News broke in the afternoon edition of the Border Cities Star, late on Friday, May 23, 1930 that a wealthy local man about town, well known for his entertaining, and parties, Eddie Marsden had been arrested, and that he actually wasn’t Eddie Marsden at all.
The man who had become fairly well known around town had been arrested earlier that morning at his large home on Riverside Drive he had been renting. He was arrested once his real identity had become known as wanted fugitive Edward J. Sweeney of Chicago.
His downfall was being caught writing a bad cheque for $700 (equivalent to about $10,000 today) to Pat Cull of the Norton Palmer Hotel.
He was wanted in New York, Chicago & Detroit on various charges, ranging from narcotics law violations to disposing of stolen bonds. Sweeny was arrested in Detroit on a fugitive warrant based on an alleged $7,000 ($106,000 in 2019) larceny in New York City. In October 1929 when he was arrested in Detroit, he posted a $2000 bond, and promptly jumped bail to Windsor.
Edward Sweeney was referred to as a “Super Racketeer” in newspapers at the time.
The news of his arrest hit the newswire and I was able to locate stories about his arrest in newspapers in Windsor, Detroit, Chicago, Montreal, Winnipeg and Cincinnati amongst others.
Eddie Marsden was identified as Edward J Sweeny by the work of Sandwich Police Chief James Proctor, who via his connections in Chicago and a fingerprints here in Windsor confirmed his true identity. After his arrest Sweeny answered questions freely and did not deny he was Sweeney.
Despite multiple arrests over the years, he only seems to have served one sentence, which was for trafficking in stolen automobiles, which earned him a sentence in the Atlanta Penitentiary, where he met George Remus of Cincinnati, who was a major bootlegger in the early to mid 1920’s.
Remus sensationally murdered his wife on the street in Cincinnati in October, 1927. He used a defense of temporary insanity, all while acting as his own attorney. He was found not guilty and remanded to the Lima State Hospital for the Insane on January 8, 1928, before being released on June 20, 1928. The Supreme Court ruled that Remus could not be retired for the murder.
The Chicago Police claimed Sweeney was the head of an international syndicate for the sale of stolen bonds. At the time of his arrest by Chicago PD in 1928, he was living in a large $100,000 (about $1.5 million today) home in Michigan City, Indiana, with two expensive automobiles and a stable of horses.
Here in Windsor, he was said to have “lavishly entertained with a well-stocked cellar & table”. Some who knew him, thought he had some kind of racket planned or was on the run from authorities in the USA. Following his arrest, a search of his possessions, revealed plans for a $1,000,000 hotel he planned to build in Walkerville. A sketch of the hotel was drawn up by notable architect Albert McPhail.
He had lived in the Royal Windsor Apartments on Park Street, having moved only two weeks before his arrest, and was located by detectives at his large Riverside Drive home “The Davis Dwelling” that has had leased for the summer.
Sweeney hired David Croll as his defense attorney to fight the theft charge for the bad cheque, and also vowed to fight any extradition to the USA as he claimed to be a Canadian citizen born in St Catharines, and thus couldn’t be deported. David Croll ended up eventually becoming Mayor of Windsor and a Senator. He was both the first Jewish mayor & Senator in Canada.
It was noted in the newspaper that someone who was used to dealing in large volumes of cash, to steal $700 showed the current financial conditions prevented the sale of bonds, either good or stolen. The $700 was likely to hold him over through a difficult period.
His greatest con job, was pulled on Wall Street in 1922. He went out to New York, representing himself as a salesman of the Cadillac Motor Company, meeting with many brokers. He told them that Cadillac had overproduced cars that year, and he could secure 4,000 cars at very low prices. As show of good faith he supplied an initial car. However this car was a stolen vehicle from Detroit. He went back to Detroit and stole a second car, but was spotted in the act by the Detroit Police Commissioner, Thomas Wilcox. Wilcox was familiar with Sweeney, and knew he wasn’t a simple car thief, and that it had to be part of something bigger. He followed Sweeney, who drove to New York and showed the second car to the brokers. Wilcox did some investigating and discovered the plan and followed Sweeney back to Detroit, where he was registered at the Tuller Hotel on Grand Circus Park. Wilcox laid low, and in a few days a New York broker turned up to see Sweeney, with a satchel containing $125,000 (About $1.8 million). Wilcox approached the broker and filled him in on the scam, however Sweeney was so good at what he did, that the broker did not believe the detective.
Sweeny came down to meet the broker and was arrested. He was convicted of transporting stolen cars across state lines, and was sentenced to 2.5 years in the Atlanta Penitentiary.
He was originally freed. Local newspaper reports that he had left Canada by early 1931. In October, 1931 the Chicago Tribune reported his arrest in Chicago, charged again with possessing stolen bonds. Another report in the Detroit Free Press in October, 1932 notes his arrest in Detroit, and extradition back to Illinois.
I couldn’t find anything on him after 1932. I wonder what ever happened to Edward Sweeney.