Baby Farm

 

March 10, 1927
Bellflower

baby farm headline

Police received a tip that next to the home of Ray Foss in Bellflower, several people had been observed burying something that may have been the body of an infant. Thankfully, no bodies would be found. Police had discovered however, that Ray had an outstanding felony warrant from 1925 for operating a "baby farm" in Moneta (near Gardena). The fear of being nailed on the baby farm charge loosened his tongue, and Ray Foss began to relate a sordid tale of baby trafficking, illegal adoption, an alimony racket, bigamy, and narcotics addiction.

Ray told the cops that a woman being held in County Jail on forgery charges under the name of Minnie Williams was actually his wife, and that she had been the proprietress of the Moneta baby farm.

The baby farm had come to the attention of the authorities in 1925 when Minnie sold a baby girl to a woman who gave her name as Mrs. Johnson. The infant was found to be blind, and Mrs. Johnson returned the child and demanded a refund. The child later died. Mrs. Foss gave the woman $25 in cash, and in lieu of the remaining $35, she gave her another baby! Ray and Minnie fled a short time later to avoid standing trial.

During the next two years Minnie trafficked in babies, ran an alimony racket, and fed her drug addiction. She provided infants for women to carry into court when seeking alimony. Prior to being identified as Minnie Foss, she’d tried a variation of the alimony con in Judge Hardy’s court. Using the Williams alias, she made an emotional plea for probation on the forgery charge, alleging that she was about to become a mother. The court soon discovered that she was not actually Minnie Williams, and that she was wanted in the Moneta baby farm case. With the masquerade over, Mrs. Foss began to confess to Deputy District Attorney Costello.

Things got off to a strange start when Minnie was asked to state her name for the record. She told the Deputy DA that her last name was really Hines, not Foss. She said that she’d married Ray Foss when she was only 15 years old, and then met Clarence Hines in 1921. The three lived together in a ménage a trois until Foss left. Minnie claimed that she then married Clarence, but never went to the trouble or expense of divorcing Ray.

How did Minnie end up trafficking in babies? According to her, she was in fact, a "serial adopter". In 1922 she had noticed a newspaper ad about adopting a baby. She said that she went to the Mexican quarter near the Plaza and met with a couple who told her that they had a child they couldn’t keep. Minnie took the baby home and passed him off to Clarence as his own child. She told him that the child had been born to her while she was away in Burbank!

Clarence may have been a very dim bulb, because over the next few years Minnie said that she brought home several other infants including a set of twins, and that she had informed him that he was the father! According to Minnie, Clarence never questioned her about any of the babies, so she continued to adopt.

Maybe Clarence wasn’t quite as gullible as Minnie had thought, however. When questioned by police, Clarence told a slightly different story. He said that he’d known that his wife sometimes placed “not wantedâ€Â babies. He also told investigators that he was aware of a black trunk which may have been used to store baby clothes or as a coffin for some of the unwanted babies. The trunk was later found at a home near Bakersfield that had once been occupied by Ray Foss.

baby farm trunk

When the trunk was examined by police it was found to contain baby clothes, a hypodermic needle, and a marriage license issued to Ray Foss and Minnie Magnolia Williams. Also found in the trunk were approximately twenty-four photographs of young girls and babies.

Even though Minnie said that she’d adopted the infants, the most likely scenario was that she occasionally kept unwanted babies born to women in her care. Where did all of the babies go? Police traced many of the children to foster parents who subsequently adopted them. Several infants remained unaccounted for.

Although there were many unanswered questions – particularly regarding the fates of the infants who could not be found, Deputy DA Costello dropped the baby farm charges because Minnie and Clarence had confessed everything to his satisfaction – including an addiction to narcotics for which Minnie was treated with Narcosan. The DA’s office couldn’t pursue the bigamy charges because the statute of limitations had run out.

Minnie pleaded guilty to issuing a fraudulent check and was given a sentence of from one to fourteen years in prison. Clarence received a similar sentence.

Paper Hanging with the Stauber Sisters

The Stauber SistersLos Angeles
February 12, 1927

The sad story of Blanche and Grace Stauber was revealed today when the sisters, ages 44 and 51, respectively, landed in the poky after a trip to Judge Baird’s court. It seems the college-educated spinsters fell on financially hard times after they moved to California in 1910 from their native Kansas. After their pleas to friends and family for monetary assistance went unheeded, Grace started forging checks. She did her best to keep knowledge of her wrongdoing from younger sister—they were daughters of a Methodist minister after all. But when Blanche inevitably discovered her sister’s malfeasance, she made a pragmatic decision: they would “join forces in an effort to keep themselves above poverty” and, above all, avoid being separated from one another.

