Rothstein_ The Life, Times, And Murder Of The Criminal Genius

David Pietrusza

Part 14

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"Introduce you blankety-blank blanks to a lady!" Fallon stammered. "I should say not."

f.a.n.n.y had her car, but still needed additional bail for her husband. As collateral for Nicky's local bail, she had already provided Rothstein with rights to her town house and country home; to the royalties for several songs; to her 72nd Street dressmaking business, Lottie and Brice; and a lien upon her salary. Now he asked for more. The Tribune recorded his new price: To ensure Arnstein's appearance in the bankruptcy proceedings against him, f.a.n.n.y had to part with the possessions that are most precious to an actress-her jewels. So the hands that the slender Jewess extended to Nicky yesterday when he finally was released were bare of all ornaments, except a platinum band, her wedding ring.

Before Swann's office could try Arnstein, however, authorities brought him to Washington, D.C. to face trial on federal charges. One night, Arnstein and Fallon attended Washington's Keith-Albee vaudeville house, where Nicky introduced the Great Mouthpiece to performer Miss Gertrude Vanderbilt. Fallon had a wife back home, but they had been drifting apart for some time. He already had his flings and would have more, but Gertrude Vanderbilt was as close to the real thing as a man like Bill Fallon, living in an increasingly tinsel world, would know.

Federal authorities wanted answers from Arnstein about the Liberty Bonds. Fallon instructed Nicky not to answer 447 of their questions, on grounds that "to do so might tend to incriminate or degrade" him. Federal authorities contended that, as a bankrupt, Arnstein had forfeited that right. In Arndstein v. McCarthy, the United States Supreme Court said he didn't.

When Arnstein went to trial in the District of Columbia, Fallon brought in yet another hung jury. Mr. and Mrs. Arnstein appreciatively named their firstborn son in the Great Mouthpiece's honor, and Nicky presented him with a ruby-and-platinum ring as a token of affection and grat.i.tude. But federal authorities opted for another trial, and soon attorney and client had a major falling-out. Nicky grew edgy over his counsel's unorthodox work habits, particularly alarmed by time spent with Gertrude Vanderbilt. Arnstein's patience snapped when he learned that Fallon had given his ruby ring to Gertie-and she had immediately lost it in a taxicab.

Nicky unleashed an unbridled tirade against Gertie Vanderbilt and against his attorney's diligence, concluding with the accusation that Fallon should have delivered an acquittal, not a mistrial. Infuriated, Fallon shot back. "Look here. You don't know a thing about law, and less about morals. You were lucky to get off as well as you did. If you don't like it, you can get another attorney."

They continued on in this vein until Arnstein yelled. "To h.e.l.l with you and her! If you want to b.i.t.c.h up your life, go ahead. But I'm d.a.m.ned if you'll b.i.t.c.h mine up. I don't mind how much you drink or chase around, but when you go off your nut about this woman, how in h.e.l.l-"

And with that, Bill Fallon walked off the case.

He abandoned Nicky's defense to his now-former partner, Eugene McGee (McGee broke up the firm when Fallon jettisoned Arnstein.) In Arnstein's second trial, McGee faced William Lahey, the District of Columbia's toughest federal prosecutor, and never being much of a courtroom presence, McGee found himself overmatched. Swallowing his pride, he called Fallon for advice: Should Nicky take the stand? The Great Mouthpiece said no, and McGee listened. It was bad advice. The jury brought in a verdict of guilty. "Fallon did this to me," Arnstein muttered. "Fallon sent me into this. G.o.dd.a.m.n that woman! "

Star prosecution witness Joe Gluck had sworn he received no promises of immunity. Yet, he and his brother Irving, another defendant, received suspended sentences. The news outraged presiding Judge Gould, and might well have caused him to free the accused had it not outraged him so much so that on May 20, 1921-the day of Nicky Arnstein's sentencing-he dropped dead of a heart attack.

