"The Secret Six”

PAUL MONTGOMERY December 1 1933

"The Secret Six”

PAUL MONTGOMERY December 1 1933

"The Secret Six”


ADULT READers will recall stories read in their youth

often behind the barn or lying in bed with a wary ear directed toward the stairway of famous bandits of long ago who climbed to notoriety as robbers of stage coaches plying to and from the gold fields. The stage coach has vanished, but the gold bandit is still with us. In a changing world he lias changed his ways but not his objective. Stealth has given way to violence. His horse and over-sized pistols have been replaced by an automobile and longdistance telephone. In days of old he was to 3found in the very forefront of the attack. Now he tries to stay in the background and let duties do the dirty work.

In the old days the amount wrenched by violence from the stage

coach was known. There is no certain method of checking up on high-grading the term applied to securing gold bycrooked methods. Usually the high-grader tries to buystolen samples of considerable value at a reduced price and sell them to some shady refiner at full value. It is a good business if do not get caught.

Today, in the gold production areas of Ontario, there are two things against the high-grader. First, there is the law, and second there is the Secret Six.

The law is covered by a clause in the Raw Metals Act. It is distinctly stated therein that it is an offense for anyone to be in of ore having a value of more than twenty-live cents a pound. I'hat word ore covers silver, platinum. cop[x*r and, of course, gold. Twenty-five cents a pound ligures out to $500 a ton. If you are in possession of even a speck of gold ore that would assay more than $500 a ton you are liable to arrest in Ontario unless you have a bonafide prospector’s permit or are the properly accredited official of a registered mine. Actually if you w alk down the street wñth a gold nugget displayed as a tie pin. or if you have a rich chunk of gold ore being used as a paperweight you are liable to arrest under the Act. It is not at all likely that you will be tripped up. but that is the law. and the law is there to try and stop traflie in high-grading.

Despite the law. until recently there was a heavy traffic in high-grading. Some mine officials claimed it was not less than $200.000 a year. Others claimed that the actual losses were running into millions.

Whatever the amount, it was a formidable one. Some of the large producing mines went into co-operation with the provincial department. The result ol that huddle was the formation of a clever detective agency which had for its sole objective the elimination of high-grading. Its officers were not empowered to make arrests. They were to do the spadework and prepare a cast* to such a point that the police could walk in and snap on the handcuffs. This powerful and efficient detective agency is without a name. In some cases it acts so swiftly, silently and effectively that the offender is behind the bars before he knows w-hat hit him. Among the underworld and certain mine officials it is referred to as the Secret Six.

Clever Detective Work

ONTARIO’S RISE to second place among the world’s gold-producing districts has been somewhat meteoric. Ontario is still a long way behind South Africa, the premier producer, but in twenty years Ontario’s gold production has increased from a total of $200,000 in 1912 to one million dollars a week in 1932. What a chance for the high-grader! The hectic construction of mine buildings and plant layout necessitated by this rapid advance in production had left many loopholes for the dishonest employe»*.

Thus it was that the Secret Six cam»* into being. More than ordinary work was necessary meet tin* situation. It was necessary to identify and study various gangs which were engaged in this prolitable traffic. The Secret Six was also equipped iti such a way that recovered gold ore could be identified by chemical means and physical tests, and returned to the mine from which it had been stolen.

The S»*cret Six does not drape its office d»xir with any symbols or titles that would suggest the serious detective work done within. Its recent work has been so far-reaching that gold thefts have taken a very sharp decline in Ontario. Hundreds IXIHS the office door each hour of the working day without being aware that within is the material for romance and novels.

Not long ago one of the great producing mines in the Porcupine area of Ontario reported to the Secret Six the loss of a gold brick. Now a standard Ontario gold brick is not a thing that anyone could put in his vest ptx'ket. It is about t»*n inches long and four inches thick and weighs 1,300 ounces. Its value is afxiut $30.001). The lirst investigation clearly showed that the brick had been removed from the jx>werful bullion room of the mine a very few minutes after it had been into the steel brickforming mold.