It worked like this. Blanche and Grace would move into a small town somewhere in southern California. They’d rent a house, and Blanche would write a check in the amount of $300 to $600 (roughly $3,600 to $7,200 in today’s currency), drawn on a bank in another city. Grace would take the check to a bank in their new town, where she would open both savings and checking accounts, depositing half the check in each. Thus funded, the sisters went on a shopping spree, buying merchandise and often receiving change on their purchases. They’d be gone before the bank opened the following day.

Over the years, Blanche and Grace Stauber passed worthless checks to the total tune of about $25,000 (almost $300,000 today) in twenty-five different towns. The sisters “prayed frequently” for the success of their nefarious operations, prayers that appear to have been granted as they eventually opened a store in Palms to dispose of their hot items.

Judge Baird remanded the “elderly” sisters to General Hospital, where it was determined they were sane, though lacking in “moral appreciation.” Blanche and Grace faced possible sentences of from two to twenty-eight years in San Quentin, but it was said their greatest fear remained being separated.

Update: Blanche and Grace Stauber were each sentenced to serve one year in County Jail for forgery and issuing checks without sufficient funds. They were also sentenced to five years’ probation on a separate forgery charge. The sisters didn’t go quietly: they “told probation officers they felt the church owed them a living” and only started passing paper when it didn’t come through.

The Great Stock ‘n’ Roll Swindle

February 9, 1927
Los Angeles

bunkoIt’s a pretty simple scheme. 

You own some stock.  I approach and inform you that your stock is about to hit bottom.  I suggest a trade—your stock for some of mine.  The stock I’m offering you is about to go up, up, up, ya see.  (Honestly, that’s the long and short of my plan; we swap my stock worth a penny for your stock worth a dollar—your greed does all the heavy lifting.)

When Mrs. Frances L. Derby of 502 North Ardmore was approached by some very nice men, she parted with 102 shares of John C. Frey & Assoc. worth $1,020, and 124 shares of California Guarantee Assoc. worth $498, and in exchange was given 4,700 shares of Silas Frank Mining.  The Very Nice Men “talked down” her crummy old stock and represented the mining company stock as being worth $1 a share—when in fact it was worth 1 cent a share, or $47.  Mrs. Derby was no ordinary rube, though, got wise, and alerted the authorities.

The aforementioned pleasant fellows being Leon F. Wessling, 36, and J. L. Johannes, 38.  Detective Lieutenants Davis and Edwards of bunko detail say these two have, from their brokerage firm—a prestigious suite of offices in the Merritt Building—similarly swindled Los Angeles residents out of $75,000 in the past week.

According to Wessling and Johannes’ records, the duo finagled $18,000 out of one poor old widow alone.

Sad, true, but at least in a few years there’ll be a lot less stock to swindle.

 

Everybody Has to Fall Some Time

Luther Green headline

February 4, 1927
Los Angeles

A police dragnet is closing in on the killers of Luther H. Green.  A member of the Los Angeles Stock Exchange, Green was slain outside of his home at 1053 Bonnie Brae, as he attempted to thwart the hijacking of his $10,000 [$120,710.34 current dollars] stash of pre-prohibition booze. He was able to fire a single shot from his rifle before being mortally wounded by the burglers.

According to Chief of Detectives Cline, six men have been implicated in the aborted liquor heist. It is believed that the ringleader of the failed raid may be the notorious crook, Harry “Mile-Away” Thomas. Mile-Away’s mouthpiece, Attorney S.S. Hahn, told cops that he had conferred with his client and, “…he was not only a mile away this time, but sixteen miles away”. Harry and several of his confederates would soon be arrested in connection with Green’s murder, but none of them would ever stand trial for the crime.

More than a decade prior to the invention of Teflon ®, the often busted but rarely convicted non-stick felon would be released on the charges stemming from the Green killing. His lucky streak would end on the evening of April 21, 1927. Harry would be caught in a sting and gunned down by the law as he attempted to steal an expensive automobile from a private garage at 1408 West Thirty-Fifth Street.

