Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Bank Robbed, Banker Kidnapped by Movie Cowboy's Bootlegging-Human Trafficking Gang.

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Bank is Robbed, Head Kidnapped.

Leisurely Bandits get $6,000 in Ventura County Raid.

Four tender-hearted bandits who pocketed their revolvers because the guns made a little girl cry yesterday robbed the Piru branch of the Fillmore State Bank of $6,000 and then forced C.S. Spencer, manager of the bank, and his 4-year-old daughter, Mary Ella, to accompany them to Los Angeles.

Arriving here after a leisurely drive, the bandits requested Mr. Spencer to name his destination and let him out at the home of his sister-in-law, Mrs. Guy Davidson, 240 South Bonnie Brae street.

Mr. Spenser immediately telephoned the Sheriff's office, and Deputies Allen and Sweesy were assigned to investigate.

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Preparing to Close

At 2:15 p.m. yesterday, according to the manager's story, he was preparing to close the bank, having allowed the rest of his staff to go home. His little daughter had stopped on her way from school and was waiting in the bank for him to take her home. Three men entered, one carrying a suit case and another a handbag.

Stepping up to the window, one of them asked, "Did Jenkins leave any money here for us?"

Mr. Spencer knew no one by that name and told them so. Then he was confronted by three large-caliber revolvers and ordered to put his hands up, which he promptly did. One of the men kept him covered, and the others methodically locked the doors of the bank and drew the shades.

Ransacked Bank

The pair ransacked the open vaults, taking plenty of time to the job. Mr. 8pencer states that they took $5,000 in currency, all small bills, $900 in sliver from the trays and $100 in postage stamps. Bonds, money orders and travelers' checks were left untouched.

While the systematic looting was going on, two customers tried to get into the bank, Spencer learned later. The fourth bandit, driver of the automobile, told them they couldn't get in. When they expressed surprise, saying that it was not yet time for the bunk to be closed, he told them that Spencer had gone home.

When the three bandits inside the bank had finished looting it, they informed Spencer that he and his daughter must come with them. Two of them escorted the manager and little girl into the car, while the third carefully locked the bank.

Drove to Los Angeles

They then drove slowly to Los Angeles, traveling, Spencer declared, not more than twenty-five miles an hour. Little Mary Ella, who was frightened, began to cry. The bandits questioned her, and she told them the revolvers frightened her. The men then put their guns away, and when she complained of feeling cold, wrapped her in an overcoat, giving another to Spencer.

During the forty-nine-mile drive, Spencer declared they discussed the robbery, laughing over how easy it had been, and expressing relief that they had not been forced to hurt anyone in getting the money. The man who drove the car then told him about the two customers having tried to get in.

They politely asked him where he wished to get off, and drove to South Bonnie Brae street, stopping their car two doors from Mrs. Davidson's home. Holding Spencer in the car a moment, two of the men got out and changed the license plates of the car. Then they released him and sped away.

In Ventura County

The village of Piru, where the robbery occurred, is midway between Saugus and Fillmore and is in Ventura county. News of the robbery was not known there until several hours after it happened. The robbers' plans were apparently so well executed that no disturbance was caused and no alarm given.

L.F. Sullivan, father-in-law of Mr. Spencer, said last night that he knew nothing of it until about 5:30 p.m. Others in Piru and Fillmore were amazed at the news when notified.

Spencer said last night that the bank's loss was fully covered by insurance. In describing the four bandits, he stated they were from 34 to 40 years old; two wore brown corduroy trousers and two wore khaki trousers; three had soft felt hats and the fourth, the driver of the car, wore a Scotch plaid cap; two were about five feet ten inches tall, the other two about live feet six inches tall.

News story courtesy of Tricia Lemon Putnam.

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Six Taken in Bandit Raid.

Piru Robbery Confessed by Captives; Suspects Said to be Burglars, Bootleggers and Smugglers.

A huge round-up yesterday in which raids were made by Federal and county officers and private detectives resulted in the capture of six asserted members of a gang believed responsible for bank robberies, burglaries, street-car hold-ups, bootlegging and smuggling and in the recovery of what is declared to be part of the loot obtained from the Fillmore State Bank at Piru.

An ex-cowboy of the filmland is the leader of the gang, the officers say.

All day and night the officers worked on the case, raiding six places and arresting six people for asserted complicity in the hank robbery. Approximately $6,000 and 200 blank postal orders, which have been identified as loot from Piru, were recovered with evidence of several street-car hold-ups. Three men have confessed, according to the officers.