The story of the operators was simple and to the point. They had gathered up the tliter pads from the mill and melted down the gold in the oil furnaces as usual. There was sufficient gold to cast six bricks. Flu* molten gold had been jxnired, and the operators, without leaving the building, had gone into an adjoining room for lunch. The lunch had been handed to them through an opening in the steel grill which covered all dcxjrs and windows. When they i-ame back to their furnace one of the gold bricks was missing. The others were red-hot. Here were the makings of a fine mystery.

The Secret Six soon discovered that a piece of the brick had been sold in Buffalo and a second piece in Detroit. These two pieces accounted for less than a quarter of the missing brick. W here was the balance? It took a few days to check over the payroll and to discover that a certain swarthy son of Italy had vanished as mysteriously as the gold brick.

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The Secret Six

Continued from page 9

Several Italians were toiling at the mine. After the lapse of a few months the Secret Six discovered that one of them was mad right through to the backbone and all because of the ingratitude of a woman. Giaspo, or so we will call him, had had a letter from his wife in Italy. He had been in Canada for more than three years and every pay day had sent her a money order. Now she had written him that he was no good and laid stress on his feeble efforts compared to those of a man named Francisco, who had been in Canada only a few months. Now he was home, had bought a farm near by and was living like a lord.

It was a simple letter, but in the hands of the Secret Six it proved the downfall of the lordly Francisco. The long arm of the Secret Six reached out to Italy, and the Italian police arrested him for the theft of one gold brick.

Back once more in Canada, he was convicted of the theft. He had securely hidden a rake and several sheets of thick asbestos paper near the bullion room. He had carefully watched the procedure on several pouring days. He waited for the brick to change from the molten to the solid state and then pulled it over to the door with his rake. Using the asbestos paper for protection, he put his arms through the grill and wrapped the brick up in the remainder in the paper. He then shoved the empty mold back into place and hid the rake. He hid himself in a disused storeroom and sawed the brick up into little pieces with a hacksaw.

A Unique Hiding Place

A FEW MONTHS AFTER the Secret Six commenced to operate, dealers in illicit gold realized that they would have to change their crude methods of doing business. The Secret Six had experienced a run of good luck. Case after case had resulted in a court conviction. True, many of those who felt the weight of Canadian law were mere runners for certain higherups; but the situation appeared so serious that some of the big high-graders thought they had better get into the game again and handle things for themselves.

One of these men drove up to Timmins, one of the leading gold mining centres of Northern Ontario, in a big, flashy motor car with a woman travelling companion. The Secret Six knew all about his departure from Toronto and how much ready cash he carried with him. During the evening of the second day the agents for the Secret Six in Timmins noticed him driving on the main street, and notified headquarters that the quarry had arrived.

There are some very good hotels in Timmins, but this man and woman avoided them and took up quarters in a second-rate boarding house. The large number of visitors they received during the next few evenings added to the suspicion that they had not gone north entirely for their health. The agents were convinced that the pair had a considerable amount of high-grade on hand, and turned the matter over to the local police. The local authorities were just as suspicious as the local agents of the Secret Six, but all positive basis for an arrest failed owing to their failure to find any of the gold. The man and woman were drawn away from the boarding house on false reports and their room searched. There were no loose boards in the floor. The bedding was free from loot. The baggage failed to reveal any false bottoms or undue weight, and the usual nooks and comers were also blank. The local police refused to act unless actual evidence of high-grade could be found. The couple started south in their big car.

The local agents of the Secret Six had kept their chain of officials informed of every move. About forty miles from Timmins the motor road makes a junction with the main north and south highway of Ontario. At that junction there was waiting for the couple an agent of the Secret Six and a local police official.

