Leonard Weisman - Confidence Man

In 1936, Leonard Weisman was convicted of swindling millions from wealth financial executives. Weisman was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment and fined $6,500, one of the most severe mail fraud punishments the Southern District of New York had seen at the time.

The Crimes

Authorities had been chasing former newsboy and salesman Leonard Weisman since 1929, when J.R. Beaver, a wealthy foreign businessman, reported being swindled out of $125,000 by Julius Schroeder, an alias used by Weisman. Multiple times, after, a man pulling similar tricks was reported across the country, each time with a new name.

On July 31, 1935, Robert Lewis of Rochester, New York, reported his experiences with Weisman (this time going by the name Henry Seligman) to New York Division Postal Inspector in Charge James Doran. Unable to identify "Seligman" as Weisman, Lewis recalled to Inspectors the similarity of his experiences to an open case involving wealthy department store owner Leon Rothschild in Ithaca.

In 1934, Leon Rothschild had been contacted by wealthy businessman Frederick Garner (yet another Weisman alias) who wanted to obtain a chain of department stores with Rothschild.

The Crimes Cont.

Gartner/Weisman claimed he would need $50,000 from Rothschild to complete the deal. Rothschild and his skeptical lawyer went to Montreal to hand over the money and complete the deal. But Weisman fled with the money, leaving all his belongings in the hotel. Police were stumped, although left with clues from the hotel room. There was no trace of who "Gartner" was other than an embroidered "LW" on his clothes.

When Robert Lewis brought his case to Postal Inspectors in 1935, a vital piece of mail was provided. Weisman had used a man by the name of J.E. Bell to contact Lewis for him, so that no mail was ever traced back to him. However, when Bell was contacted by Postal Inspectors, he informed them that he had been working for a man named Leo out of New York.

It was soon discover "Leo" was Leonard Weisman and that he had cleverly avoided direct contact with the mail by using people to send letters for him and never using the same alias twice.

The Arrest and Punishment

On August 15, Leonard Weisman entered the office of the United States Attorney to pay a $15,000 bond. He expected to walk away, but instead was arrested by Detective George McNulty. Leonard Weisman was officially indicted for mail fraud on October 1, 1935.

On the day of Weisman's court date, a telegram was sent stating Weisman was hospitalized and unable to appear in court. This turned out to be elaborate hoax to postpone the case, as the doctor denied ever visiting Weisman. A couple days later, on December 5, 1935, Weisman was wheeled into court against his will.

On January 6, 1936, Judge Julian W. Mack sentenced Leonard Weisman to 15 year in jail. On top of the $15,000 bond, he was also fined $6,500 on the mail fraud charges.


Explore the history of the United States Postal Inspection Service.