The Grafters Club

The Membership


Philip S. Van Cise

BANNED, 1921

AKA: Nemesis of the Bunko Men

Philip S. Van Cise

Col. Philip S. Van Cise, an idealistic young veteran of the Great War, became Denver's district attorney when his adversaries split the Republican primary vote and gave the reform vote an edge. Lou Blonger attempted to garner influence, as usual, by contributing to the Colonel's campaign, but was rebuffed by the upright Van Cise.

After his election, Van Cise conducted an extensive secret investigation of Lou's bunco empire without the knowledge of Denver's corrupt police, using undercover agents, hidden microphones, and a camouflaged observation post to track Lou's activity. The operation was funded by the contributions of sympathetic citizens.

The Colonel sprung his trap on August 24, 1922. A squadron of Colorado Rangers and civilians fanned out across the city in an attempt to arrest as many of the known gang as possible before the word leaked out through talk on the street, a suspect's wife, or even the Denver police. They got thirty-two in all.

To maintain secrecy, the suspects were taken to a vacant church near the business district where they could be held incommunicado.

At trial, the bunco gang's defense team — all the defendants were tried at once — felt confident enough of the outcome they presented no defense, claiming the prosecution had not made their case. Compromised jurors stretched the deliberations out to 100 hours, to no avail. Lou got seven years, but died after only six months in the pen.

After his conviction, Lou pleaded with Van Cise for some hope of parole after a short time in jail. His reply, in part:

"You have been a criminal from the time of your youth. You have been the fixer of the town. You have prostituted justice. You have bribed judges and jurors, State, City and police officials. You have ruined hundreds of men. With that record, tell me why a death sentence is not your due?"
"As to your plea for parole, I say no, emphatically and for all time no. Before the king of the underworld is pardoned, the penitentiary doors should be torn from their hinges and all other occupants be first turned out. They would be less dangerous than you. You have met your day of judgment and the death sentence is your due. I will fight to the last any attempt to give you leniency of any kind or description."

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