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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
April 17, 1914

Confession of Car Thief, Seeking Revenge, Opens Trail to Notorious Gang.

$500 FOR $5,000 MOTORS

Stolen Cars Sold for Small Price—Prominent Brooklynite Bought One—May Arrest Five.

Detective Meyers from Headquarters, Assistant District Attorney Deuel, E. B. Hopwood, an insurance adjuster, and State Inspector of Motor Vehicles Rotheim were out last night rounding up the biggest collection of stolen automobiles ever gathered in a single haul.

The trail led through Brooklyn, Harlem, and the Bronx.  Owners of lost cars were taken along and were able to identify their property.  It was stated at midnight that at a conference to be held in the office of Assistant District Attorney Deuel at 11 o'clock this morning a full confession from one notorious automobile thief would be submitted and announcements made of the arrest of from three to five thieves heretofore unknown to the police.

The rounding up of the automobile thieves was said by insurance company officials last night to be the result of the new spirit that has come into the Police Department since Second Deputy Commissioner Rubin took charge of the problem of hunting down organized gangs engaged in the business of stealing automobiles.

One of the surprising developments last night was the fact that men well known in the community have been buying the automobiles for from $500 to $800 that were known to be worth from $5,000 to $5,300.  For stealing an automobile, it came out in looking over the check books and account books of those engaged in the business, the usual amount of profit to the thief was $250.  In no case among those examined did the thief obtain more than $500 for his work, while the car he passed on was almost invariably of the highest prices type.

$700 for High-priced Car.

One of the persons implicated as a buyer of a high-priced automobile paid the original thief only $700 for it, and of this $700 the thief had to pay $200 to the go-between who arranged the sale and $250 on an agreement to split 50-50 with the man who helped him to steal the car.

The purchaser turned out to be a well-known resident of Brooklyn.  It was even found that he had personally paid the go-between in the case $15 to pay for a new license number, and had also given the go-between a check for $3 to pay for paint which was used in changing the color of the automobile chassis.

This automobile, a Packard car, belonging to Dexter C. Hayden of the Packard Auto Rent and Service Company of 1,493 Broadway, was recovered Monday afternoon, when it was found standing in front of "The Whip" saloon at Fulton and Jay Streets, Brooklyn.

A General Sessions Grand Jury is now considering the case of the car's purchaser.

Charles Brush, a young chauffeur, who was indicted a few days ago, walked into the office of E. B. Hopwood, an insurance adjuster, of 55 John Street, on Tuesday and told Mr. Hopwood that he wanted to give himself up and turn State's evidence.  It was on information furnished by him, after he had been taken into custody, that last night's raids were made.

Confessed to Get Even.

He informed Mr. Hopwood that his reason for wishing to confess was that on Monday night, following the recovery of the Hayden automobile at "The Whip" saloon, three men had visited him in his apartment at 210 West 169th Street and had beaten him unmercifully.  From this beating he was still bearing some marks when he surrendered himself.

The three men, he said, accused him of "selling out the gang" in order to win the reward of $250 offered by Mr. Hopwood for return of the automobile.  He gave the District Attorney's office the names of the three men, and detectives were searching for them last night, with every prospect of making an arrest in a few hours.

Charles Rudy, another conspicuous operator in stolen automobiles, was arrested on Jan. 22.  Rudy pleaded guilty before Judge Swann in General Sessions and is now awaiting sentence in the Tombs.

When Judge Swann heard last night of the new find of stolen automobiles and the running down of other gangs he said he was very glad that he had postponed sentence in the case of the first man taken in.

"I was much astonished at the confession of Rudy," Judge Swann said, "for he referred to 'the Exchange' as if he were a member of a regular Produce or Grain Exchange.  He also referred to his 'correspondents' in Chicago, Atlantic City, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and other cities in a way to suggest that he was a prosperous banker, instead of a trafficker in stolen automobiles.

"His confession made it clear that much work remained to be done, and I was confident results would follow the vigorous manner in which Assistant District Attorney Deuel and Deputy Police Commissioner Rubin took up the matter.  I found that the custom was to trade the stolen automobiles so that a car taken here would be put into service in New Orleans, for instance, and the cars stolen in New Orleans would be sent here on an exchange basis.

"The only cash involved in the transactions of the 'Exchange' would be a little 'boot' money the shipper of a second-grade car would pay to the shipper who sent him a first-grade car in return."

Knew Where Stolen Car Was.

Mr. Hopwood, who has made a specialty of recovering stolen automobiles for several years, said at his home, 29 Claremont Avenue, last night:

"The gangsters who beat up young Brush, and so put him in a mood to surrender and turn State's evidence, played a nice little trick on themselves.  For, as a matter of fact, we located that car a week before we knew who its new owner was.  We deliberately left the car alone instead of seizing it in order that we might find out who some of the people were who restored such cars to service.  When we found it it was a barn in Brooklyn, being overhauled and equipped with new numbers.

"We had a record of the conversation in which the prospective purchaser out up money for the new coat of paint for the chassis, and put up money for the new license number.  A jealous girl, who was attracted to the hope of reward and the expectation of 'getting even' with a chauffeur who had found himself a new sweetheart, gave the information that led us to the car in storage.

"We were quite curious when a check was cashed for $700, and seven hundred-dollar bills were laid to the go-between.  We were also curious as to why one of the hundred-dollar bills changed at a Brooklyn saloon for two fifties.  When Brush confessed the theft he cleared this matter up, for he said he had to get $50 in order to make an even split-up of the $500 that was the share of himself and his partner after paying the go-between."

The automobile recovered in Brooklyn was stolen on Feb. 21, less than two minutes after Mr. Hayden had stepped out of it to go up to his office on the second floor of the building at 1,493 Broadway, just north of Forty-second Street.  Mr. Hayden looked out of his office window on reaching the second floor, and found the automobile gone.

Brush, after telling how he escaped with it, confessed that he had also stolen three other Packard automobiles, one of which he took two days before Christmas while it was standing in front of a branch post office in Fifty-first Street.

This automobile Mr. Hopwood traced to Baltimore and brought back to New York, where he restored to to the Packard Agency, which had taken it out only once before it was stolen.  In the automobile were found cards of two east side dance halls and a card which led to the arrest of Rudy last January.

One result of the night's work, it was said, would be a marked strengthening of the case against two insurance adjusters who have been known for some time as accomplices of automobile thieves.

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