Gould's replacement, judge Frederick L. Siddons, sentenced Arnstein to two years in Leavenworth. Many believed that had Arnstein taken the stand in his own defense, Siddons would have extended mercy to him. Nicky Arnstein spoke more truth than he knew when fumed: "Fallon did this to me."

Arnstein also faced charges in Manhattan, and a.s.sistant District Attorney John T. Dooling looked forward to bringing them to court: "The real story of the big bond robbery has never really been told, but when Arnstein and his crowd are tried in New York it will be known. There are more ends to this conspiracy and robbery than any one unfamiliar with it imagines."

The "real story," of course, led to Arnold Rothstein. However, neither John Dooling nor any member of the district attorney's staff would ever present it to any jury.

Dooling had difficulties of his own. Tammany Hall had difficulties of its own. Tammany overlord Charles E Murphy and West Harlem district leader Jimmy Hines detested each other. After Murphy tried and failed to oust Hines from his district position, Hines (a.s.sisted by his attorney Joseph E Shalleck, a Fallon protege) retaliated, using his considerable influence within the judicial system to wrest control of a sitting grand jury. The Almirall grand jury (so called after foreman, Raymond E Almirall) was originally empaneled to probe postwar radicalism. Instead it turned into the ultimate runaway grand jury, investigating not only Charlie Murphy, but also the district attorney's office itself, specifically Dooling and fellow a.s.sistant District Attorney James E. Smith. Charges of corruption against Dooling were dropped eventually-but he paid a price for peering too closely into Arnold Rothstein's business-paid a price and learned a lesson.

CHAPTER 16 * "I Don't Bet On ... Boxing"

N JUNE 1928 A. R. placed his hand upon a bible, swore to tell the truth, and proceeded to perjure himself: "I don't bet on football or boxing."

He didn't lie about football. Football made him uncomfortable. Twenty-two men running around in a dozen different directions. Too many variables; too much to fix. But A. R. lied about boxing. In his crowd, boxers were everywhere. Everyone followed boxing. Everyone bet on boxing.

Boxing meant big money. Not for everyone, but certainly to A. R. and his political friends, people who protected you and made things happen or not happen. Boxing was an enterprise the law often frowned on, and when that happened those making or enforcing the law often grew rich-especially in Tammany's New York.

Politicians controlled boxing more than any other sport-and profited from their influence. Throughout the 1920s, the New York State Boxing Commission denied Jack Dempsey a license-unless he agreed to fight talented black challenger Harry Wills. The commission had defensible overt reasons: Dempsey was sitting on his championship. Wills, while not a great fighter, was decent enough to earn a t.i.tle fight. Dempsey had certainly fought worse. But more to the point was that certain Tammany politicians owned a significant portion of Mr. Wills.

Arnold Rothstein's political connections proved very handy. A fellow named Billy Gibson, who managed some up-and-coming fighters, wanted a license to promote fights. He went to Rothstein. Rothstein went to Tammany's "Big Tom" Foley, and everything was taken care of. Rothstein's generosity had a price. Gibson wisely tendered A. R. a significant token of grat.i.tude: 10 percent of young lightweight Benny Leonard and all his earnings.

In May 1917, Leonard won the championship. In January 1921, at Madison Square Garden, he defended his t.i.tle against Richie Mitch.e.l.l, a Wisconsin boy Benny had fought just a month before becoming champion. In 1917, Leonard knocked Mitch.e.l.l out in the seventh. Benny, now confident he could dispatch Mitch.e.l.l in round one, advised A. R. to bet $25,000 on the proposition. In the first two minutes, Leonard sent Mitch.e.l.l to the canvas three times. Then Mitch.e.l.l rebounded, slamming Benny with a right to the stomach and a hard left to the jaw. Leonard crumpled, and only the bell rescued him from oblivion. Struggling through the next three rounds, he eventually knocked out Mitch.e.l.l in the sixth. But Leonard worried: What would Arnold say? More important: What would Arnold do?

