#55 Stephen Raymond

Stephen George Francis Rayment (1835-1909), aka Stephen Raymond, Stephen Handsworth, Frank Stewart, George Morgan, Charles Seymour, Robert Maguire — Forger, Pickpocket

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Fifty-four years old in 1886. Born in England. Stout build. Married. Height, 5 feet 8 inches. Weight, 180 pounds. Has considerable English accent when talking. Gray mixed hair, blue eyes, dark complexion. Mole on the upper lip, right side. The right eye is glass.

RECORD. Steve Raymond has a remarkable history as a forger and negotiator of forged bonds and securities. He had only left Sing Sing prison, where he had been confined for forgery, a few months, when he was arrested in London, England, on January 8, 1874, charged with being implicated in the great Buffalo, Erie and New York Railroad bond forgeries. Over $400,000 of fraudulent bonds of these railroads were sold in New York City, and an equal amount in other places, before their genuineness was doubted. They were so cleverly executed that one of the railroad companies accepted $40,000 of them without suspicion. These forgeries were the largest that were ever committed and successfully carried out in this or any other country. The capital to carry this scheme was said to have been furnished by Andrew L. Roberts and Valentine Gleason. Raymond’s share was $40,000 cash, the larger part of which was stolen from him before he left for Europe in July, 1873. Raymond was taken before Justice Henry, a London magistrate, and remanded for extradition on January 16, 1874, and was shortly after brought back to America.

While awaiting trial in the Tombs prison in New York, with his confederates, Walter Sheridan, alias Ralston (8), Charles Williamson, alias Perrine (202), Andy Roberts and Valentine Gleason, Raymond was taken to Elmira, N.Y., on habeas corpus proceedings, to be examined as a witness in some case, and while there he succeeded in making his escape from the Sheriff. He was arrested some time afterwards and committed to the Eastern Penitentiary on Cherry Hill, Philadelphia, for fifteen months, under the name of Frank Stewart, for a petty pocketbook swindle, which he carried on through the newspapers, and remained there without recognition until a short time before his release, when the fact became known to the New York authorities, who arrested him at the prison on January 27, 1877 (just two years after he had left the Tombs for Elmira), and brought him back to New York.

Raymond was convicted of forgery in the third degree and sentenced to State prison for five years on March 20, 1877, and was discharged from there in October, 1880. The list of the forgeries he was implicated in is as follows : New York Central Railroad bonds, $250,000 ; Buffalo, New York and Erie bonds, $200,000 ; Western Union Telegraph Company bonds, $200,000 ; New Jersey Central Railroad bonds, $150,000. A total of $800,000.

Raymond was arrested again in New York City on July 3, 1882, charged with the larceny of a watch on a street car. He could not be identified as the party who stole it, but a bunch of keys was found upon his person and the magistrate construed these keys as being equivalent to burglars’ tools and committed him in $1,500 bail for trial. This was reduced to $500 by Judge Haight, of the Supreme Court, and Raymond was shortly after discharged.

Raymond was arrested again in New York City on September 1, 1883, charged with altering the numbers and cashing coupons of the Union Pacific Railroad Company, which had been stolen from the Northampton Bank in Massachusetts, in 1876. He presented at the office of the Union Pacific Railroad Company on September 1, 1883, twelve coupons and received a check for $480 in payment. When placed on the stand at the time of his trial, he said:

“I met a man named George Clark, with whom I had been acquainted for years, in a liquor store on Eighth Avenue, about two years ago; during the conversation he asked me if I would cash some coupons; I was promised a percentage of $50 on $480, the amount of interest; Clark said to me, ‘You can’t expect the coupons to be straight; they are cut from stolen bonds.’ I cashed several lots of coupons; I never suspected that the numbers of the coupons had been altered or I would not have had anything to do with them; I saw three detectives near the bank when I entered it, but they were looking in another direction. In my extensive experience with crooked bonds I never before heard of the numbers of the coupons being altered. If I had had plenty of money I would not have touched the coupons, but as my wife was sick I wanted money. When I came out of prison in 1880 I sold directories and afterwards gambled.”

