Joseph Tragheim, Forger and Police Informant

In 1890, Joseph Tragheim was a key witness in an Old bailey trial involving an international counterfeiting conspiracy. The following is from a transcript of the trial.

Old Bailey case Reference Number: t18901124-38

Thursday and Friday, November 27th and 28th, 1890.

GEORGE JOHNSON (70) and JOHN PHILLIPS (74) , Forging and uttering a warrant for the payment of £1,000, with intent to defraud. GUILTY **— Seven Years each in Penal Servitude.

JOSEPH TRAGHEIM . I came from the Baltic provinces—I live at 81, Greenfield Street, Commercial Road—I was formerly in business at Rotterdam, in the provision line—I am thirty years old—I was introduced to the prisoner Phillips at Rotterdam at the end of last year, and saw him three or four times—he said he would put it in my way to make-money by some Bank of England notes, which were to be made, and if I came over to London, I was to give him a call at 115, Hampton Road,. Forest Gate—he also mentioned some letters of credit—I came to London about 17th February, and called on Phillips at Hampton Road—he was, ill in bed—some dancing was going on, and I looked and saw the other prisoner there—that was the first time I had seen him—no arrangement was made at that time—I went to Havre in May and saw Phillips there; he spoke about the same thing, and said it would take some time to get them ready, and then he would give me the first chance to make money—I returned to London in August and saw Phillips at the corner of Liverpool Street and Bishopsgate Street—he said, “The letters of credit are going to be put in circulation before anything else is done,” and told me he would give me a chance to put them in circulation, and I could select a place abroad where I wished to go to—I saw him from time to time, and occasionally Johnson was with him—at the end of August I communicated with the Governor of the Bank of England, and was referred to the solicitor, Mr. Freshfield, and then to the officer Child, and let him know what I was doing—about the middle of September Phillips gave a piece of gelatine, on which was a drawing of the perforations, and the figures “0” and “1,” and a star—I went with him to the City Road, where he pointed out No. 138, Mr. Sergeant’s shop—I went in and saw Mr. and Mrs. Sergeant, and showed them the gelatine—Phillips did not go in, he waited in a public-house in the neighbourhood—Mr. Sergeant asked me whether the stamp ought to be all in one or three separate ones—I said that I did not know, and went out and told Phillips I was in doubt about it—he gave me some money, and referred to a letter written by “George”—I did not know Johnson as George till some time after wards—I called about the 25th, and there were then three stamps which would perforate paper—I believe these (produced) are them—I tried them on this piece of paper, which I handed to Child—I went to Liver pool Street the next day by appointment, and saw the prisoners—I gave Phillips the three perforators and the gelatine pattern—they both, examined them minutely, and Child came in—George then put the per forators in his pocket, the paper crumbled up, and I threw it away—a? few days after that Phillips spoke to me about some types, which he wanted me to order; he said he had received a letter from George, and the gelatine should have been enclosed—I met George later in “the day; he said he had not got the gelatine, and I afterwards received it from Phillips—this is it with the tracing “B,” and a lot of figures—I took it to Sergeant, and gave him the order—I had told Child what I was going to do—Sergeant executed the order, and it was delivered to me—I paid this bill for them, “11 type to order, 8s. “; it is-made out to Mr. Bolton, that is the name I assumed—I gave the type and the gelatine to Phillips, and a few days afterwards Johnson gave them back to me, and instructed me to take them back and get them filed to make them thin, as they were too thick and too far apart; I took them to Mr. Sergeant, got them altered, and fetched them the same evening and delivered them to Phillips or Johnson—Phillips gave me the order to get a little stamping machine altered; I got that done by a cousin of mine, Julius Hersh, and gave it to Phillips—some days after wards Phillips showed me a printed list like this No. 1, with the names of towns in Europe, but there is more printing here than there was on the other—he said that I was to select the place where I would go to with two letters of credit—we had a conversation about Russia and about Copenhagen—I showed it to Child—if I went by myself I was to get 50 cent, of the money I got, but if I went with anybody else I was only to receive one-third—on 14th or 15th October Phillips said that I was not to go alone; they preferred that I should go with a man named Dick who I had seen in the (prisoners’ company—about October 16th I saw Phillips outside the Rail way Station, Forest Gate—he showed me a letter of credit, and said, “You can safely put it down, it is the opinion of an expert that it was one of the best that ever was made—I took it in my hand—it was like this, with the exception of the date and name, which are written in, and the signature—it had a list of correspondents attached to it—it was not delivered to me, only shown to me—it was arranged that I was to go the following evening, the 17th, with Dick to Brussels, the place I selected—I did not have the letter of credit before I started; Dick was to get the letters from somebody, I heard Phillips speaking about it—I went to Brussels with them, and on the Sunday I saw two other men there who I had seen with the prisoners, but I did not know their names; I recognise them in these photographs, but one is not a very good likeness; the one in the felt hat I have only seen once, but the other I have seen several times in both the prisoners’ presence—those two men left Brussels—while I was there I found out from an English banking house the correspondents there of Drexel and Morgan at the Banque do Paris, and told them what I came over for—I knew from what the prisoners said that the two men had gone to Liege, and gave that information, but I did not telegraph there—I afterwards heard of the arrest of the two men at Liege, and wired to Child—the Banque de Paris gave me some money, and I returned to London and communicated with Child—I afterwards attended at the Mansion House; I was cautioned by the Alderman, and then gave evidence against the prisoners, and signed my statement—I was not cross-examined; there was an adjournment, after which I went to the Continent again—after the committal Child came over, and asked me to come across, and I returned on Monday evening—I only got from the prisoners what I had to pay for the things which I ordered and bought—Mr. Child gave me some money.
