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having received no summons. The dealer, therefore, after swearing that he has sold the goods for such and such a price, which has not been paid, and that he has demanded the return of the goods, which has been refused, gets judgment by default. A judgment is entered adjudging the defendant guilty of conversion, thus rendering him subject to arrest and imprisonment, according to the provisions of law described in the sixth paragraph of this report. The first document issuing out of the court, then, is an execution against the property, which must be given to the marshal for service. Here again is his chance to save time and make money. Without leaving his office, and sometimes, it is said, without even leaving the office of the clerk of the court, he makes his return on the execution, “unsatisfied.” Thereupon the dealer immediately obtains an execution against the person of the debtor. It is stated that property and body execution sometimes issue out of the clerk's office at the same time, but this statement I have not substantiated. In any case, however, the legal, or illegal, process is now complete. All that remains is to collect the booty.
Armed with a dozen or so of these body executions, the marshal and the dealer, accompanied possibly by other dealers and an assistant or two, sally forth, often at two and three o'clock in the morning. Some hours later they return laden with prisoners and plunder. In many cases the first intimation the unfortunate debtor has that any action has been taken against him, is when he is awakened in the night with a demand for the full amount of his contract plus a generous bill of costs, under penalty of immediate arrest and incarceration in jail. Under such circumstances surprisingly large amounts of money are collected from persons who apparently have nothing. Bills ranging from $10 to $75 are thus collected, the debtor not only giving up every cent he has himself, but borrowing right and left from his friends, who contribute right loyally for the sake of keeping the prison doors from closing on poor Tony. The annals of highwaymen and buccaneers show no examples of more high-handed robbery than are to be met with in the ordinary practices of the “fake” instalment dealers of New York during 1901. If one would read a large number of specific cases graphically related, I cannot do better than refer him to the series of instalment stories in the “Tribune” during the first months of 1902. Notwithstanding the general success attending this method of collection, the debtor, in about one case in four, either cannot or will not pay, and therefore goes to the Ludlow Street Jail, where he is boarded and lodged at the expense of the county for a period varying from a day or two to
three months, the latter being the time limit in conversion cases for small amounts.
In thus describing the course of a suit from its inception to its conclusion, we have simply sketched one out of a considerable number of methods employed. It is, however, the typical and fundamental one. The blame for its enormities must be laid largely at the door of the marshals. But in many cases they are not directly to blame. Nearly every marshal has a number of hangers-on whom he employs as watchmen, caretakers and the like. These men usually hang around his office and in his absence perform acts which only he can legally do. Thus they serve papers, sometimes with and sometimes without deputation; they frequently present themselves as shals in making arrests, they sign the marshal's name, both with and without his authorization, and they perform generally the duties of a marshal, collect his fees, and excerise his authority, all without any warrant in law, and without any of the restraints supposed to be exercised over a marshal by his official position. Now the dealers employ these henchmen of the marshals to do a grade of work lower even than that of the marshals themselves. They sometimes go out with the dealer on his “hold-up” trips, performing all the work of the marshal, and in case any of the victims prove obdurate, taking them to the office of the marshal, and keeping them there until that official can be found, as only he, of course, can take the prisoners to jail. Of course all this is done without even shadow of legal right. In case the debtor knew anything of his own rights, and was able to obtain legal assistance, he might in many cases free himself. But he is generally densely ignorant, powerless, friendless, frightened-and he pays the penalty of his ignorance and weakness.
It is now necessary to return for a moment to the matter of proceedings in court. The typical case has been stated as that one in which the summons is never served. Even in that half of the cases in which due process of law is observed, the most serious injustice is often done. A frightened foreigner, ignorant of language, law, customs, without counsel, is pitted against a more or less shrewd dealer, familiar with all the ins and outs of legal practice, acquainted with judge in many cases, and represented by competent counsel. Moreover the most open and unblushing perjury is daily committed in these cases. What chance, then, has the defendant for securing justice? Sometimes judgment has been given before he understands even that the real trial has begun. In some cases the dealers or the marshals or their assistants have been known to entice defendants
out of the courtroom as their case was just about to come up. Often persons have been frightened out of giving testimony against the dealers. And so one might go on with the same weary story of dishonesty, perjury, oppression and extortion through the use of legal process and the abuse of the machinery of the law.
One step further, and we shall have traversed practically the whole ground; and that step brings us to the series of hold-ups that have been perpetrated almost without pretense of legal authority by a few of the most daring dealers. The employment of "fake" marshals, the use of physical violence on recalcitrant victims, the employment of threats of all kinds, the use of the fear generated by years of oppression to exact contributions from persons against whom they have not the shadow of a claim these mark the completest development of the "fake" business. It was the habitual use of such methods that finally resulted in the arrest of the Strombergs on the criminal charge of extortion, but the employment of such methods goes on, though they are used with a greater degree of care. No especial pains is taken to arrest the right man. Men have been put in jail on contracts made by their boarders. Husbands are habitually arrested on contracts made by their wives. In one curious instance, a man was arrested within a week of his arrival from Italy, on a contract made by his brother some months before the man left Italy. Hundreds of instances equally illegal could be found. In fact, in this lowest type of business, the dealers seem to follow the principle of arresting the responsible buyer, or failing him, the first man they can in any manner connect with the transaction.