In those days, however, Rothstein's luck remained near-perfect. Relax, A. R. informed Benny. I never had a chance to place that bet.

Middleweight champion Harry "The Human Windmill" Greb was one of the dirtiest fighters ever. On the night of July 2, 1925, before a 40,000-fan Polo Grounds crowd, he defended his t.i.tle against welterweight champ Mickey "The Toy Bulldog" Walker. His training camp featured as many dames as sparring partners-and Greb spent evenings enjoying himself in Manhattan's speakeasies. At 2:00 A.M. the night before the fight, A. R. and fellow gamblers Sam Boston and Mike Best loitered in front of Lindy's. A careening Yellow Cab pulled to a halt, and out fell drunken Harry Greb. Two chorus girls bounded out and packed Harry back in before the vehicle sped away.

Arnold Rothstein had sizable money on Mr. Greb, as did Boston and Best. Boston observed, "That b.u.m don't have a chance. You can't drink and love all night and expect to lick a guy like Mickey Walker twenty-four hours later." Boston, Best, and Rothstein all determined to quickly hedge their bets by getting some cash down on Walker.

As Greb climbed into the ring, he looked considerably better. "Hey Harry, how do you feel?" yelled one writer. "Great," the middleweight champ responded. "How did those gamblers like my act last night?" Greb fought his usual dirty fight and could have been disqualified any number of times. But he wasn't and outpointed Walker in fourteen rounds. He remained middleweight champion of the world, had outsmarted the great Arnold Rothstein-and most likely profited immensely in the bargain.

It's unlikely that Greb staged his little burlesque merely for fun. Presumably, the champ and his friends had money down on him. But the odds weren't very good. After all, A. R. had money down on Harry. So did Boston and Best. So did a lot of people. But Greb's performance caused Rothstein, Boston, and Best-three of the city's smartest gamblers-to shift their money to Walker. When they did, others followed. The odds shifted. Greb and company moved in-and cleaned up.

In September 1925, Mickey Walker and Californian Dave Shade opposed each other at Yankee Stadium. Shade, like Greb, was a big, dirty fighter. Like Greb, he hammered Walker. Everyone in the stadium awarded the decision to Shade-except the judges. They gave it to "The Toy Bulldog." In the process, they enriched Arnold Rothstein. The next day's newspapers complained that A. R. won $60,000 on the refs' dubious judgment. Not true, corrected Arnold: he won $80,000.

Benny Leonard. Harry Greb. Mickey Walker. All had their following, but the biggest boxer of the Roaring Twenties, perhaps the biggest of all time-was former hobo and barroom fighter Jack Dempsey. The Mauler didn't defeat opponents, he demolished them-when he found ones willing to fight. When, in July 1919, the 6'1", 187-pound Dempsey took the t.i.tle from 6'6", 245 pound Jess Willard, he slammed The Pottawatomie Giant to the canvas seven times in the first round alone, shattering his jaw, breaking two ribs, closing his eye, damaging the hearing in one ear, and knocking out four teeth. Jack Dempsey fought to do more than just win.

Dempsey defeated Luis "The Wild Bull of the Pampas" Firpo in a brutal 1923 slugfest, and then took life easy. He avoided fighting Harry Willis, made movies, traveled extensively in Europe (in the company of such ladies as Peggy Hopkins Joyce). In 1925 he married money-hungry Hollywood actress Estelle Taylor, and that union only increased his disinclination to fight.