Detectives assert the band's activities include burglary, hold-ups, bootlegging, and the smuggling of Chinese, liquor and narcotics from Mexico. The arrest of an aviator said to be connected with the crowd may clear up the escape from the County Jail of Clara Phillips, it having been reported that he transported her in an airplane to Mexico.

Those under arrest and held for investigation include Jenks Harris, aged 28, believed to be the leader; Mrs. Lucy Loggins, aged 28, mother of two small children; Henry C. Loggins, aged 85, the woman's husband; Virgil B. Moore, aged 26, president of the Pacific Autoplane Company; Harold Gillete, aged 22, a film actor, and George F. Pruitt, aged 33.

Smuggles Chinese?

Virgil Bert Moore, president or the Pacific Autoplane Company, and an inventor of note, was arrested late yesterday at the old Goodyear aviation field at South Park avenue and Eighty-second street by Deputy Sheriff Dewar and Detective Fitzgerald. Signed confessions by two other prisoners name Moore as a member of the organization. They declared he had received $500 for his share of the bank's loss.

Federal agents are understood to possess information that Moore has been bringing in numbers of Chinese from Mexicali, and with the assistance of the others has hidden them in Hollywood until, assured the road was clear, they rushed by automobile to San Francisco.

Moore is supposed to be om communication with "Bandit Betty," the girl hold-up who terrorized motorists and street-car men.

The information which led to the arrests of the asserted gang members was received by Harold H. Dolley, Federal prohibition agent, while investigating asserted bootlegging activities of Pritt and his comrades. The trail took Dolley's agents to Loggins' home at 226 Larrabee street. Sherman. At the same time Deputy Sheriffs Sweesy and Allen positively identified Harris as the leader of the robbers' band. Dolley turned over to the county officers the information his agents had obtained, and accompanied the raiders.

In addition, Deputy Sheriffs Dewar and Stensland were called in on the case, and Detectives George and John Pross, Arthur W. Fitzgerald and Wigginton of the Burns agency.

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House Entered

Pruitt was sighted at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Vermont avenue by the officers, and trailed to the Loggins home. Entrance was forced by Dolley and Fitzgerald while the house was surrounded. A possible fight was averted when Pruitt recognized Mr. Dolley, and misinterpreted his mission.

Both Loggins and Pruitt denied implication in the hold-up. A search of the house revealed a trunk, a veritable treasure chest. In the trunk was found loot from the Piru bank. Stacks of travelers' checks were heaped a foot deep, the corners of the trunk were weighted down by gold and silver, done up in bags. A large amount of stamps, and blank postal orders, worth hundreds of thousands if cleverly forged, and floated, ware hidden there. The checks were valued at $3,900. The coin was estimated at several hundred dollars. Two old-fashioned revolvers that Jenks used in camera work, but which the officers say he employs on occasion in "real life" drama, also were found.

Taken to the office of the Burns agency, and subjected to a grilling, Loggins and Pruitt admitted they had entered the Piru branch of the Fillmore State Bank the 11th inst., taking $5,900 in coin and currency with the stamps and checks, kidnapping President C.F. Spencer and his 6-year-old daughter Mary Ella, and driving them to Los Angeles.

The confession stated the four men, Harris, Loggins, Pruitt and Gillette, divided the money at the Goodyear aviation field, giving Moore about $500 and receiving $1,325 each in cash as their share. The men also stated they expected to meet there late Tuesday to go to Mexicali for Chinese. Pruitt turned over $345, all that was left of his share.

Leader Confesses

While the prisoners were taken to jail in a suburban town to guard against leaks, an automobile load of officers located Harris in the Sequoia Hotel, 619 South Olive street. He at first offered resistance, but when Dewar went through the door like a truck load of sand, he interposed no objection and discussed his situation freely. A care-free Oklahoma plainsman, he admitted he conceived the idea of the robbery while on "location" at Piru. He spent twenty-five days there with Herbert Rawlinson, filming "Confidence." In the picture he played the part of a hardy mountain marshal, protecting pay rolls with a ready pistol.

"Dad always told me if I did something to do a big job," he told his captors, "and I thought I saw my chance at Piru. Now don't bother me, 'cause I'm hiring out to the government."

He said he had sent $700 to his father in Blanchard, Okla., to lift a mortgage from his home.

From his cell in the Santa Monica Jail last night, Harris issued a statement in which he declared that he had never broken the law prior to the bank robbery, and that he robbed the bank to lift the mortgage on his parents' home in Oklahoma. His statement named Gillette, Loggins and Pritt as his confederates.

