By 1939, 16-year-old Jerome Poster began a decade-long spree of mail theft and forgery. Finally halted by Postal Inspectors, he mutilated his vision to prevent himself from further crimes.
"Boy Wonder" of Forgery
An Advanced Criminal at 16
In 1939, Postal Inspectors were investigating a string of mail thefts and forged checks. Poster was discovered to be the culprit but was given probation, due to his age. Just months later, Poster was arrested again for attempting to cash a stolen check.
This time, Poster was sentenced to real jail time but was released in 1940 on good behavior. Between 1940 and 1947, Poster would be arrested three more times and gained the title "Boy Wonder." On his final few days in Holmesburg Prison (PA), Postal Inspector G.L. Condit had some bad news for Poster.
Postal Inspectors Present Evidence against Poster
Handwriting experts discovered an unsolved case of stolen mail and forged checks equaling $2,520 (almost $30,000 today). Postal Inspectors tied Jerome Poster to the case. Poster was charged and, on his release date from the Pennsylvania prison, was immediately transferred to federal custody. Unable to make bail, Poster did the unthinkable. Using a smuggled hypodermic syringe, Poster blinded himself in both eyes.
The young forger gained immense sympathy, saying he did it to keep himself from committing more crimes. "I would rather ruin myself for life than ever be confronted again with the temptation to do more forgery and bring more disgrace and sorrow to my family."
Judge Orders a Psychiatric Evaluation
Prison medical staff treated Poster quickly, restoring most of his eyesight. Ultimately, a judge reduced Poster's bail from $25,000 to $500 to allow him to seek further medical attention. Poster thanked the judge by jumping bail and fleeing.
A nation wide manhunt by Postal Inspectors ensued. It took months to recapture Poster, but his life of forgery left a trail. Inspector H.H. Smith tracked canceled checks from a "Raymond Benet," which turned out to be Poster's new alias. When arrested, Poster told Inspector Smith, "I thought I could shake you guys. I should have known better."
On April 9, 1948, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
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