In September 1926, Dempsey finally fought again, against Gene Tunney, an ex-Marine from the sidewalks of Greenwich Village but, nonetheless, a fellow possessing annoying intellectual pretensions. Tunney bragged of how much he adored Shakespeare. In training for his challenge to Dempsey, he ostentatiously revealed that he took time to read Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh. Tunney, never much of a puncher, was a wonderful scientific boxer, and promoter Tex Rickard booked a Dempsey-Tunney match for Philadelphia's Sesquicentennial Stadium. The hungry boxing public would have paid to see Dempsey fight the paunchy, middle-aged Rickard. To see Dempsey versus Tunney, 120,757 fans paid a $1.8 million gate. (The hot-ticket Willard fight had drawn just 20,000 fans and a $450,000 gate.) Oddsmakers predicted Dempsey's easy victory. But on the morning of the fight, Dempsey bodyguard Mike Trent gave the champ a small gla.s.s of olive oil, a habit meant to aid digestion. Dempsey suffered something akin to food poisoning. On weigh-in, a pallid, wobbly champion was in no real shape to fight-particularly in the driving rainstorm that greeted both fighters at outdoor Sesquicentennial Stadium. Tunney easily took all ten rounds.

Writer Ring Lardner (who lost $500 on Dempsey) was among the many with suspicions. Damon Runyon didn't know what to think, but the whole setup bothered him. If there was a fix, it's unlikely Dempsey tanked voluntarily. He wasn't that kind of a fighter, that kind of a man. This we know. But we also know that Abe Attell and Arnold Rothstein were on the scene, among the handful of observers predicting a Tunney victory. A. R., prominent at ringside, won a fortune on the longshot, Tunney. Attell was everywhere.

Events are as notoriously hazy as the Black Sox scandal. Some say Attell acted in Philadelphia as Rothstein's agent. Some say Attell brokered the whole deal. Others say it all began when Tunney's manager, Billy Gibson, approached A. R. Billy Gibson was, of course, very used to transacting business with Arnold Rothstein.

Both versions agree on this: Just days before the fight, Gibson and Tunney signed away 20 percent of all of Tunney's future winnings to Philadelphia gang lord and sometime fight promoter Maxie "Boo Boo" Hoff. But the first version begins like this: Several days before the fight, Attell drove to Tunney's Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania training camp. After all, everybody knew the Little Champ, and no one outside organized baseball seemed to mind that he had once fixed a World Series.

The Little Champ had kept busy since escaping punishment. In 1921 he opened an opulent women's shoe store, the Ming Toy Bootery, next door to Broadway's Roseland Ballroom. The following May, a watchman felt a drop of something fall upon his hand. It was gasoline, oozing from a five-gallon can, surrounded by some oilsoaked newspapers, in the store's stairway. Abe claimed old enemies were attempting to "frame" him. "There is no reason I should set the store on fire," he explained. "We are making money, and the business is in good financial condition." The Ming Toy entered receivership that July. Later Abe moved into overt illegality, operating the Peac.o.c.k Club, a West 48th Street speakeasy.

Attell shared more than a pa.s.sing acquaintance with Tunney. They were close friends. In May 1923 Tunney lost to Harry Greb, his only defeat in sixty-eight pro bouts, absorbing a terrific beating and literally losing a quart of blood. Attell, watching from Tunney's corner, rushed to a nearby drugstore and returned with enough adrenaline chloride to staunch Tunney's bleeding. Grantland Rice, for one, always believed Attell saved Tunney's life. At Sesquicentennial Stadium against Dempsey, Abe Attell was at Billy Gibson's side before the fight-and in Tunney's dressing room afterward. It was Abe Attell who dressed the new champ before he went back out into the world.

But that's getting ahead of our story. When Attell visited Tunney's Stroudsburg training camp, Tunney and Gibson told him they needed to repay Tex Rickard $20,000 he had advanced for Tunney's training-but were flat broke. Kindly sort that he was, Attell approached Boo Boo Hoff for the cash (Gibson couldn't go to Hoff; he hadn't spoken to him for years after reneging on booking Benny Leonard at South Philadelphia's Shetzline Park). The day before the fight, Hoff provided $20,000 in exchange for 20 percent of Tunney's future earnings as champion.