Cross-examined. The first communication I made was to the Bank of England; that was at the end of August, 1890—I did not keep a shop at Rotterdam; I was a provision merchant, having a warehouse there, in part of 1889 and part of 1890—I was in business at Manchester before that; I left there early in 1889; I was a merchant there—I began my career as a merchant when I came home from America—I was about twenty-two when I went to America—I came here from the Baltic provinces when I was about fourteen years old—I do not know that there are warrants out to take me in custody—I have never been accused of fraudulent bankruptcy or cheating my creditors that I know of; I owed some money at Rotterdam—I was working for my brother in America—I did not know the name of Drexel, Morgan, and Co. when I was in New York—no accusation has ever been made against me except by a man I had in business with me in Manchester; he said that I embezzled money—I was acquitted on that charge—I was not his servant; he was supposed to be a partner—I was not tried; I was in custody—the sum was about £12—the man absconded to America—I was working in Manchester up to the time I went to Rotterdam—I met Phillips in Rotterdam in October or November last year—I was several times in his company before he proposed to me to circulate forged bank-notes—we were only once in a place of amusement—he came about four times to Rotterdam, but I saw him several times on each occasion—to the best of my belief it was before Christmas that he spoke to me about my circulating forged notes; I did not write to the Bank of England, because I thought I would see if it was all correct—I did not suggest that I often came to London—I did not ask for his address—I had a warehouse at Rotter dam eleven months; not a shop—it was in Berehaven Street—I lost some money in business, and lost some by another man, and I came over here in the middle of February—I had not much left—I then went to Manchester; but I went to Forest Gate first—before I was examined I was taken to Messrs. Freshfields with Mr. Child, and made my statement, and Home one took it down—I do not remember it being read over to me, or my signing it—there was no statement to anyone else, except at the Mansion House—I had a little money of my own to live upon from the end of August to October—I went’ to Havre in March, and went into business—the Rotterdam business was given up—I had some money lent me—I was there till August, when I came over here—I went by no other name but Bolton till August, when I came over here—I have not gone by the name of Callaghan or Barford—I wrote to Phillips to come to Havre, and asked him how this affair was going on—I was ill at the time—I had then known for months that I was to circulate Bank of England notes—it was a job I did not like to do—when I had been examined before the Alderman I did not know I should be required again till the trial came on, and I am here—I went back to Havre, leaving my address in Manchester with Child—they did not know I was going to Havre—I was not exactly disgusted by the small amount of money I had been able to extract from them, but I was threatened by the presiding magistrate as if I was a criminal, and I thought it was no use my being bothered in the matter, I would go back and pursue my own business in the meantime—I did not resist coming here—I did not say anything about having had too little money, but I. do not think I was fairly treated, not about money, but I did not think it was fair to waste my time—I did not want to give any more evidence—I did not ask for any money—I was not promised any—I got none—I expected money for my time and the work I had done—I did not say to Mrs. Phillips, “I have been obliged to turn Queen’s evidence, because the police watched me,” nor that unless she gave me money I would come to the Mansion House again—I did not get a farthing from her or from any friend of hers, nor have I trafficked with her friends to get money from her—Mr. Idelsatch lent me £9; I owe him a lot of money, which he lent me to carry on my business, both before and after I gave my evidence—he belongs to the same place as I do—I knew him before I knew Phillips—I said nothing before the Alderman about 50 per cent., or one-third, because the question was not asked me—I saw Johnson in Phillips’ company lots of times—I have not said before to-day that Johnson put the perforators which I gave to Phillips in his pocket;. I was not asked the question—I have not said before to-day that I had to-go and consult Phillips; I was not asked—I do not think I have said before to-day that money was given me to pay a deposit—I never had one of the forged letters of credit.
Re-examined. The Magistrate at Manchester dismissed the charge of embezzlement—that is the only time I have been charged with a criminal offence—I traded at Rotterdam as Benford and Co.—this letter of August 31st (produced) is my writing; that enables me to fix the date of my communication with the Bank of England—it was a few days before-June 31st that I wrote to the solicitors—after I came back on Monday night further questions were put to me, and I answered them.

