Saturday. When the phone number which the caller left turned out to be the number of the Holland House, one hundred or so police converged on the hotel at approximately the same time as Symington and a troop of Mallory's friends whom Symington had alerted.
To everyone's dismay, Mallory was nowhere to be found and from information gathered from the management and staff of the hotel it seemed unlikely that he had ever been there. Several hours later Mallory's sister, staying at the Continental Hotel in Newark, was approached by a man who identified himself as William Rickson and who claimed to be a private detective. She refused Rickson's offer to take on the case. Undaunted, Rickson vowed to solve it even without her sanction and get the $500 reward.
Rickson next appeared at a police station where he told police he had been hired by the Mallory family. The police reluctantly took Rickson with them as they conducted their investigations but when the "detective" began acting inappropriately, grabbing innocent people by the lapels and demanding that they reveal Mallory's whereabouts, they became suspicious of him. After investigating his background and discovering that he was not a detective and that he had a criminal record, the police began to question him. After several hours Rickson admitted that he had placed the phone calls to Symington and the police as part of a plot to get the reward money and possibly more if he had been able to persuade the Mallory family to hire him. Though Rickson claimed to have had an accomplice, none was ever found. He was tried for fraud and convicted. On Feb. 3, 1916, he was sentenced to two to ten years in prison. The missing Dwight Mallory was never found.
Rogers, Hunter Charles
, prom. 1928, Fr., hoax. A peasant boy plowing his grandfather's farm near Glozel discovered several tablets, vases, and bricks, apparent relics of the stone-age civilization. The finds were believed to be between 10,000 and 20,000 years old and from a western European culture. Vichy archaeologist Dr. Albert Morlet hailed the 136-character alphabet as an incredible find, as did Professor Salomon Reinach, leading archaeologist and conservator of the Museum of St. Germain-en-Laye; both men saw the Glozel findings as a link between Paleolithic and Neolithic stages of culture. Historian Camille Jullian believed they provided valuable knowledge about the origins of the Christian era, and Professor J. Loth, of the College of France, called one of the stone death masks "the Beethoven mask" because of its uncanny resemblance to the death mask of the great eighteenth-century composer. In fact, the mask was a replica of Beethoven's death mask. Hunter Charles Rogers, a professional hoaxer, confessed to planting the Glozel items, as well as a number of other fakes. Edmond Bayle, legal identification laboratory director, proved the fakery by dissolving the stones in water, and showing examples of intact grass in the clay, as well as bone fragments still containing marrow. Rogers said the confusion over the relics occurred because he had put a few genuine articles in among the fakes; no credence was ever given to this claim.
Rollins, Frank E.
, b.c.1843, U.S., fraud. Retired court reporter Frank Rollins developed a second career by making B & M External Remedy, which he proclaimed could cure many diseases, including tuberculosis. It originally had been a horse liniment made primarily of turpentine, ammonia, and raw eggs. He began selling the "remedy" in 1913. The state of Massachusetts indicted him in 1919 for thirty-five counts of false and misleading advertising. But he convinced the court of his humanitarianism and was found Guilty on only two counts, for which he was fined $10.
In Concord, N.H., the federal Bureau of Chemistry conducted a similar trial. Rollins produced a long list of people he claimed were cured by his product. The government countered with its own list of expert witnesses. But the federal law required proof that there had been intent to defraud, not just false claims, and again Rollins was released. Then Rollins began to advertise that a jury had actually found the remedy to be good for you.
In 1927, the Bureau of Chemistry became the Food, Drug, and Insecticide Administration ("Insecticide" was later dropped), but the determination to finally stop Rollins from selling his remedy did not change. During the Christmas season of 1928-29, bottles of B & M were seized all over the country, and the FDA prepared to challenge every testimonial that had ever been given for the liniment. In 1931, Rollins said that his own scientist--a pharmacist who had lost his legitimate job--had found an error in the research and they were voluntarily changing the label on the remedy. But the testimonials did not change, and the FDA again seized supplies of B & M. When they went to court in June 1932, for every person who testified in Rollins' behalf, the government brought in the best doctors in America. And they showed that the people who had written testimonials were dead or dying of the tuberculosis that they had thought was cured by the B & M liniment treatments. Some of the living witnesses found out only in court that new X-rays showed that they were still quite ill. Finally, after thirteen years, the government found a jury that convicted Rollins of fraudulent intentions. The supplies of B & M External Remedy were seized and the firm was shut down. The officers of the corporation ultimately pleaded guilty to criminal intent and they were fined $100 for each of twenty counts and put out of business.