Raymond was convicted of forgery (second offense) and sentenced to State prison for life on October 22, 1883. The law under which he was sentenced reads as follows : “If the subsequent crime is such that upon a first conviction the offender might be punished, in the discretion of the court, by imprisonment for life, he must be imprisoned for life.” The Court of Appeals of New York State confirmed Raymond’s sentence on April 29, 1884. Raymond’s picture is a good one, taken in 1882.

This forger was baptized as “Stephen George Francis Rayment,” but at an early age the family reverted to the spelling Raymond. He was first arrested at age 12 for stealing a tea kettle, and was sentenced to six days in jail. He was apprenticed in his father’s trade of type foundry, but later in life identified himself as a jeweler. One mention suggests he was a “Botany Bay convict,” i.e. had been sent from England to an Australian penal colony.

Capture

Raymond arrived in the United States in the late 1860s, having already married and divorced in England before 1862. In New York City, he was recruited by some unknown gang of Wall Street forgers to help them secure bonds from a bank messenger. He was caught stealing gold certificates from a messenger in October 1868 and sentenced the next February to four and a half years in Sing Sing under the name Stephen Handsworth.

In Sing Sing, Raymond became friends with Dr. Alvah Blaisdell, a New York whiskey distiller who had attempted to remove a zealous tax collector by paying witnesses to testify that the taxman took bribes. The “Whiskey Ring” plot was uncovered, sending Blaisdell to Sing Sing.

When Blaisdell was freed, he was anxious to recoup his losses via the shortcut of forged bonds, and joined with a gang of professionals to help him: Andy Roberts, Valentine Gleason, George Engels, George W. Wilkes, Walter Sheridan, Charles Perrin (Williamson), Spence Pettis…and Blaisdell’s jail pal, Stephen Raymond. The efforts of this impressive collection of men resulted in–as Byrnes states–the largest successful forgeries ever committed up to that time. It became known as the Roberts-Gleason gang.

Nearly all of Raymond’s share of the loot was stolen from him in a saloon by pickpockets Red Leary and Jim Hoey. Seeing other members of the Roberts-Gleason gang being arrested, Raymond fled to England in July 1873 along with “Mrs. Bowden” nee LaGrand, the mistress of Alvah Blaisdell. William A. Pinkerton tracked him down in England and had him arrested and extradited back to the United States. While awaiting trial, he was sent to Elmira in order to testify in a case, and managed to escape from an escorting sheriff.

Raymond adopted the alias “Frank Stewart” and made Philadelphia his base for a mail-fraud known as “the pocket-book swindle.” It was fairly simple–he placed ads in newspapers around the country announcing that the Union Pocket Book Company of Philadelphia would send a fine morocco pocket-book to all who remitted them the sum of one dollar, with the pocket book containing a coupon for a lottery drawing of $100,000. These ads were to be paid for after they were run (but never were). No pocket-books were ever sent out. Raymond was caught for this scam and sentenced to three years in the Eastern State Penitentiary.

In 1877, visiting detectives to the prison recognized Raymond and he was returned to face trial for the Roberts-Gleason gang forgeries. In March 1877, he was sentenced to five years in Sing Sing.

Raymond got out in 1882, and–as Byrnes notes–was harassed with a charge of carrying burglars’ tools, when all he had was a bunch of keys. However, in 1883, he tried to cash a check for coupons taken from stolen bonds–coupons given to him by other thieves who had altered the numbers. Whether Raymond was cognizant of the forgery or not, he was found guilty; moreover, a recently enacted law required anyone found guilty of forgery a second time was to be imprisoned for life.

It took nine years, but this injustice was resolved with a pardon from New York Governor Flower in 1892.

In his 1895 edition, Byrnes states that “Steve” Raymond was next heard from in 1895, when he ran a “panel room” operation against a man named Louis Oppenheimer.

By 1906, Raymond was over seventy years old and nearly blind, and was forced to take refuge in the New York Almshouse. He died in March 1909 at the New York City Home for the Aged, with his burial there funded by the Episcopal City Mission Society.

 

 

 

 

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