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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
April 18, 1914

District Attorney Whitman Following Trail Leading to Captains and Detectives.


Insurance Men Implicated in "Reward" Frauds—Six Indictments Against Gargare.

With Grand Juries here and in Lakewood, N. J., grinding I out indictments against men who have been engaged in the business of stealing and selling automobiles, the situation here took a turn yesterday where it became probable that police officials including half a dozen precinct Captains, would become involved.

It became known at the District Attorney's office that the police record, so far as it involved the catching of automobile thieves, was highly unsatisfactory to Mr. Whitman.

Mr. Whitman transmitted to Police Commissioner Woods statistics showing almost a total failure on the part of the police to obtain results until Deputy Commissioner Rubin took hold of the situation and began to work in co-operation with Assistant District Attorney Deuel, who was assigned to the case by Mr. Whitman.

With the statistics it was said that Mr. Whitman transmitted the names of detectives, policemen, and Police Captains whose records in connection with automobile stealing he thought would bear investigating. Some of the detectives named on the list are believed to be implicated in widespread plans to obtain rewards for recovering stolen cars by processes that left the thieves perfectly free to go out and steal more cars.

In the same scheme insurance adjusters became involved.  The adjusters "tipped" the thieves, it is charged, as to the names of persons taking out insurance on high-priced automobiles.  It would then be the part of the thieves to steal the cars, after which the insurance adjusters would notify the insurance companies that they had anonymous notes telling them how the cars could be recovered by paying up to $1,000 in rewards.

Trade in Stolen Motors.

The names of Police Captains were included on the District Attorney's list for the reason that in their precincts regular depots were permitted to become firmly established at which a trade in stolen automobiles was carried on.  At one of these depots Frederick F. Goodman, now out on $7,500 bail awaiting trial as an alleged automobile thief, was charged with carrying on a general metal engraving business, with a full equipment of metal dies and engraving tools for altering numbers of stolen automobiles, so that when restored to service they could not be identified.  It is said that Goodman was the head of a large gang to whom word was carried of danger after orders were sent out for arrest of its members.

The attempt to arrest this gang was made as a result of a dare to the District Attorney from insurance companies, it was learned yesterday, and the point made by the insurance companies in making the dare was that they knew the police were in collusion with the crooks and would make a fizzle of any arrest order sent out.

Mr. Whitman let it be known that it was decidedly a fizzle, and the policemen sent to make the arrest reported that "all the birds but one had flown the coop."  Before the arrest was attempted insurance men had taken Mr. Deuel to the Goodman establishment and shown him large piles of loose materials, consisting of tires, spare wheels, and accessories.  The police report of the raid upon the place failed to show, however, that anything had been discovered there to indicate the arrested man's guilt.  It was only when the Assistant District Attorney and insurance officials insisted on visiting the place in person that the police discovered the large supply of accessories.  They represented the accumulation of years of activity in theft of automobiles, according to the insurance people, who said they had known of the existence of the place for a long time, but had despaired of ever getting the police to act against it.

Not an Arrest Last Year.

In the statement sent to Commissioner Woods Mr. Whitman called his attention to the fact that in October last year thirty-one cars were reported stolen, whereas since the first of the year practically none had been stolen.  Compared with the record of twelve arrests made this year and no new cars stolen Mr. Whitman called attention to the fact that of 258 cars stolen last year only 70 were recovered and not a single arrest was made.

Another Arrest Made.

Another arrest was reported last night.  Patrick Lupo, a hackman, was taken in and held on a short affidavit.  Mr. Deuel made it clear in telling about the arrest of Lupo that the evidence, while enough to cause him to be held on a charge of stealing an automobile, was by no means conclusive.  Lupo, Mr. Deuel explained, was not one of the leaders in the gang it is hoped to break up, but appeared merely to have served as a go-between in the sale of a car.  This automobile, which was stolen on Jan. 13, was recovered Thursday night, and was restored to its owner yesterday.

In tracing its history after being stolen it was found that it had been sold for a ridiculously low price to a Brooklyn resident, who sent it to a repair shop to be overhauled following a collision.  In the repair shop it came under the observation of Detective Hughes, and the arrest of Lupo followed.  He will be arraigned in the West Side Police Court this morning.

"Chauffeurs with criminal instincts seem to be at the centre of the automobile stealing gang," said Mr. Deuel last night.  "We believe that Fred F. Goodman alone handled over 100 cars, while half as many have been traced to his agent in Brooklyn, Joseph Mackle, who is now in the Tombs awaiting trial.  Sporting devotees who were winning to 'take a chance' were the principal type of buyers.  Of course, it would be hard for a man who paid $800 for a $5,000 automobile to convince himself that he was buying from entirely trustworthy persons."

In Brooklyn the case of a well-know race track man was before the Kings County Grand Jury.  It was charged that he received a stolen automobile, and restored it to service after paying to have the wheels repainted and a new license number provided for it.

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