Truth is often stranger than fiction, but this tale is stranger beyond any norm. Why wouldn't Rickard wait another day, after Tunney collected his purse, for his $20,000? Why did Gibson have to deal with Hoff? Why couldn't he approach an old friend like, say, Arnold Rothstein-rather than an old enemy like Hoff? And what about the loan's peculiar conditions: If Tunney lost, Hoff received his $20,000 backinterest free. If-and only if-Tunney won, Hoff received 20 percent of his earnings for the length of his championship. Hoff's $20,000 loan might return as much as $400,000. What did Hoff provide beside $20,000?

The other version of events, directly involving Rothstein, makes little more sense-but hints at the real story, something far more sinister. One night at Lindy's, a worried Billy Gibson approached A. R. Gibson had heard that powerful interests would prevent a Tunney victory. Since very few people-except for Abe Attell-gave Tunney much chance, Gibson's comments were mystifying. Powerful interests wouldn't stop Tunney, Jack Dempsey's fists would.

A. R. asked who was responsible. Gibson responded vaguely: "I just got the word."

"I'll take care of it," Rothstein replied, calling Hoff the next day. All of A. R.'s worlds were small worlds. Rothstein and Hoff had done business in bootleg liquor in 1921. "Gibson's my pal," he told Boo Boo. "I want you to protect him."

"Tell him to see me," Hoff replied.

Gibson met Hoff in Philadelphia. On his return to New York, Billy informed A. R. "Boo Boo says it's all right. Can he make good?" Rothstein a.s.sured Gibson he could. Later Hoff told A. R., "I sent the word out. This is my territory and what I say goes. I'm betting Tunney." With that a.s.surance Rothstein bet $125,000 on Tunney at four-to-one odds.

That translated into a $500,000 payoff.

A. R. wouldn't plunge $125,000 on anyone's say-so-unless Mr. Anyone had taken very positive and effective actions to affect the outcome. And that's what Jack Dempsey would soon allege. After fighting a controversial tune-up against Jack Sharkey, Dempsey signed for a Tunney rematch, but before lacing up his gloves the Mauler accused Hoff, Attell ("the tool of a big New York gambling clique"), and Gibson of having worked to rig the first fight.

Dempsey published an extraordinary open letter to Tunney in the Chicago Herald and Examiner, charging that on reaching Philadelphia he was told "there's something phony about this fight." He asked Tunney for: a little explanation to the public and to me-about all the angles involved in that suit which ... Hoff fired at you [Hoff f and Tunney were already wrangling about the terms of their agreement].

I pressed the point and was told that some sort of deal had been made whereby somebody was going to steal my t.i.tle for you: that when I went into the ring I didn't have a chance to win unless I knocked you out by hitting you on the top of the head-and that I might get disqualified even then.

I was told that somebody with some sort of political power-of power in boxing affairs in Philadelphia-was going to see to it that a referee and one of the judges would be there to a.s.sist you; that if we both were on our feet at the end of the tenth that I'd lose the decision; that if I hit you at any point lower than the top of your head and dropped you, that somebody would yell "foul!" in your behalf.

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Dempsey continued, explaining how betting turned heavily in Tunney's favor-until Tommy Reilly, "a 100 percent square-shooter," was chosen to referee. Still, Jack wanted to know: What was the meaning of the second conference you had with Abe Attell; what was the meaning of Gibson conferring with Attell; what was the meaning of Attell seeing Hoff in [sic] behalf of you both? And, finally, what was the meaning of the secret conference you and Gibson had with Hoff on the evening of fight day, after which the gamblers pa.s.sed out the word, "Sink the ship on Tunney: he can't lose."

A. R. knew more about boxing than he let on in court, and the boxing world knew quite a bit about him. In the fall of 1928 former New York American reporter Gene Fowler was doing publicity work for Tex Rickard. One day Rickard sat in his Madison Square Garden office, in a chair made of cattle horns, musing about the dangers of the stock market. Fowler wanted to know why he didn't get out.

