Escalated Counterfeiting – A True Life Crime Story

*reprinted from the June 2014 edition of the Saint John Coin Club’s newsletter, Almost Circulated

This is a story, referred to me by Tom, about an early attempt to get rich counterfeiting the Canadian 50 cent piece by a criminal whose luck, execution and planning was to go from bad to worse very quickly.

Herbert McAuliffe showed promise growing up in North Bay, Ontario, doing well in school and showing some mechanical aptitude and in 1939 he enlisted in the army where he rose quickly to the rank of sergeant before, according to some accounts, being given a dishonourable discharge for stealing money from fellow soldiers. According to Max Haines’ book, Murder Most Foul, McAuliffe didn’t stop his thieving ways there – he walked away with nine guns, including a Thompson submachine gun.

murder2

He proceeded to set up shop in Windsor, Ontario in a rented garage, purchasing the equipment he needed to start his own personal mint – books, a lathe, punch presses and a hydraulic press. He funded this part of his operation by holding up service stations and grocery stores. It took him years, but his finished product, which he struck on his own alloy that he would plate in silver, was very good and he was able to pass the coins without suspicion.

Herbert’s biggest problem in what sounds like a successful counterfeiting business was that he was only pocketing two cents per coin. He would have to pass an awful lot of half dollars to get rich at that ratio, so he devised a plan to streamline his operation with modern equipment, which would bolster his bottom line.

The Imperial Bank

The Imperial Bank, Langton ON

 

How was he going to get the capital for such an investment? Rob a bank, of course. He decided a branch of the Imperial Bank in the tiny community of Langton, Ontario, almost a three-hour drive from Windsor today, was the best option. He stole a black (were there any other colours?) 1949 Meteor in Windsor on June 17th, 1950 and arrived in Langton on the first day of summer to consummate his plan.

Here, it would seem, McAuliffe’s efforts would turn into a comedy of errors and tragedy. The robbery was anything but smooth. After announcing his intentions to the staff, the alarm was sounded attracting attention and bringing witnesses. The teller dropped the bag for the loot, delaying valuable getaway time. Herbert tried putting the staff and witnesses in the bank vault, but forgot to lock the door upon leaving. Then, exiting the bank in front of the crowd gathering because of the bells, the loot bag broke. When he finally gathered the money, over $22,000, and reached his car he knew he had to get out of Langton quickly.

Two of the men from the vault gave chase, armed with a .22 calibre rifle and they were able to track him down and exchange gunfire with McAuliffe, causing him to crash his car. Unfortunately for the men, Herbert emptied his machinegun into their vehicle, and then finished them off with a pistol.

murder4

From the documentary Murder Remembered – Norfolk County 1950, the counterfeit is on the left.

 

Herbie had now gone from the crime of counterfeiting to armed robbery to murder excruciatingly quickly. Now, on foot, there was a posse of up to 500 armed locals and police looking for him. After three day he was found by a resident, “in an extreme state of exhaustion, clothes torn, badly bruised and minus a shirt of any kind,” and held until police arrived.

Upon learning the identity of the murderer, police obtained a search warrant and searched McAuliffe’s rented garage, finding the counterfeiting equipment and 6,000 unfinished 50-cent coins that still needed silver plating.

Herbert was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. On December 18th, 1950, just before midnight, he was brought to the county jail gallows where his execution was botched, causing him to strangle for more than fifteen minutes until he died.

In addition to Haines’ book, there is a National Film Board documentary called Murder Remembered – Norfolk County 1950 telling much of the story surrounding these events, what may be the only example of someone successfully counterfeiting the Canadian 50-cent coin. <>

March 2014 Meeting

The March meeting of the Saint John Coin Club will take place Tuesday the 18th at 7pm sharp.  Note that the meetings are now being held at the Howard Johnson Fort Howe Hotel  on Portland Street, which features plenty of free parking.  Following club business there will be a slide presentation, an auction and  refreshments - what more could you ask for?!  Hope to see you there.

Howard Johnson Fort Howe

February Meeting

The February meeting of the Saint John Coin Club will take place Tuesday the 18th at 7pm sharp.  Note that the meetings are now being held at the Howard Johnson Fort Howe Hotel  on Portland Street, which features plenty of free parking, which will undoubtedly be appreciated given the recent dumping of snow and the clogged streets as the city digs out.

Howard Johnson Fort Howe

The presentation will be on Pre-Confederation Copper Coinage of Upper Canada by the London Numismatic Society.  Do you have any in your collection?  Bring them along!

2014 Lucky Loonie Available

Five coin packs of the 2014 Lucky Loonie are available at face value with free shipping on the Royal Canadian Mint’s website.

Lucky Loonie 2014

A loonie was first embedded in the ice in 2002 in Salt Lake City as good luck for the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams.  In 2004 the mint struck the first “lucky” loonie prior to the Olympics in Athens.

Fancy Serial Numbers

Are you one of those people who checks the paper money in your wallet for special serial numbers?  Does someone close to you make fun of you for glancing at each bill after you get it?  I’m one of those people.

I don’t really consider myself a paper money collector – or rag picker, as they were once referred to (can you call them that with the plastic money we have now?) – but I appreciate these pieces of higher denomination currency and love numbers, so I do try to check the numbers on those bill when I have a chance.

Recently, after being handed some US currency, I came across the twenty below.  Can you tell what is special about the number?

Scrambled Ladder

Almost immediately I noticed that it contained every number from 1 to 8, but all mixed up.  I didn’t have a clue at the time, but this is apparently called a scrambled ladder note type of fancy serial number.

“Cool,” I thought and put it on eBay where it sold for $30 USD – as I mentioned, I don’t collect them, but appreciate finding them for others.

Watch your money!

A Cent with Issues

I visited Fundy Coins and Collectables on Saturday to pick up an auction item that had been waiting there for quite some time and had fun chatting with Steve and Jim.  While there, thumbing through one of the counter bins and intently listening to one of Jim’s stories, this little cent caught my eye.

1930 USA Cent

The words “metal flaw” were inked on the 2×2.  Upon closer inspection, after getting the 1930 USA Lincoln wheat cent home, I could see quite a nice lamination error in addition to an improper alloy mixture, which gives the copper coin and wood grain appearance.  Some collectors seem to be drawn to such coins and they are often referred to as “woodies.”

 

100th Anniversary of the First Canadian Arctic Expedition – 25-cent 12-pack (2013)

For face value and free shipping the newest commemorative 25 cent coins are available from the Royal Canadian Mint.  You get 12 coins in total for three dollars and there’s a limit of two packages per household.

arctic

The coins’ reverses were designed by Bonnie Ross (Arctic Expedition) and Tim Pitsiulak (Whales).  There’s already rumblings of some varieties amongst these designs too.

At face value, you can’t go wrong, but these do sell out quickly!

Halifax Explosion Medal

Friday past marked the 96th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, which was a huge historical event for Nova Scotia’s capital, but also for any nearby city able to lend a hand.

The explosion, the result of a harbour collision between the French cargo ship, SS Mont-Blanc, loaded with explosives and the Norwegian SS Imo, took place December 6th, 1917.  The end result was upwards of 2000 dead and 9000 injured in the blast that leveled much of the city.

In 1992, the city of Halifax issued a medal commemorating the 75th anniversary of the explosion and handed it out to survivors of the tragedy.  The estimated number struck is less than 100.  It is made of cast bronze plate and measures 32mm.1992 Halifax Explosion Medal

The structure in the first image is the memorial bell tower.