The Velvet Kid and the Beach Haven Swindle

In 1937, Walter E. Tobey known as the Velvet Kid, swindled Mr. and Mrs. Leonard B Reel, a wealthy couple of $75,000. Arrested in 1939 by postal inspectors, Tobey jumped ball and led inspectors on a continent wide manhunt until 1940.

The Beach Haven Swindle

The Reels had accumulated a substantial amount of money for retirement and had a beautiful house in Beach Haven, New Jersey. They often traveled south in the winter and lived in New Jersey in the summer. In February 1937, the couple were seated on a beach in Alameda Park in Mexico City when they were approached by a genteel-appearing man who engaged them in conversations.

The man claimed to be Robert Barnett, a businessman, and the conversation quickly turned to business and investments. The couple arranged to meet Barnett again the next morning. During this gathering, he claimed to see George B. Evans, a stockbroker known for generating large sums of money through investments.

Barnett approached Evans and invited the Reels to engage in conversation together. After some discussion, Evans proposed a deal using Barnett's and the Reels' names to make some quick investments. Requiring no money in advance and the promise of 10% of the earnings, the Reels agreed.

The Beach Haven Swindle Cont.

The man claiming to be George B. Evans was one of Tobey's "Velvet Kid's" gang members pretending to be a clever stock expert. After disclosing the plan, Evans excused himself. By the end of the day, he returned claiming they had made $80,000 profit, but that they should be making more.

Enticed by the winnings, the Reels and Barnett decided to raise their own funds and invest more. Staying connected through telegrams, the Reels returned to New Jersey and secured $75,000. They then flew to New Orleans to meet with Barnett and Evans. With this money, the team "made" over $200,000, which Barnett claimed he immediately re-invested to maximize profit.

The Reels pleaded with Barnett to cancel the last order and return their money and profits. Evans left in a rage. After a couple days of no contact, the Reels realized they had been swindled and returned home to Jersey practically penniless.

Arrest and Punishment

Fortunately, the Reels had kept a record of every bill withdrawn and the telegrams sent back and forth. They immediately contacted authorities, and the complaint was referred to the chief postal inspector for investigation under the Mail Fraud Statue. After over a year of investigation, George B. Evans turned out to be Robert McNeil, and Robert Barnett was actually Walter E. Tobey. Bother men were apprehended in June of 1939 in Louisiana.

On the day of the trial, Tobey failed to appear and ended up jumping a $15,000 bail. A manhunt ensued, lasting several months. Tobey was finally apprehended a second time in Mexico. Both McNeil and Tobey were convicted. Tobey would spend three years in federal prison, and McNeil would serve two years for mail fraud.


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