In honor of the recent publication Paul French's latest book City of Devils, I'm posting a few articles about Jack Riley and Joe Farren, the two main characters in the book, over the next few months as I continue to post original news articles on the nightlife of old Shanghai. This one details his capture after he jumped bail in 1941 and went on the lam, hiding out in the northern part of the city. As the article mentions, he cultivated a mustache in order to hide his identity. The Riley case is a fascinating study of how the legal system operated in Shanghai in the treaty port era.
E.T. Riley Captured
Notorious Fugitive from U.S. Court Arrested On Friday Morning in Hongkew; Not Armed
Shanghai. Mar. 29.
(North China Herald April 2 1941)
ET. “Jack” Riley, notorious fugitive from the U.S. Court for China, was recaptured yesterday after being hunted for over three months by the U.S. authorities and the Shanghai Municipal Police. Riley, who forfeited the unprecedented bail of US$25,000 early last December when he fled from trial for operating gambling machines in Shanghai, was arrested on Chapoo Road by Mr. Sam Titlebaum, Deputy U.S. Marshal, and a party of police including Inspectors J. Crighton and Pryde, and Sub. Inspectors Fowler and Kobayashi, besides a member of the Japanese gendarmerie. Contradicting reports that Riley was heavily armed was the fact that when captured he was without weapons, although the party fully expected a gun-battle.
During his months of freedom Riley had grown a moustache, which changed his appearance considerably. He was taken to the U.S. Court after being arrested, and questioned, finally being removed to Ward Road Gaol, where he will await trial. When he was brought out of the court, and taken to Central Police Station to a prison van he covered his face with his hat, to prevent cameramen from taking pictures of him.
Acting on information obtained a few days ago, detectives from the Crime Branch of the Shanghai Municipal Police, headed by Inspector J. G. Crighton, and accompanied by representatives of the United States and Japanese Consulate authorities and a member of the Japanese gendarmerie, carried out a swift raid yesterday morning on houses 24 and 25 of the Young Allen Court in Chapoo Road, where, after a brief search, they arrested the wanted man.
All the entrances to the two houses, both in Quinsan Road and in Young Allen Court, were left guarded by the police, who first went to house 25. The premises were thoroughly searched, but no signs of Riley had been found there. The officials then proceed, through a passage connecting the two houses, to No. 24.
Starting with the ground floor, the party came to the first where in one of the rooms all their doubts about Riley not living there vanished when they saw baseball equipment and a wallet with “J. R.” imprinted on it, in one of the rooms. The occupant, however, was not in although the bed had not been made up.
The officers of the law then proceeded to search all the rooms of the house and came to the attic, on the third floor. Entering one of the rooms, occupied by a Japanese lady, the party saw their man hiding under the bed.
With their pistols ready, the officers ordered Riley to come out. The order was obeyed promptly, with the wanted man creeping out with his hands up and saying: “O.K., boys, all’s up.”
Trying to Escape
According to detectives, Riley was trying to make a break by escaping by the roof of the house, but was caught up with before he had a chance to do so. At the time of his arrest, he had his shoes on, but his socks were missing. That he was desperately hoping to evade arrest was also noticed in the manner in which he had dressed. His trousers were pulled over his pyjamas and a leather jacket served to hide the fact that he had no shirt on.
A sum of approximately $10,000 was in his pockets when he was arrested, this including U.S. and local dollars, in addition to a few yen.
Mrs. Socichner, who kept the boarding house in which Riley had found an ideal hide-out, was ignorant of the fact that she had been harbouring a criminal, it was learned, since the wanted man had registered there under the name of Lawrence Frank.
It could not be ascertained just how long Riley had lived in the house, since it was known that he had had several hide-outs in the French Concession, Hongkew and the western district of the International Settlement.
Since his escape from the custody of the United States Court on December 4, Riley managed to evade arrest although on several occasions he came within shadow of being caught. On one occasion, the police arrived just a few minutes after Riley had left a night resort in Hongkew. He was taken to the Ward Road gaol pending his re-appearance at the U.S. Court.
It will be recalled that Riley forfeited his U.S.$25,000 bail, posted on 17 charges of operating gambling machines in Shanghai, after evidence had been brought by the acting District Attorney, Mr. Charles Richardson, showing that he was alleged to have escaped from Oklahoma State Penitentiary where he was serving a 25 year sentence for armed robbery. This sensational evidence was offered when the District Attorney read a message from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to this effect after he had asked them for facts regarding Riley’s previous life in America. It was also revealed in court that Riley had used many aliases, chief among them being that of Becker.
Riley was formerly a well-known figure in Shanghai, his activities in operating slot-machines and other gambling devices being conducted quite openly. When charged in the U.S. Court he at first denied operating gambling machines, but later reversed his plea, providing the American authorities were able to prove that he is an American subject. It was while obtaining evidence in establishing this, that the District Attorney was notified of Riley’s previous record.
The trial of "Jack” E. T. Riley, alleged gambling king whose elusiveness became a thing of the past on Friday morning when officials of the U.S. Court for China and the Municipal Police raided his hide-out in Hongkew and took him into custody, will be continued where it left off when he jumped his U.S. $25,000 bail, it was learned from the court yesterday.
Handcuffed and looking more like his old self without the heavy moustache which he had grown during his 3 1/2 months of liberty, Riley was taken from the Ward Road Gaol yesterday morning to the office of Mr. Leighton Shields, U.S. District Attorney, for questioning. Clad in a brown lumber jacket with dark brown trousers, he showed signs of having spent a restless night.
He was represented by Mr. H. D. Rodger who appeared on behalf of Mr. Myron Wiener, who represented him when he first appeared in Court and who was prevented from being present yesterday owing to illness. After a brief interview with the District Attorney, Riley was taken back to gaol.
The Indisposition of Judge Milton J. Helmick, it is believed, may delay the resumption of Riley’s trial. The proceedings are not expected to last over one hearing owing to Riley’s admission of the seventeen counts brought against him of violating the Code of the District of Columbia relating to commercialized gambling.
Question of Nationality
In a motion filed with the Court through Mr. Wiener, defendant, will be recalled, admitted the charges and agreed to place himself at the Court’s disposal for sentence, should the judicial authorities succeed in proving his American nationality, which he strenuously denied.
When he last appeared before the Court Mr. Chas. Richardson, Jun., deputizing for the District Attorney in the latter’s absence on leave, made sensational disclosures regarding one Johnnie Becker, an escaped fugitive from Oklahoma, who counsel linked with Riley through telegraphic communication with the American authorities concerned.
During the tiffin recess Riley jumped his U.S. $25,000 bail amounting to almost $500,000 in local currency, a record bail in local court annals. The bail was ordered forfeited.