Riddled with machine-gun bullets, buckshot, and slugs from police revolvers, Harry staggered from the garage and collapsed in the arms of a uniformed officer. Mile-Away’s last words before he succumbed to his injuries were “Everybody has to fall some time.”

Angels My Eye

waituntilspringbanditosFebruary 3, 1927
Seemingly Everywhere

It was another olla podrida fulla banditry in Los Angeles, which bubbled over and burned something fierce at El Molino and Ninth when a gent approached Frank Merlo, robbed him of $50 ($551 USD2006) cash and forced him to swap clothing.  

Elsewhere, a truck containing $4,000 worth of cigars and tobacco, parked in front of the Glaser Brother’s establishment at 1028 Wall Street, just up and disappeared; a burglar capable of squeezing through a window not more than seven inches wide entered the Wrede Drug Company at 1327 Fairfax and made off with $200; persons unknown jimmied a rear door of Brunswig Drug at 4922 Santa Monica and btained $500 worth of cigarettes and delicious narcotics.

In residential news, Mrs. Elba Burdick was lightened of $1,000 worth of clothing, rugs and pesky jewelry that were cluttering up her place at 232 Carmelina Avenue; Nathan Lack now lacks one $600 diamond stickpin, formerly in residence at 831 South Harvard; Torato Nishlo was relieved of $500 in jewelry from 925 Hemlock; Dr. H. C. Hill of 806 Golden, also relieved of $500 in jewelry; Nathan Berger, of 2010 Brooklyn Avenue, also relieved of $500 in jewelry; and loot valued at less than $300 was pilfered from a dozen other residences, according to police reports.

Daylight is a good time to work as well—Sam Stone got his register rifled while looking the other way, Stone Furniture Company, 2711 Brooklyn Avenue.

IamtheyeggmanBut fret not people of Los Angeles!  The bulls have pinched (another) gang of li’luns, ages 15 to 18, who now make the Alhambra pokey their new clubhouse.  Their leader was busting into the home of an F. R. Lee on North Wilson when popped, and quickly gave up his younger cohorts—they of reputable local families—and location of purloined rugs, cameras, revolvers, and the black masks (cute—last year) they wore during their heists.  The youth of these masked marauders may account for the ability to slip through Wrede Drug’s tiny window.  Unless it was those fabled fascistic interwar little people.  

Does Not Necessarily Result in Better-Smelling Bandits

January 30, 1927
Los Angeles, CA
 
banditry 
Today was a good day to be a bad guy in Los Angeles, and a profitable one, too.  Calls to police flooded in from the terrorized, the carjacked, the held-up, and the home invaded, for a total of 16 robberies and 30 burglaries in a single day.

Poor Catherine Schmidt, a clerk at the Van De Camp bakery at 3601 Sunset, was robbed for the second time in a single week.  The scar-faced stick-up man made off with $17, and Catherine recognized him as the same guy who’d rifled through her register just a few days previous.

Drug store owner Charles A. Elliott had already closed up shop when bandits struck, and was spared the indignity of having a gun waved in his face.  However, his safe was cracked and $300 liberated, along with 22 pints of medicinal whiskey.  Pharmacy grade — nice!

John S. Smith was held up at Mulholland and Laurel Canyon, and dragged from his car.  When the thugs discovered that Smith didn’t have any money on him, they swiped his hat and coat and cut his ignition wires.  Jack Olonglin was also stranded roadside when a carjacking pair set up a roadblock at Yale and Wilshire, and took $300 and two suitcases of clothing from him before disabling his auto.

K.E. Winters, laundry truck driver, was stalled at Avenue 37 and Dayton when he was set upon by another would-be robber.  However, as Winters  handed over the money, he whipped up a hard luck story about not being able to cover his bills as it was.  His assailant took pity on him, and returned the money, saying, "Oh well.  I guess I’m too soft-hearted to be a bandit anyway.  Slip me enought to buy a bed and some eats and I’ll let you go."

Can’t believe that one worked, but nicely played, Mr. Winters.