The couple were stopped and informed that they were suspected of carrying highgrade. The policeman offered his apologies for having to search the car and asked them to step out. As the woman did so, the agent was struck by the slimness of her limbs and the enormous development of her bust. He instructed the policeman to arrest her.

When she was searched by the matron at the local jail it was discovered that she was wearing a false bosom made of galvanized iron. Inside was the missing high-grade ore. She had about $8,500 in gold stowed away.

A traveller for a fruit-importing house came under the notice of the Secret Six. They wondered why he made so many trips to Buffalo and Detroit after visiting the mining country. Investigation soon disclosed his method. He never carried the gold. He bought it from certain persons near the mines, but stipulated that it must be turned over to others whom he would designate. These third parties were his runners. They were paid to hitch-hike down the highway on trucks and to meet him over the border.

The Secret Six gave the screws a tum or two and the big man drew into his shell. The simplest way to deal with him was to trim him and trim him properly. At a meeting in Detroit between this fruit vendor and his runners it was decided that the runners had reached a point where they could do the buying. The “Big Shot” could stay safely across the line and everything would be jake-a-loo.

Unknown to the Big Shot or the runners was the fact that the Secret Six had more or less arranged this meeting. However, the outcome of the conference was that one runner started north with $500. In a few days he was back. The Secret Six had supplied the bait and the gang was biting. If one runner could bring back a haul like that, all the other runners were eager to show what they could do.

The Big Shot got all his ready cash together—about $120,000—and divided it among his faithful runners. He gave them his blessing and sent them north. The Secret Six met them in the North and business was soon consummated. In an old shack, by candle light, ore of marvellous appearance was turned over for the money. This was a haul. The runners had to engage extra help to get the stuff down the highway, but at last it was safely delivered across the border. The stuff was gathered in from all the runners. It was carefully checked and reweighed. Then they discovered that they had invested their $120,000 in 600 pounds of waste rock and old brass.

The money was turned over to the mines which had been pilfered and was applied to dividends.

Foiled By a Woman

BUT THE SECRET SIX are not always victorious in their conflicts with the high-grading gangs. There are instances when the net has been carefully laid and the quarry seemingly trapped, only to result in failure and loss.

In dealing with these gentry the old idea that lightning never strikes twice in the same place has to be applied. If a wellplanned scheme succeeds in one instance, it is safe to assume that it will not work twice. High-grading is a dangerous game with big stakes, and those who engage in it must be ever vigilant.

A short while ago the Secret Six had a powerful high-grading gang well sewn up in one of the Northern Ontario mining towns. They were just about to pull the curtain and sent one of their own operators to a hotel to buy gold from them.

The operator had been supplied with a sum of money and each bank bill had been noted as to serial and other numbers. The deal was closed and within a few minutes the local police were in the room. The gang consisted of two men and two women. The room was searched and the men were searched, but no trace of the recorded bank bills was found. The agent of the Secret Six instructed the police officer to leave two men in charge of the party, then to have two police matrons look at the women.

While they were gone, the two policemen decided that this was a heaven-sent opportunity to win advancement and started a fresh search of the rooms. One of the women, taking advantage of the new turn of events, stepped quickly into the bathroom and flushed $1,200 down the toilet.

The Secret Six have tried to draw the attention of mine officials to various ways

and means by which the officials themselves may do away with the evils of high-grading. Some of the large producing mines of Ontario have entirely rebuilt the sections of the mine where the workmen enter and depart. Well-equipped dressing rooms with shower baths, together with instructions that each worker must make a complete change of clothing upon entering and leaving. have been not only beneficial to the workers but have lessened the possibility of high-grade ore being smuggled out. But the evil has not been entirely suppressed. Today, if a prospector tries to interest experienced mining men in a property that is running rich in free and visible gold they will very likely turn the proposition down. What the modem engineer wants in the way of a new prospect, is a great deal of good average ore that can be worked by a cheap milling process. Gold ore running from twelve to twenty dollars a ton is a swell thing for the mine stockholders but a poor prospect for the high-grader.