Stewart v. Wright

Citation147 F. 321
Decision Date21 June 1906
Docket Number2,138
PartiesSTEWART et al v. WRIGHT
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)

W. R Robertson and A. E. Spencer, for plaintiffs in error.

J. W Halliburton (Samuel McReynolds and Hiram W. Currey, on the brief), for defendant in error.

Before SANBORN, HOOK, and ADAMS, Circuit Judges.

HOOK Circuit Judge.

The charge in the petition is that the defendants, Stewart and the bank, acting in combination and concert with a number of swindlers and confidence men, obtained from the plaintiff Wright, the sum of $5,100, and that it was accomplished by means of a pretended foot race, the result of which was secretly arranged in advance, and by inducing the plaintiff through various false pretenses to place his money temporarily in the possession of one Boatright, the leader of the swindlers, who pretended to be acting as a stakeholder in the betting, and who promised to return the money so soon as it served the temporary purpose of relieving him (Boatright) from a false and simulated embarrassment arising out of the manipulation of the stake money in his hands.

For some years there existed in Webb City, Mo., an organization styled an athletic club, the ostensible purpose of which was the promotion of athletic sports and pastimes. It was really an organized band of swindlers, some of whom masqueraded as wealthy miners, and so notorious did they become that they were commonly known in the community as the 'Buckfoot gang,' and their continued operations became an intolerable public scandal. The only branch of their operations with which we are concerned is the fake foot racing, so called. Their plan was to entice men of means to Webb City, and deprive them of their money by various pretexts and devices in connection with foot races, the result of which was always secretly prearranged. Complaints and protests from the victims were sometimes met by threats with a show of force. Their operations covered a wide territory, extending from Iowa to Texas, and they had a regular staff of decoys in the field. The victims were selected with great care, and various stories were told to induce them to go to Webb City. Their vanity and sympathy were sometimes played upon, and always their cupidity and desire for ill-gotten gain. Some of them were falsely assured at the outset that they were not expected to hazard their own money upon the races, but were told that it would be well for them to take along letters of credit or drafts, to impress the others at Webb City with their responsibility and financial standing. Sometimes the scheme outlined to the intended victims was that they assist in doing an act of justice to a foot racer of great merit who had been unfairly treated in the past, and who intended to match himself with one backed by the club, whom he could easily defeat. At other times the pretended purpose was to enable Boatright, the chief of the swindlers and the president of the club, to discipline his co-members, who were getting beyond his control, and this was to be accomplished by winning their money on a foot race, the result of which was prearranged, and after thus demonstrating that they were at his mercy the money should be returned. Sometimes the victim was induced to bet upon what he was led to believe was a certain and assured result of a foot race. In other instances he was to be a stakeholder, and in still others, as in the case at bar, he was, upon a promise of a percentage of the winnings, to handle and bet the money secretly furnished him by Boatright, who was to act as stakeholder, and pretended that he did not wish it known that he was doing the betting. But, however the scheme varied in its details, the ultimate purpose always in view was to beguile the victim to bring money or to arrange that drafts be honored by his home bank; to get actual possession of his money by some pretext or another when at Webb City, and in doing so to place him in such a position that to complain or make trouble for them he would have to admit his own moral obliquity. They seemed to be vaguely aware of the maxim 'in pari delicto,' and prepared to use it as a shield of defense. To induce a victim to bring letters of credit or drafts, or to arrange for the honoring of drafts by his home bank, it was represented that the advent of a stranger upon the scene, possessed, apparently, of considerable means, was essential to the consummation of the scheme. By slow, cautious, and progressive approach, and with the wiles employed by confidence men, they generally succeeded in securing the trust of the victim, and he was induced to go to Webb City with one or more of the decoys. In some instances, as in the case at bar, they were met outside the city by Boatright, who would hand the victim several thousand dollars in currency to wager upon a race, the result of which was alleged to be not in doubt. One of the numerous conspirators would then accompany the victim to the defendant bank to see that the money was safely deposited there, and it would be suggested to him that he exhibit to the bank officials, the Stewarts, proof of his own financial resources. He would then be conducted or directed across the street to a saloon, where the subject of foot racing would be casually mentioned, and where he would be introduced to Boatright as though they had met for the first time. The members of the band would quickly gather, and they would then adjourn to a room above the saloon, represented to be the headquarters of the club. A foot race would be arranged, the betting would grow fast and furious, and large sums of money would apparently be wagered. The victim would bet the money which had been given him by Boatright, and the latter would from time to time secretly pass him sums taken from the stakes or money which had already been wagered, and the victim would in turn wager them upon the result of the proposed race. Then someone with a quarrelsome and truculent manner would claim that he had made a bet which had not been recorded, and would demand a count of the money in the hands of Boatright in order to prove his assertion. Boatright, who is said to have been a consummate actor, would appear to be in great distress, and in fear of the vengeance of the others should they discover that he had abstracted money from the stakes and handed it to the stranger to be wagered. The victim would then be induced by Boatright's pleading to make drafts upon his own bank, which would be cashed at the defendant bank, and the money would be placed, as he supposed temporarily, in the hands of Boatright, to relieve the latter from his embarrassment. When this was done the disturbance would cease, and, if there was no chance to secure more money from the victim, the betting would be closed, the money would be quickly placed in a satchel, and deposited in a place safe from the reach of the victim-- sometimes in the defendant bank. The crowd would then adjourn to the place where the pretended foot race was to be run, and the man who the victim thought would win the race would fall down or otherwise fail in his pretended endeavor. It would then be claimed that the victim had wagered his money on the race, and if he evinced a disposition to make trouble revolvers would be drawn, and he would be cowed into submission. This was but one of the various methods employed to rob the victims of their money. The details of the scheme were frequently changed to suit the exigencies of the particular case, but the result was always the same. No stranger ever won anything, and none ever escaped without being defrauded. In some cases their money was given up under circumstances almost amounting to duress. We need not further particularize the facts in Wright's case, except to say that, while protesting that he was being robbed and demanding the return of his money, he was nevertheless induced to hold one end of the string at the pretended foot race.

Was the connection of the defendants with those practices sufficiently established by the evidence? There was substantial evidence to the following effect: The Exchange Bank is a corporation organized under the law of Missouri. The capital stock was almost wholly owned by James P Stewart, Joseph C. Stewart, and W. C. Stewart, and they composed the board of directors of the corporation. Joseph C. Stewart was president and James P. Stewart was cashier. Both the president and the cashier knew, and had known for years, of the character of the operations of Boatright and his associates. They knew that no victim who was decoyed by them to Webb City ever escaped without loss. This was a notorious fact, and it was generally recognized in the community in which they lived. They also knew that the foot races were mere pretenses, and were a part of the scheme to defraud. The victims who were decoyed to Webb City were induced to meet the cashier soon after their arrival. They frequently made inquiries as to Boatright's standing and responsibility, and in every instance in which they did so they were informed, in substance, that Boatright was a trustworthy man, and that reliance could be placed in what he said. This, of course, was false, and was known to be so when the recommendation was given. When the victims deposited in the bank the money Boatright had given them, and exhibited their letters of credit to the cashier, information was given by him that money could be obtained on them. In various instances telegraphic inquiries were made in the name of the bank as to the financial standing of the victims, and whether drafts drawn by them would be honored. Facilities were furnished at the bank enabling them to obtain money, and the officers knew the purpose for which it was being obtained, and that Boatright and his associates would...

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