The Dare-Devil Club of Gardena

Get Your Boy Ready for Crime School!January 29, 1927
Gardena

The Artful Dodger would have been nothing without his teacher, Fagin, but the Dare-Devil Club of Gardena didn’t need anybody to train them in the techniques of thievery—they did it themselves. Indeed, the cops called their social club a “crime school.” Today, on the cusp of the club’s first “graduation,” police arrested five of its officers, all between the ages of 10 and 14. The charges? Burglary. The enterprising young criminals first broke into the Gardena schoolhouse. They also plagued Gardena resident T. Tsuchiyare, breaking into his house on three separate occasions and stealing his Kodak camera, jewelry, even the money from his children’s piggybanks. The boys are scheduled to appear before Judge Archibald next week. Further arrests are expected before then.

The Case of the Twisted Wrist

January 25, 1927
Los Angeles

"Wanna make some easy money? Come over here. Hang on a sec, let me just fix my coat, and now… here we go, will ya look at that! Looks like my wrist’s broken, eh? Naw, I just popped it out of the joint. It’s easy if you know how, especially if it’s been broken as many times as mine has. Now about that money. See, I’ll get a ride in your taxi, and while we’re riding, I’ll yell and come up with the broken wrist. Your boss’ll pay me to go away! You do the talking, and I’ll do the yelling. I can make my face look green, too, if I concentrate. And what we make, I’ll split with you. I’ll take nothing less than $2500. It can’t lose!"

Alas, poor Calaway Rice and his gal Ruth Richardson, they thought Yellow Cab driver Paul C. Alexander had a dishonest face, but they were very wrong. Alexander took the scheme straight from Rice’s downtown hotel room to his boss, who told him to go through with the charade. It went on under the scrutiny of a police escort, who broke in on the Main Street doctor’s splinting party to put ol’ Popped Joints Rice and Miss Richardson in irons.

The charge was conspiracy to commit fraud. And while Rice would be convicted of this crime, the lady was acquitted, which gave Rice’s attorney the opportunity to appeal to the judge—how could a man conspire alone? It was a good point, and on May 9, our loose-limbed hero was turned loose to scam again.

Bad, Bad Bert Best

Bad Bert HeadlineBad Bert

January 21, 1927
Los Angeles

Edward W. Xanders (aka Bert Best) was extradited from Portland, Oregon today to be tried for a series of robberies and burglaries committed in Los Angeles over the Christmas holidays.

Lindley mansionXanders spent most of the day with sheriffs, trading quips and calmly confessing to a litany of misdeeds. He admitted to burglarizing the home of John Lindley near Azusa (see photo), and he has also said that he and his crime buddy, Ray E. McCoy, robbed famed boxing manager Jack Kearns.

It was through his confession that police learned that Xanders and McCoy had stopped Kearns’ car on a lonely road near the beach. While the stick-up was in progress, a policeman had approached the car to see if the men needed assistance. McCoy jabbed a gun into Kearns’ ribs and told him to keep quiet, or die. Always the glib talker, Xanders chatted with the cop, offered him a cigar, and sent him on his way.

Xanders admitted to police that he had been in court a few times during 1926. He stated that he had been granted probation on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. It was during that case that he had told the court that a childhood head injury had led him to a life of crime. According to his story, ever since he had received the blow to his noggin, he has had an irresistible urge to commit crime. Based on an alienist’s report, the judge recommended that Xanders, if willing, should undergo an operation to relieve pressure on his brain. Xanders declined to have the surgery.

With the nasty pressure still on his brain, it wasn’t long before Xanders was in court again. In making his plea for probation, he said that he’d been offered employment for two years on a ship headed for the South Seas. The judge felt compassion for the youthful crook and gave him four years of probation, on the condition that he would accept the job and sail off into the sunset (and out of this jurisdiction) for at least two years. Of course Edward never boarded the ship; he stayed in Los Angeles and continued his crime spree.

Edward is still a young man, and his penchant for crime may easily lead to another crack on the cranium. Maybe a second smack upside the head will put him on the straight and narrow.

Mysteries of the Road

accidents
January 19, 1927
Santa Monica, Venice

A drained, shamefaced whisky bottle and wrecked car were all officers found tonight at Colorado Blvd and Twenty-Third Street.

A thorough check of the hospitals and morgues revealed nothing further.

In nearby Venice, at Washington and Brooks, an ambulance was summoned when excited folk in the vicinity witnessed an auto turn turtle.  In true 1920s fashion, the two young male occupants righted the thing and drove off, presumably in a crazy zigzag with zany piano accompaniment.