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In 1921 and 1922, salesmen from the Point of Purchase Advertising Association visited retail businesses across the country with a simple pitch. If the business joined the advertising association, then it was eligible to receive a dollar a month (roughly $15 today) for each electric sign from a national advertiser that it placed in its business windows. Business owners could not only continue to generate their own sales with products advertised in their windows, but just the act of advertising them would generate income for the business.

“The Point of Purchase bid fair to reap a golden harvest for its promoter, due to the fact that it sounded feasible to retailers,” the York Dispatch reported.

Then in mid-June 1922, the officers of the association were arrested at their York headquarters. York Police took LeGrand Dutcher, president; Charles A. Hoffman, vice president; and Charles W. Newport, secretary, into custody and held on $5,000 bond each. The National Vigilance Committee of the Advertising Clubs of the World had investigated the company and shown their findings to the legal authorities. The investigation showed that the Point of Purchase Advertising Association was running a fraud scheme on the unsuspecting business owners.

The officers were charged with making “Fraudulent representation to organizations using prominent national retailers enabled Point of Purchase to make headway in a national membership campaign,” according to the York Dispatch. The newspaper also pointed out that the case was the first national fraud of its type.

The salesmen sold the membership contracts to retailers who then agreed to place the flashing electric signs in their storefront windows. In exchange for providing window space for the advertisers, the business owners expected a monthly check. The problem was that the retailers were led to believe that plenty of national retailers had signed up to have their businesses advertised when, in fact, they hadn’t.

“In many cases the first intimation they received that their name was being used to sell signs came from the national vigilance committee,” the York Dispatch pointed out.

Attorneys pointed out that the Point of Purchase Advertising Association’s name had been chosen with special consideration. The name reassured retailers who believed that national advertisers were anxious to reach customers at the local level where they purchased their goods.

What made things worse was that as the plan started to unravel, the salesmen went rogue. They would sell memberships and keep the money for themselves. They would call on the business once to collect the membership fee and were never seen by the business owner again. Some memberships were even sold to businesses that didn’t have the proper electrical service to operate the flashing signs.

The York Chamber of Commerce and York Police started receiving telegrams early in 1922 asking for information about the Point of Purchase Advertising Association and whether it was a legitimate business. The police department got so many telegrams that it created a form letter that outlined the scant details that the department knew. These letters were sent in reply to each person who sent a telegram.

Because the scheme had crossed state lines and used the U.S. Mail, the legal case also involved the Office of the U.S. District Attorney, Middle District Pennsylvania. Andrew Dunsmore prosecuted the case and won convictions of the officials.

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diamonds.jpgIn 1922, York resident Herbert M. Rothery was 64 years old and at the top of his profession. His work was well-known in Europe, although nobody knows it was Rothery. Rothery was a jewel thief, in fact, newspaper reports called him the “Dean of Diamond and Jewelry Thieves.”

The York Dispatch noted that Rothery “is known not alone to the police of the United States, but has for years been sought by the authorities of the European continent. In England, where he once escaped from the Marlborough prison, his record is known to Scotland Yard and for years he was sought, without success, by the London metropolitan police.”

His escape from Marlborough prison was made in 1892, and he remained at large in Europe after that. He continued stealing and making good his escapes. He was feared because his targets were usually expensive hauls, and his getaways were clean.

“Men of Scotland Yard and continental police came to recognize Rothery’s work through it thoroughness and the absolute lack in any case of any definite trace or clue to the identity of the perpetrator of the crime,” the newspaper reported.

Rothery had a police record that dated back to 1886, according to an article in The Jeweler’s Circular. He fine-tuned his skills in Europe until his work was feared for its effectiveness and respected for it professional manner.

The York Dispatch also noted further evidence of Rothery’s success as a thief, writing, “Rothery bears evidence of prosperity, wears expensive clothing and has a distinguished air.”

Then he disappeared from Europe and never returned.

He began stealing again in the United States, but these were smaller jobs and sloppier. Now in his 60s, his skills may have been fading.

Although he was caught and imprisoned several times, he managed to escape despite extra precautions being taken. One of his techniques was to effect a disguise by dying his hair, goatee, and mustache.

He came to live in York for reasons unknown. He roomed with a family on Philadelphia Street near Pine Street. From York, he would make out-of-town trips for days and sometimes weeks, always returning.

“While he was living quietly in York last year, detectives believe, Rothery was planning big jewel and diamond robberies which, because of his arrest in Baltimore, he never got the opportunity to execute,” The York Dispatch reported.

He was arrested in 1919 in Baltimore after selling stolen jewelry to a fence. He was released on bail, but when his case came to trial, Rothery didn’t show, and by that time, he had also left York. He was finally arrested again while in St. Louis in 1922.

At that time, he was wanted in Syracuse, N. Y., for jumping bail; Washington, D. C. for jumping bail; Baltimore for escape; Ft. Madison, Iowa, for escape; Cincinnati for robbery; Buffalo, N. Y. for robbery; Sioux City, Iowa, for robbery; New Orleans for robbery; Denver for escaping from a cop after being charged with assault to kill; Atlanta for robbery; Omaha, Neb., for robbery; and Richmond for robbery.

“For many years he has been recognized as one of the most dangerous thieves operating against the jewelers of the country,” The Jeweler’s Circular noted.

The article also said that he was able to continually make bail because he had “powerful friends in New York and Chicago” who were willing to pay it when needed.

Once the extradition claims were sorted out, Rothery, who also went by the alias Henry McClelland, was sent back to Baltimore where he was sentenced to four years in the Maryland State Penitentiary there.

His luck had finally run out, and his long career had come to an end.

 

 

 

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