Area Coast Guardsmen Nabbed In Bootlegger Bribery Case

This story happened 80 years ago this week and took place against the backdrop of rampant rum running on Lake Erie. The Toledo area and the Western end of Lake Erie was the primary corridor for gangsters who were trying to smuggle booze into the United States after prohibition closed off all the legal trade in wine, beer and whiskey sales in the U.S.

(Toledo, OH) — January 18, 1930. Four Coast Guardsmen from the Port Clinton Coast Guard station are charged with allegedly accepting a bribe of $2,500 from a rum runner who was smuggling illegal booze from Canada into the Toledo Harbor. Three of the men were being held in the Erie County jail in Buffalo New York and the fourth suspect was being sought.
The story was reported in numerous newspapers around the nation and it was also reported that three other Coast Guardsmen were implicated in the case, but were only being charged with desertion.

According to an AP article, a rum runner named “Courtney” had given the men $2500 in cash to release his speedboat after they encountered him in Toledo. But then later, he was picked up again and that’s when he told authorities about his earlier bribe payment to the other Coast Guardsmen.

Author’s note. My Uncle, Louis Hebert, who was the commander of the Marblehead Coast Guard station during the era, often stated there was a “treasure” of of illegal whiskey and wine at the bottom of western Lake Erie. Many of the rum runners, while being pursued by Coast Guard boats frequently dumped their payloads overboard and sent large amounts of high priced scotch, whiskey and other spirits to the bottom of the lake. Uncle Louis was even quoted in a wire service article several years later in which he predicted that the lake would become the popular hunting grounds of future treasure seekers. I’m not sure if that ever came to pass but there were stories appearing from time to time about people being caught by authorities trying to recover the submerged contraband.

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3 Comments

Filed under Toledo area crime news

3 responses to “Area Coast Guardsmen Nabbed In Bootlegger Bribery Case

  1. james courtney was the infamous rum runner in this article. courtney was one of the big shots during prohibition.

    • Michelle

      do you have any additional information on James Courtney?

      • Michelle,

        All I know is that James Courtney(alias James Stout), was one of the major players involved in smuggling liquor and beer from across Lake Erie. He was eventually indicted along with 10 others in 1930 in Cleveland for being a key player in a rum running ring that operated from Canada to Florida and was was based in Cleveland. Courtney was by 1931 caught in the Philly area and extradited back to Ohio to stand charges. He was convicted, sentenced to two years in federal prison in Atlanta. After that, I have no info, but will keep looking.

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