Romanoff, Michael Alexandrovitch Dimitry Obelensky (AKA: Adams, John William, Gerguson, Harry F.)
, 1892-1971, U.S., fraud. As befits a first-class con man, little is known about Michael Romanoff's background. The man who spent a lifetime claiming to be the sole surviving child of Czar Nicholas II of Russia was born just before the turn of the century in Russia, New York, Ohio, or Illinois, depending on which account one selects. What is known is that Romanoff, born Harry F. Gerguson (or Gaygusson), was an orphan and lived as a foster child first in the home of a New York banker, F.L. McDavid
, and later with Texas congressman Gordon Russell. Precisely how Romanoff managed to get himself placed with two such wealthy and influential families is less clear.
When Czar Nicholas and the Russian imperial family were executed in 1918, Romanoff apparently saw a seed of opportunity in the real Romanovs' misfortune. Soon thereafter he began publicly declaring himself Prince Michael, the sole surviving member of the family. He made so compelling a prince that he was able to perpetrate any number of frauds using this identity. At one point he actually succeeded in persuading several U.S. museums and galleries to give him title to art works which had been the property of the Romanovs', before the
Russian Revolution. Romanoff, however, was a man of many faces. On two occasions he successfully posed as a university professor--once at Harvard University where he convinced the school's administration that he was an eminent Russian scholar whose credentials had been destroyed in the revolution. Romanoff also posed at various times as a European film director, a politician, and the famous illustrator Rockwell Kent. Whatever the identity, Romanoff's scams were usually clever, always bold, and often lucrative.
By 1939, however, Romanoff's notoriety had rendered most of his schemes ineffectual. Some of his Hollywood friends, including Humphrey Bogart and Robert Benchley, persuaded him to give up his frauds and run an elegant Hollywood restaurant. The restaurant, Romanoff's, a watering hole for the rich and famous of the film industry, made its owner a tremendous financial success and a celebrity. He even made brief appearances in several Hollywood films including The Arch of Triumph and A Guide for the Married Man. Despite this success on his own, Romanoff never surrendered his claim to the Russian throne.
Roy, William (AKA: William Plowright)
, b.1911, Case of, Brit., fraud. "Of course I am a phony, so are other mediums," wrote William Roy, famed British spiritualist who had become famous for allegedly speaking to spirits in nearly any language. In 1952, an assistant who was not happy in his job took some of Roy's equipment to a newspaper to show how Roy created his effects. The assistant later denied his claims and moved to South Africa.
For some unknown reason in 1958, Roy published a five-week series in a Sunday newspaper in which he confessed the tricks of his trade. He told how his assistants researched his clients, how the clients were encouraged to chat in the waiting room while speakers sent their conversations to listeners, and how he arranged the equipment in the room to convey so-called messages from the dead. Roy was never prosecuted because he disappeared before the final newspaper articles were published.
, c.1908-55, U.S., draft evas.-fraud-smug.-(unsolv.) mur. Russian-born hustler Serge Rubinstein told anyone who would listen that, when he was a boy, famed psychologist Alfred Adler had asked him if he was sure he wanted his neurosis cured, saying, "You'll just be an ordinary person. The way you are now, you'll be driven by ambition and desires." So Rubinstein remained neurotic, and driven-- perhaps mostly to never let the world know the truth about his life. Although his family had brought considerable money out of Russia, the precocious Rubinstein, a bank manager at twenty-one, quickly became a "boy wizard" in manipulating his and other people's assets--even to the extent that he became persona non grata in France for damaging the French economy. Rubinstein came to the U.S. on a purchased passport that gave his nationality as Portuguese. Despite regular appearances in court for everything from statutory rape to fraud, he continued to be welcome at the functions of the political and financial greats and even spent the night at the White House before his 1941 wedding.
Rubinstein spent most of WWII trying to avoid being drafted, even getting his selective service classification changed whenever he was in danger of being called up. However, in 1947, he was convicted of draft-dodging and was sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of $50,000 in front of an audience that he called "suckers." After his wife divorced him, he regularly had squads of girls invited to his house, all of whom received house keys. This fact became relevant when, on the morning of Jan. 26, 1955, Rubinstein's butler found him dead in his bedroom. His hands and feet were tied, his pajamas were in shreds, and he had tape covering his mouth. Apparently nothing had been stolen. All the people in the 46-year-old playboy's massive address book were interviewed by a squad of fifty detectives. The women all acknowledged that the short, heavy-set man had been extremely generous, but none was terribly unhappy that he had died. Rubinstein's murder remains unsolved.
From the World Encyclopedia of Con Artists and Confidence Games