No. 521
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
May 10, 2021
Rogue's Corner: GEORGE BELL (193)
GEORGE BELL
alias: WILLIAMS
Description:
Forty years old in 1886. Born in United States. Single. No trade. A wellbuilt man. Height, 5 feet 11 inches. Weight, 180 pounds. Brown hair, hazel eyes, light complexion. Vaccination mark on right arm. Small scar on right arm, above the wrist. Scar on right temple, over the eye. He is generally clean-shaven, and affects a staid and religious air during his operations.

Record:
GEORGE BELL is as good a general thief as there is in this country. He is well known in most of the principal cities in the United States and Europe, having operated with Charles O. Brockway, alias Vanderpool (14), the celebrated forger, on both sides of the water, and was considered one of Brockway's cleverest men. Bell has traveled considerably, but claims New York City as his home. He has been a professional thief, forger and manipulator of forged paper for years.

He was arrested in Philadelphia, Pa., on March 25, 1876, and sentenced to one year in Cherry Hill prison. Shortly after his discharge he was arrested again, in Philadelphia, for a "pennyweight" robbery, and sentenced to eighteen months in the Philadelphia County prison. Early in 1880 Bell went to Europe with Al Wilson, Cleary and others, for the purpose of flooding the Continent with forged circular notes. The scheme, which was managed by George Wilkes, Engle and Becker, proved a failure, and they returned to America.

Bell, Charles Farren, alias the "Big Duke," and Henry Cleary, were arrested in New York City on July 27, 1880, charged with having defrauded the Merchants' National Bank and the Third National Bank of Baltimore, Md., to the amount of $12,000, by forged checks, on July 16 and 17, 1880. Farren was discharged for want of evidence. Cleary was claimed by the Albany (N. Y.) police authorities, and delivered to them, to answer a charge of forgery (a check for $490), for which he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to two years and six months in Dannemora prison, New York State, in November, 1880.

Bell was delayed in New York City, by habeas corpus proceedings, until August 1880, when he was delivered to Deputy Marshal Frey, of Baltimore, Md., and, taken to that city by him. He was tried in Baltimore on November 30, 1880. The trial lasted until December 1, when the jury disagreed. He was tried again on December 16 and 17, 1880, with the same result. The venue was changed, and he was again tried, in an adjoining county. This trial resulted in a conviction, and he was sentenced to ten years in State prison on July 9, 1881.

Bell's sentence will expire on October 9, 1889. (See records of No. 37 and George Wilkes.)When Henry Cleary's sentence expired in the Albany (N. Y.) case he was arrested at Clinton prison, Dannemora, N. Y., and taken to Baltimore, Md., where he pleaded guilty to forgery, and was sentenced to the Maryland penitentiary for five years on January 17, 1883, by Judge Phelps, of Baltimore, Md.

His picture is a good one, taken in 1876.
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Source:
Byrnes, Thomas. Professional criminals of America. New York, N.Y: Cassel, 1886.