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History: Hot checks bouncing

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The June 2, 1921 issue of The Bossier Banner alerted Bossier residents to a man who was cashing hot checks.

“A slick scamp passed this way some days ago and the Bank of Benton is out $50 as a result of his operation.

“This resourceful person of villainous traits gives the name of Fred Taylor, and it seems that he is rather well schooled at his game. He presented at the Bank of Benton a cashier’s check written in regular form, on the Barnesville (Ga.) Bank, with the name of the cashier of that bank forged thereto. He was dressed as a working man and said he was temporarily out of funds because [he was] out of employment, and was on his way to North Bossier to visit a relative. His story listened straight to cashier Smith of the Bank of Benton, and to further make the entire proceeding appear regular endorsed across the face of the cleverly forged check was the wording, ‘Identification waived.’”

Fred got the money, and has no doubt had a good time on it since, but his check was received at the Georgia bank like a red-headed stranger with the itch. In other words, it was returned to the local bank unrecognized and unhonored, and a letter that has followed says ‘We are unable to call to mind any one fitting your description of Fred Taylor.’ And the story does not end there, for the letter also states that Fred has passed his fraudulent checks at two Alexandria banks and five other banks—at Grady, Ark., Vivian, Haynesville, Mooringsport, and Batesville, Miss. However, he has likely come to grief by this time, as the members of all Northern banking associations have been warned of his operations and it now only remains for the country-town cashiers to take a stand for him.”

“The description of the forger, as furnished the reporter by Cashier Smith, states that he is of medium size, weighing perhaps 150 pounds, appears to be about twenty-five years old, light or blue eyes, light hair, well-formed mouth, good teeth, straight nose, florid complexion, and has a generally pleasing appearance.”

It didn’t take long to capture Fred Smith. The next issue (June 9, 1921) announced that he had been captured.

“According to Deputy Sheriff, V. V. Whittington and Mr. W. D. Smith, Cashier at the Bank of Benton, Fred Taylor, who some weeks ago fleeced the local bank out of $50, has been arrested at Strong, Ark. It is now known for sure that Taylor attempted to cash a check at the Arkansas town, but, presumably, that is how he came to grief. And it is reasonably sure the right man is held, as Mr. Smith has had a telegram from officials of the Barnesville, Ga. bank (from which institution the fraudulent checks are represented to be issued) stating that it is the man wanted who is held. Local officials will make an effort to bring him here for trial. However, he fleeced a number of other banks before coming to Benton and it is also likely that he is wanted in Strong, Ark.”

The Bossier Parish Library Historical Center offers other information about all sorts of characters—not just the shady ones. Pay us a visit.

Ann Middleton is Director of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. She can be reached at (318) 746-7717 or amiddlet@state.lib.la.us