"Because I'm a gambler, that's why," Rickard shot back. "I play percentages, but I'm not a sure-thing gambler, like Arnold Rothstein. That ain't gambling, and it ain't adventure. I'm the kind of a gambler who gambles, and don't look to a 'fix' to win. You know something? Rothstein is going to get hisself killed."

Fowler asked if Tex had inside information.

"Yes and no," Rickard responded. "You don't need inside information down where I come from. A real gambler like me, a feller who likes it like some fellers love booze or women, and not just because it's a marked-card deal or a fix, well, we got hunches, and we play 'em. I knew all the time up in Alaska I'd never get shot. Me? I play percentage, but no fixing."

Fowler kept asking what Rickard really knew, but Tex kept bobbing and weaving like the fighters he managed. Finally he got more specific. "It's my guess that Rothstein will be shot before the year is out," he ended the conversation. "He's been askin' for it. They tell me he's been mighty slow lately makin' good on some big losses in the floatin' card games."

Rickard's prophecy would soon come true.

And when it did, A. R.'s private papers revealed a secret. Among the people hiding the dead man's a.s.sets were his wife, his mistress, his office functionaries, and his Broadway henchmen. Only one name came as a real surprise: "William Gibson of No. 505 Fifth Avenue."

Billy Gibson ... Gene Tunney's manager.

CHAPTER 17 * "I'm Not a Gambler"

ARNOLD ROTHSTEIN COULD EASILY HAVE walked away from gambling and loan-sharking and entered the world of legitimate business. In 1912 he was offered a $25,000-per year position as a stockbroker. He said no. Not that he ever wished to leave the demimonde of gambling. Not that he ever considered $25,000 a year enough money.

A. R. claimed that gamblers got a fairer shake in casinos than anybody did on Wall Street-and he wasn't necessarily wrong. Wall Street could be as crooked as any Bowery stuss parlor or Broadway floating c.r.a.p game. Disreputable brokers-often career con menpeddled worthless stocks, manipulated prices, and swindled millions from investors. Regulatory oversight barely existed. The federal government occasionally prosecuted brokers for mail fraud, but that was about it. Investors relied on local and state officials for protection. On Wall Street, that meant Tammany district attorneys and Tammanyinfluenced governors.

As Arnold Rothstein would say, "G.o.d help them."

Wall Street scams often involved mining stock. Gold. Silver. Copper. Platinum. It didn't matter. Mining was an ideal cover for fraud. There might be a fortune underground. There might not. Who knew? With manufacturing or shipping, you either had a factory or a ship, or you didn't. Either you had merchandise or cargo or pa.s.sengers, or you didn't. With mining, there might be rich veins of gold underground-or there might not. You didn't know until you put your money down.

Some of Arnold Rothstein's best friends-strike that, his closest a.s.sociates, he didn't have, or want, friends-operated their own fraudulent brokerage houses. George Graham Rice. Charles Stoneham. Edward Markel Fuller. W. Frank McGee. Dandy Phil Kastel. If stock fraud was your line of work, it paid to know people like Rothstein, who could provide the necessary connections at Tammany Hall.

As the twentieth century began, an uneducated little Lower East Side hoodlum named Jacob Simon Herzig left Elmira Reformatory. Renaming himself George Graham Rice, he soon invented the racing tip sheet: but after a quarter-million-dollar miscalculation at a New Orleans track, Rice switched to peddling fraudulent mining stock. He again went to prison. In 1914, seemingly reformed, he penned his memoir, My Adventures with Your Money, warning investors: You are a member of a race of gamblers. The instinct to speculate dominates you. You feel that you simply must take a chance. You can't win, yet you are going to speculate and continue to speculate-and to lose. Lotteries, faro, roulette, and horse race betting being illegal, you play the stock game. In the stock game the cards (quotations or market fluctuations) are shuffled and riffled and stacked behind your back, after the dealer (the manipulator) knows on what side you have placed your bet, and you haven't got a chance. When you and your brother gamblers are long of stocks in thinly margined accounts with brokers, the market is manipulated down, and when you are short of them, the prices are manipulated up.

