No. 333
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
August 17, 2017

Rogue's Corner: BERTHA HEYMAN (122)
BERTHA HEYMAN
alias: BIG BERTHA
CONFIDENCE QUEEN
Description:
Thirty-five years old in 1886. Born in Germany. Married. Very stout woman.Height, 5 feet 4 1/4 inches. Weight, 245 pounds. Hair brown, eyes brown, fair complexion. German face. An excellent talker. Has four moles on her right cheek.

Record:
BERTHA HEYMAN'S maiden name was Bertha Schlesinger. She is a native of Koblyn, near Posen, Prussia. Her father served five years in prison there for forging a check. She was married twice, first to one Fritz Karko, when she first came to this country in 1878. After living in New York a short time they went to Milwaukee, where she was afterwards married to a Mr. Heyman, although her first husband was still living. She has been concerned in a number of swindling transactions, and has the reputation of being one of the smartest confidence women in America.

In September, 1880, she was sued in the Superior Court of New York City for obtaining by false pretenses $1,035 from E. T. Perrin, a conductor on a palace car, whom she met in traveling from Chicago.

She was arrested in London, Ontario, on February 8, 1881, in company of one Dr. J. E. Cooms, charged with defrauding a Montreal commercial man out of several hundred dollars by the confidence game.

She was tried in Richmond County, Staten Island, N. Y., in June, 1881, for obtaining $250 in money and two gold watches from a Mrs. Pauline Schlarbaum, an old lady of Southfield, S. I. She was acquitted in this case.

She was arrested on leaving the court and brought to New York City on June 29, 1881, charged with obtaining, under false pretences, $960 from Mr. Charles Brandt, a liquor merchant, at No. 19 Bowery, New York City; also $500 from Mr. Theodore W. Morris, a glass importer, of No. 27 Chambers Street, New York. She was tried and found guilty on the Morris indictment on October 26, and on Friday, October 29, 1881, she was sentenced to two years in the penitentiary by Judge Cowing.

While in prison on Blackwell's Island she made the acquaintance of a trustful German named Charles Karpe. She was employed as a servant in the Warden's house. Karpe visited her during her confinement there, and she finally, while a prisoner, victimized the poor man out of $900, all the money he had in the world.

After her discharge from the Island. she went to live at the Hoffman House in New York. On June 28, 1883, she visited Edward Saunders, of the firm of Saunders & Hoffman, brokers, at Broadway and Fulton Street, New York, and induced him to advance $40 on the representation that a check for $7,000 belonging to her was in the Hoffman House safe. She obtained $215 more and a valuable diamond from him, and $200 from his partner, by placing in their hands a sealed package of worthless papers which she pretended were securities worth $87,000. In the course of these negotiations she professed to be worth $8,000,000. Even this stupendous statement was received with respectful attention until the worthlessness of the so-called securities in their safe was discovered. In this case she was tried and convicted in the Court of General Sessions, on August 22, 1883. An application for a new trial was denied, and she was finally sentenced to five years in the penitentiary on August 30, 1883. Her sentence will expire, allowing full commutation, on March 30, 1887.

This remarkable woman used to lodge at the leading hotels, and was always attended by a maid or man servant. At the Windsor and Brunswick Hotels in New York City she had elegant quarters. When plotting her schemes she would glibly talk about her dear friends, always men well known for their wealth and social position. She possesses a wonderful knowledge of human nature, and can deceive those who consider themselves particularly shrewd in business matters.

Bertha's picture is a good one, taken in June, 1881.
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Source:
Byrnes, Thomas. Professional criminals of America. New York, N.Y: Cassel, 1886.

"We follow vice and folly where a police officer dare not show his head, as the small, but intrepid weasel pursues vermin in paths which the licensed cat or dog cannot enter."

 The Sunday Flash 1841

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