Gillette drove the car, Harris declared. He said he first became acquainted with Gillette at the Universal studio, where the latter used his car to take the film folk "on location."

Loggins was a boyhood chum, Harris stated, and asserted their original idea was to smuggle Chinese across the Mexican border at $500 a head. The erstwhile film actor expressed his willingness to accept punishment for his crime, and announced his intention of "going straight" after he served his prison sentence.

Harold Gillette was arrested at his apartment at 111 South Beaudry. He declined to talk. Officers took $80 from him. He accompanied officers to a near-by garage, where his expensive car, said to have been used at Piru, was taken into custody.

Woman is Sought

Belief was expressed that a woman, who recently left for the East, can be identified as "Bandit Betty," a familiar figure in midnight holdups. A warrant for her arrest was asked yesterday. She is asserted to have been a member of the gang. Mrs. Loggins and her two children were taken to a downtown hotel by Mrs. Belle Dewolfe, a deputy sheriff, to be kept in custody until her connection with the band is thoroughly Investigated.

Federal prohibition agents set out late yesterday to raid a still hidden high in the mountains, where an ex-convict turned out moonshine peddled by the bootlegging section of the organization. The place is advantageously located upon a peak, where the operator of the still can see for miles, and flee when he observes an attacking party.

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Gangsters Shake Off Pursuers.

Pair Elude Officers Once in Traffic and Again Near Newhall.

Two men, believed to members of the Jenks Harris gang that robbed the Fillmore State Bank at Piru, escaped pursuing officers through traffic here yesterday afternoon, went to Newhall, where they were spotted by Constable Bilcher [Jack Pilcher], and succeeded in getting away into the mountains before a squad from the Sheriff's office arrived.

The men were seen here in a taxicab driven by Frank Brunco[?], who later told the officers that he was forced, at the point of a gun, to take them to a mountain cabin in the hills back of Newhall. After they eluded pursuit here, telegrams were sent to towns as far north as Bakersfield, and a reply was received from Newhall saying that the men were there.

Deputy Sheriffs Stensland, Dewar and Jones, with Agent Fitzgerald of the Burns Agency, left immediately for Newhall on receipt of the information, but by the time they arrived the two men had succeeded in getting away. Since darkness had fallen, it was impossible to find the trail they took and the chase was abandoned until today.

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Plead Guilty to Piru Bank Robbery Today.

Jenks Harris, Leader, and Members of His Gang, Face Judge Rogers.

Sentenced on Friday.

Ventura, Dec. 26. — Actins as their own counsel, four members of the Jenks Harris bandit gang who were charged with robbing the Piru State Bank [sic] of more than $10,000 [sic] pleaded guilty to the crime today when they appeared before Superior Judge Rogers. The time for sentencing them was fixed for Friday morning at 10 o'clock.

Their plea of guilty was a reiteration of that made Saturday before Justice Shepard. Acting as spokesman Jenks Harris, movie cowboy, and the alleged leader of the bandit gang, announced that he and his companions would apply for probation when they appear for sentence.

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Piru Bank Robbers Start for Prison.

Ventura, Dec. 30. — Members of the Jenks Harris bandit gang, who held up and robbed the Bank of Piru [sic] of $6,000 in cash and $1,000 in money orders a month ago [sic], were today on their way to San Quentin prison to begin sentences of from one year to life each.

While sentence was being imposed by Superior Judge Rogers, Deputy Sheriffs Allen and Sweesy of Los Angeles were returning to the Bank of Piru $2,000 in cash and $1,000 in money orders, part of the loot, which was found in the room of Harris when he was arrested.

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Piru Bandit Was Well Known in North.

When once a man gets off the straight and narrow path, it does not take long for him to meet his downfall. Such is the conclusion of those who knew George Pruitt, confessed Piru bank robber and member of a criminal band who are now in San Quentin serving from one year to life.

Not many months ago, he was employed by the San Joaquin Light & Power company at their plant near Santa Maria and was earning a good salary. He was a capable engineer, respected and liked by all who knew him. In fact he was engaged to be married to one of the popular young ladies of Betteravia, who is now private secretary to Frank Johnson, manager of the Union Sugar Co. at Betteravia.

The engagement was broken after a few months and Pruitt left Betteravia, with the understanding that he was to get a better position in Arizona. He went as far as San Diego where he learned that plans for the new work had fallen through. Here he met Jenks Harris and his gang and from that time on, his life was a series of robberies, smuggling and holdups, which finally came to an end last week when he was sentenced to San Quentin by Judge Rogers in the Superior court at Ventura.



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