Going straight didn't interest Rice, for in many ways he resembled A. R. "Rice was unquestionably born with an extraordinary intellect," noted one history of 1920s stock fraud. "With it he had imagination, a colossal nerve and an irrepressible ego. He was inspired not so much by ambition, and the desire for money as he was to prove that he, George Graham Rice, could accomplish anything he chose."

Thus, Arnold Rothstein and George Graham Rice maintained a warm relationship, with A. R. spending a great deal of time with Rice ("a very interesting and unusual man, a brilliant and fascinating conversationalist" in Carolyn Rothstein's words) and his equally shady attorneys.

But Rice and Rothstein did more than talk shop at the Cafe Madrid and various Broadway haunts. The Big Bankroll viewed Rice as a distinguished elder statesman in the art of fleecing suckers. And, putting sentiment aside, he saw him as a new source of profits and provided him with advice-and cash-to finance his operations. He also served as Rice's landlord, renting him a floor of his 28-30 West 57th Street office building. Later, when business boomed, Rice rented a whole loft building on East 17th Street from A. R. "I remember," wrote Carolyn Rothstein, "his outgoing mail was taken from his offices in great burlap bags."

Rice's incoming mail also arrived in great burlap bags, filled with cash and checks, for by the early 1920s George Graham Rice had returned to bilking investors. His The Iconoclast became America's largest-circulation financial paper, cautioning readers about other crooks and ranting against Wall Street's legitimate firms. Rice was merely bad-mouthing compet.i.tion, but Iconoclast readers saw him as their defender, a truthteller, unafraid of special interests. With credibility established, The Iconoclast moved in for the kill, shilling blatantly for Rice's Columbia Emerald Company. When Columbia Emerald collapsed, Rice's disciples invested in The Iconoclast's next big tip: Idaho Copper. "Sell any stock you own," the paper shouted in April 1926. "and Buy IDAHO COPPER. We know what this language means AND WE MEAN IT."

Rice's empire collapsed when a disgruntled henchman exposed his operations. For over a year afterward, the con man evaded process servers by holing up in Manhattan's Hotel Chatham. When his chiropodist refused to make house calls, Rice left the building-and walked into a four-year sentence in Atlanta.

John Jacob "Jake the Barber" Factor (Iakow Factrowitz) was a Polish-born conman, who might also have gone straight-straight into his half-brother Max Factor's successful cosmetics business. Jake Factor moved from barbering to stock fraud to selling worthless real estate in the Florida land boom of the early 1920s. In 1923 A. R. loaned Factor $50,000 to bankroll his latest scheme-what would turn out to be Europe's largest stock swindle. Operating out of England, Factor started by promising investors guaranteed interest rates of between 7 and 12 percent at a time, when most banks paid between 1 and 3 percent. Factor actually kept his promise-until he had lured enough suckers into his trap. He then returned to stateside, with $1.5 million in investors' cash in his pockets. His dupes were too embarra.s.sed to press charges.

One would think that Factor wouldn't dare return to England. He did-in 1925-once more bankrolled by Rothstein. He now began by selling investors a legitimate stock, Simplex, at $4 per share. He then had a dummy brokerage firm buy up their shares at $6 each. He repeated the process with Edison-Bell stock. His customers-who rarely saw anything beyond paper profits-thought Factor a financial genius and rushed to plunge more money into whatever he recommended. What he recommended were two worthless African mining stock, Vulcan Mines and Rhodesian Border Minerals. A. R. met his death before Factor closed up shop again-and left England for Chicago with another $8 million.

The Rice and Factor episodes, however, were mere bagatelles compared to Arnold Rothstein's major activities within the tangled, predatory world of the bucketshops.

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