Nathaniel Wheeler - The $1 Million Mail Order Romeo

Nathaniel Herbert Wheeler was arrested in 1936 for mail fraud. Over several years, Wheeler swindled thousands of women out of over one million dollars.

The Crimes

Nathaniel Herbert Wheeler, 51, was said to be a soft-spoken but smooth-talking debonair charmer from the Chicago area. Striking up friendships with wealthy women in "Lonely Heart" columns and matrimonial advertisements, he was able to swindle Chicago women and others out of over $1 million over the course of several years.

Postal Inspectors first came across Wheeler in 1930, when they arrested him for posing as wealthy millionaire landowner in California, mailing love letters to rich women throughout the country.

The largest complaint came from Miss Maude E. Brickwell of Miami, Florida, from whom Mr. Wheeler swindled $400,000. But the federal charge for which Inspectors arrested him dealt specifically with his defrauding Mrs. Hattie E. Thompson of Baltimore, Maryland, out of $14,500.

The Crimes Cont.

On December 3, 1930, Wheeler pleaded guilty to mail fraud and was sentenced to four and a half years in federal prison. Upon his release, Wheeler picked up right where he had left off. In 1936, Mrs. Rena Felger, a wealthy widow in Chicago came forward.

Mrs. Felger stated Wheeler would send her "the nicest letters and pieces of poetry" and that he would call upon her several times a week. She fell for him and his promises of marriage, trusting him fully.

In April 1935, Mrs. Felger gave Wheeler $1,200 to purchase 1,250 shares of mining stock at $1 a share. In actuality, the shares had only cost 18 cents each, Wheeler pocketed the rest.

Because of Wheelers history with such schemes, authorities took the accusation seriously. As investigations carried on, countless other women were discovered to have been swindled, this time as far as Europe and South America.

Arrest and Punishment

Nathaniel Herbert Wheeler was once again arrested in January 1936 for using the mails to defraud. He was charged with obtaining over $15,000 from women worldwide and charged with a second felony. Two women testified against him. Pleading guilty for the second time, Wheeler was again sent to federal prison.


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