FREDERICK SERGEANT. I am a wood and brass letter manufacturer, of 138, City Road, and have been there five or six years—some time in September Tragheim brought me a piece of gelatine with a tracing on it of “1” “0 “and a star, and gave me an order to make this as perforators through paper—he said he was getting them for a friend in the country—I asked him whether it was to be one stamp or three, as it was not traced through on the gelatine, he said he would write and let ma know the following day or the day after—he left 4s. deposit, and left and returned in ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, and said that referring to his friend’s letter I was quite right, and they were wanted in three stamps—I made them, and he called again in a few days and paid the balance, sixpence, and took away the stamps, the gelatine, and a piece of paper with the perforations on it like this (produced), to show that they were perfect—this is the punch which I made the star with—Tragheim came again the next week and brought this piece of gelatine, with the letter B on it and some figures—that is called type—he gave me an order to make those letters and figures—I did so, and he called at 6 p. m. and fetched them away, and I gave him the gelatine—he paid 8s., and I called my wife to make the bill—this is it: “Bolton, October 1, 1890. 11 type-to order, M. Sergeant, 8s”—shortly afterwards he brought back ten out of the eleven, and said they did not fit close enough together, and wanted to be filed thinner—I did so, and gave them back to him—this star, this “1,” and this “0,” repeated three times on these letters of credit (produced) were made from the stamps I made, and I have no doubt that this “B 8,692,” “B 8,693,” and” B 8, 694. were made from the type I made for Tragheim—I have been in the trade all my life—these things were in the ordinary course of business, and I had no idea of there being anything wrong—they would have to be set up in a little frame to print from them.
Cross-examined. The police did not communicate with me till last Tuesday week—this was steel type, not lead; here is a specimen of it (produced)—I first saw Tragheim about 19th September—he came five-times—I never saw any letter of credit—this is a five-pointed star, and they generally have seven—I have brought the pieces I cut out with the stamp—I tested the perforators, and there was no defect in them; and as to the figures, the close resemblance in size leads me to believe they were done with my perforator.
Re-examined. They correspond in every particular, and I have no doubt they are made from my stamp—this is the punch for the star; I had to make it—it is called a counter.

MARTHA SERGEANT. I am the wife of the last witness—one day in September I saw Tragheim with an elderly gentleman, who did not come into the shop—Tragheim spoke to me, and I called my husband—I went out ten minutes afterwards, leaving Tragheim with my husband, and as I came home again I saw Tragheim with the same elderly gentleman again—when he came again in October I made out this bill—he gave the name of Bolton, which I have got here.
Cross-examined. I may have seen him three, four, or five times—I was outside the first time he came, and followed him into the shop, and went behind the counter and asked him his business, and then called my husband, and went out again—I was absent about ten minutes, and two or three minutes after I came back Tragheim came back—I had not taken off my outdoor garments—that was about September 19th—I do not think it was earlier.
He-examined. When I saw Tragheim and the elderly gentleman in the street they were reading a letter.

ROBERT CHILD (City Detective). On September 12th Tragheim gave me certain information—there was a break in our communications at first, but after 26th September I saw him almost daily—on 16th September I saw him with the two prisoners in Liverpool Street—I knew he was going to meet Phillips, and I knew Johnson by sight—on 26th September Tragheim showed me some perforators for “1” and “0,” and a, star, and a piece of gelatine—the perforators would make such marks as are on this paper—the marks on the gelatine are similar; they are the tracings—I went to the White Hart public-house, at the corner of Liverpool Street and Bishopsgate Street, about twenty minutes after they were in my hands, and saw Tragheim and the two prisoners—Johnson had the three perforators, and the little piece of brown paper in which they were wrapped, and was examining them very minutely, and Phillips and Tragheim were standing close to him—I am sure the prisoners did not see me—Tragheim brought me this piece of gelatine in October with the type, and took my instructions; the type corresponded with the figures traced on the, gelatine; he showed me some. correspondence at the same time—on October 17th Tragheim went to Brussels on his own account, not as my agent—I knew that he was going, and who he was going with—I received a telegram from him on October 21st, and the next day I took three detectives with me, and after waiting some hours arrested Johnson after he left his house, and told him the charge—he said, “I know nothing about it”—going to the station he said, “When do you say the forgeries took place?”—I said, “I should say last week”—he said, “Will you tell me the charge again?”—I repeated it, and he said again, “I know nothing about it”—I searched his house, 2, Vernon Villas, Twickenham, and produce a list of what I found there.

Cross-examined. An appointment was made by somebody else for Tragheim to meet me at Messrs. Freshfield’s office—I saw him meet the prisoners on the 16th; they merely spoke together in Liverpool Street, not in the public-house—I have taken a note of other persons whom he met—he did not meet other persons when the prisoners were not present previous to the 16th—he produced the three perforations about 10.30 a. m. in a public-house in Milk Street—I took very great pains to obscure myself when I was watching Tragheim—between October 1st and 17th I saw Tragheim daily, except on Sundays—I saw three or four other persons of the gang who he spoke to; he was then sleeping at 81, Greenfield Street—I did not watch him at all, he made appointments and we kept them—other officers were watching; I sometimes kept away three or four days, but I used to meet Tragheim every day—when he went abroad I did not telegraph to the Brussels police to keep their eyes on him.


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