The Grafters Club

The Membership


Joe Furey ("Big Joe")



Joe Furey

Furey led a gang of con men around 1920. They worked all over — Lou's Denver, Texas, Florida. Finally they shore the wrong sheep, one Frank Norfleet, a diminutive Texan who could hold a grudge. And why not; they managed to sheer him twice, for a total of $45,000.

But Frank didn't know when he was licked, and embarked on a cross-country manhunt for every last member of the gang. And he succeeded. Finding Furey in California, he turned him over to the police, but he bribed his way out before Norfleet had finished the paperwork. The chief of police and the whole bunko squad resigned. Norfleet caught up with Furey in Florida, and had him extradited to Texas where he was given twenty years.

In 1921, Denver DA Van Cise met Doctor W.H. Scherrer, a Texan, from whom the Denver gang had taken $25,000 in a fake horse race. One of those involved was named Goodrich, famously the only man of the Blonger operation ever to serve hard time, so the cops had a mugshot.

Scherrer had heard about Furey, and gone to see him in the pen. According to Van Cise, Furey said to Doc Scherrer:

"I used to work in Denver. You go there and see the 'Boss'. He gets fifty-five percent of the swag, and if you put the pressure on right, I think you'll get your money." That is to say — under the right conditions, a con man or his 'Boss' might give back some of your money, if a refund is the expedient thing to do.

"But who is the 'Boss'?"

"I won't tell you that, but if you scout around Denver a little while you will learn his name. Ask anybody in Denver that knows anything at all. Why, just step up to the clerk at the Albany and ask him who the 'Boss' is and he'll tell you. I know your man Goddrich, also, but you get him through the 'Boss'."

Scherrer then went to Denver, hired then-Denver DA Charley Fox as his lawyer, and set about negotiations with Lou for a settlement. But Fox was no help, and probably was paid to be that way.

Sherrer then hired Pinkerton G.A. Fuller, who got better results. First Lou offered two thousand for the agent to blow-off Scherrer. Then ten thousand to settle, but only if Goddrich paid the same. Goodrich had gone to the pen in 1912 when he refused a similar arrangement, and he did so again, leaving Colorado for good. Scherrer eventually gave up.

Blonger gang member Walter Byland hinted at the darker side of these charming swindlers when he said, of Norfleet, when Byland's crew started working on Norfleet in Florida: "We thought Frank was a real boob, but Joe Furey, the man Norfleet was after, was sitting on the piazza of one of the hotels as we went by, and recognized him. He sent us a note, stating that the chump was Norfleet, and to grab him, tie him up with baling wire, rap him over the head, and throw him in the lake during the night. We intended to do it, but Norfleet beat us to it and got away."