Lest such facts as have been detailed in the preceding paragraphs seem like exaggerations, rather than under-statements, let us examine the records of the municipal courts and the county jail for the light they throw upon the practices of the dealers, so far as they have to do with actual trial and imprisonment. At the cost of a good deal of labor, the records for 1900, 1901 and the first six months of 1902 have been examined in detail, those for 1901 being made the subject of especially careful study. In considering them all, too, it must be remembered that we are dealing with the activity of a very small body of men, the chief offenders being not more than a dozen in number. During 1900 there were lodged in the Ludlow Street Jail on body executions 697 persons, of whom Teitelbaum furnished 123, the Strombergs 175, Ludwin 81, and seven other instalment dealers 115, leaving only 203 body executions issued to other than these eleven persons. But while not every one of these 203 has been looked up individually, it is known that at least two-thirds of them also were instalment cases. Putting the number, however, for absolute safety at only 100, we arrive at the astounding result that out of 697 body executions issued out of the municipal courts of New York in 1900, no less than 594 were issued in instalment cases. Geographically, it is interesting to notice that 622 of all these executions issued out of the Second, Fourth and Fifth District Courts, which do the bulk of the business of the lower East Side, and prac. tically all the instalment business, as against only 75 out of all the other courts in the city. In 1901 we find that 561 body executions were issued, of which Teitelbaum was responsible for 40, the Strombergs for 152, Ludwin 113, Miller 31, other known instalment dealers 116, a total of 452 in instalment cases. (This falling off of nearly 150 in the number of arrests does not indicate any lessened activity of dealers, but rather a greater refinement of method over the previous year, whereby money was obtained without the expensive and sometimes unsuccessful method of throwing the debtor into jail). Taking the cases for 1901 by courts, 296 came out of the Second, 78 out of the Fourth, and 138 out of the Fifth, as against 49 from all other courts; or in instalment cases, 285, 67 and 93 out of the Second, Fourth and Fifth respectively. As for marshals, Lee has 149 arrests, Comisky 174, Angermann 88, five other East Side marshals 107, all others only 43.
Most interesting and significant of all, perhaps, is a study of the amount of property-execution in cases where executions against the person were issued. 11.8% of the whole number were for amounts of $10 or less, 33.7% between $10 and $25, 36.3% between $25 and $50, 9.6% between $50 and $75, and only 8.6% above $75. Men have been put in jail in several cases for as small amounts as $5, and the costs in these small cases commonly exceed the original claim. Of course it will be remembered that in every instalment case the charge is not technically simple debt, but conversion. A glance at the figures of this and the preceding paragraph will show to how great an extent the body execution is being used in New York as a tool for merciless extortion, and to how small an extent for its legitimate purpose of compelling payment from fraudulent debtors.
Turning now to court records, we find that in 1901, the year during which Teitelbaum imprisoned 40 men, he brought 386 actions in the Fourth District Court. Miller has 122 suits against 31 'arrests. Other known dealers have 104 actions in this court and 11 arrests. This brings the apparent total of arrests up to 82, but only about half of these arrests were on executions issued out of this court, the total number of arrests on judgments obtained in this court being, as previously stated, 67. This gives us a total of 612 instalment cases in the Fourth District Court and 67 arrests, a proportion of about nine to one. In the Second for the same period the Strombergs have 587 suits and 152 arrests, Ludwin 346 suits and 113 arrests. These three men do the bulk of the business in this court. Here then, we have 933 suits and 265 arrests, a proportion of 372 to 1. The wide discrepancy between this ratio and that found in the Fourth is explicable on the supposition that the Strombergs and Ludwin have settled a larger number of their cases by sheer process of whold-up,” the use of threats and intimidation, a supposition which accords well with known facts, and that therefore they have actually brought suit only in the case of a more obdurate class of buyers, of whom a larger proportion would naturally go to jail. This is offered only as a partial explanation. Other causes also enter in. Turn next to the Fifth District Court. Here a large number of small dealers do business. Owing to the great amount of labor involved in tracing each one of them through the record of almost five thousand cases, no detailed examination has been made, as in the other two courts. If we may assume the proportion of nine and a half cases to one arrest on a body execution, however, the proportion found in the Fourth District among the smaller dealers, the 93 arrests in the Fifth would give us 873 cases. Cut this proportion in two and you will yet have almost 455 cases, enough to bring the total number of instalment cases in these three courts during the year 1901 up to 2,000. Two thousand suits brought, a majority of them stained by perjury and blackened by official dishonor, almost all of them involving serious injustice and originating in intentional fraud on one side or both; 452 men thrown into the Ludlow Street Jail, of whom probably not more than half had been served with any process of law whatever, of whom an even larger proportion had been guilty of no worse crime than ignorance and weakness-such is a part of one year's record of the "fake" instalment business. Of all that part, even blacker, if possible, which goes on entirely without the pale of the law, it is impossible to give any such detailed presentation.
During the first half of 1902, and especially during the second quarter of that half, owing to the splendid fight made by the Legal Aid Society against the dealers and the corrupt marshals, there was a notable falling off in the number of arrests and suits. Thus the whole number of suits brought by the Strombergs during the first six months of the past year