$1,000,000 Bunco Ring Recalled
By Death of ''Kid'' Duff.
This International News Service article appeared in, among other newspapers, the Olean (N.Y.) Evening Times (Dec. 24, 1929) and the Lima (O.) News (Dec. 26, 1929). It probably originated in a Denver newspaper.
By M. F. DACEY.
DENVER (INS) - When A. W. (Kid) Duff was found dead in his garage recently, the last chapter was written concerning the men who guided the activities of the notorious "$1,000,000 bunco ring" which operated throughout the country with headquarters in Denver until 1922.
Duff appeared in Denver about 1900 and worked in a brickyard for a time. Later he became a well-known figure in Colorado gambling halls.
"Lady Luck" was good and Kid Duff prospered. He became wealthy and his power in politics grew.
The turn in the tide of Duff's fortunes came in August, 1922 when he was the second man arrested in the famous bunco case.
The trial set a new record for length at that time. Twenty-three men were convicted and sent to the penitentiary for the operation of faked horse races.
"A good gambler wins or loses with no noise," Duff said. He went to the penitentiary and served his four years as a model prisoner and trusty.
A wealthy man, the Duff fortunes turned after his release from prison. He was indicted in Cleveland, Ohio, for using the mails to defraud. The case, however, was never tried.
Duff began to lose a gambling. Always a moderate drinker, he went more steadily into drink as his misfortunes grew, and his beautiful wife filed suit for divorce.
Still believing in Lady Luck he threw his remaining dollars on the green table and intoned the gambler's creed: "Someday I'll get the breaks." He never did.
Hundreds of Denver persons owed Duff a debt of gratitude, his friends recall.
Whenever he had it, anyone was welcome to Duff's money, friends said. He gave thousands of dollars away when he was wealthy.
Were Flying High
Ten years or more ago Duff, Lou Blonger and a score of others were flying high in Denver. They had found an easy way to make a living and money was rolling in. Con games, gambling, fake races and other methods of making money were netting them handsome profits.
Duff was believed to be worth over $200,000. Blonger was even more wealthy. Duff owned two apartment houses and other property. Blonger lived luxuriously at his estate on the outskirts of Denver.
Duff died a pauper - alone and practically friendless.
An old man of nearly 80, Blonger died in the penitentiary at Canon City.
And three others who sought "easy money" in the million dollar bunco game are dead. One of them died while serving his term in the penitentiary.
He was Jack Hardaway, 79, whom the con men called "Pappy." Another con man's gun brought death for George H. Williams, alias Jim Campbell, after he went from Colorado to Minneapolis. Jack Allison, or "Denver Ed," died outside prison walls - penniless.
And there was Dapper Jackie French, third in command to Blonger and Duff among the army of bunco steerers and con men who thrived in Denver until that fateful day of the raid here in late August, 1922.
French served his term in the state penitentiary and was released.
Where he is now nobody knows - but at any moment he may feel the dreaded hand of the law clutching at his shoulder. For Dapper Jackie, who was the adored of Denver society women, is a fugitive from justice. They want him in Florida. They want him in Cleveland. Perhaps he's still fleecing victims through the medium of matinee-idol appearance and slick tongue, but not with that easy nonchalance with which he operated in Denver.
There are four others of the bunco ring who are spending uncertain freedom somewhere. They jumped bond before their trials here. They are Roy Coyne, alias "Slim Blackie"; G. Sullivan, believed to be in Utah; T. J. Brady, alias "Tom Hogan," and John J. Grady, the "perfume kid."
Went To Asylum
Sullivan, incidentally, spent a year or so in the state asylum in Pueblo. Then he was released to be sent to a private sanitarium in Utah. He gave the authorities the slip.
And somewhere is Roy Farrell, expert "spieler" of the bunco ring. He served time in Colorado. California authorities want him. In Los Angeles Farrell gave a "straw" bond for $20,000 - then skipped out. Not a cent could be collected on the bond.
Len Reamey, acclaimed fourth in power of the bunco ring, escaped serving the three to ten year term given to his associates - but at a terrible cost, according to the code.
Reamey turned state's evidence - the paramount crime, they say, in the underworld. Nobody knows where Reamey is. But he's marked for death if crookdom gets him.
News occasionally trickles to Denver of the whereabouts of the remainder of the con men. Here and there, authorities say, they are operating little games, managing to eke an existence by defrauding others.
But they're no longer in "$1,000,000 bunco rings." Money is harder to get than it was for them in those golden days in Denver years ago, when they were respected as money business men.
Three Lucky Ones
"There were three lucky ones," according to Philip S. Van Cise, former district attorney, who crushed the bunco ring in 1922. On the walls of his room is the pictorial and graphic record of the con men - an aggregation of old and young men who fattened on the losses of others for years. At the bottom of the pictured group appear the photographs of three, entitles "Three Lucky Ones - Released Too Soon."
"We found out later that we had enough evidence to send that trio to the pen with the rest, but they were gone," said Van Cise. "They were Roy Yeaman, 'the Blind Man,' Jack Ryan and Puss McCaskey, alias 'J. R. Barry.'"
"Some day they'll slip up and be caught," said Van Cise. "Once a con man - always a con man. They never change. They are regarded as the cream of the underworld."
"You convict them and send them to prison. On release, they go back to the con game, back to easy money, and quite often, back behind prison walls."