The commercial world affords great opportunities for knaves to practise their impositions in, but we are not aware that it has ever been subjected to a more extensive system of fraud than that effected by the trio whose names head the present article.
These dishonest sons of Israel were reputed merchants in London, and contrived for several years to keep up a tolerable character. They were in extensive trade, and kept separate concerns, turning each in business something like three hundred thousand pounds a year.
With the profits resulting from this trade they were, however, dissatisfied, and resolved to grow rich by speedier means. They originated three mercantile houses, and placed as proprietors in them three men, who were, in fact, merely paupers. The first was John Meyer, a Jew, who kept a house on Tower Hill, for the reception of sailors. This man they supplied with money, gave him a character, and reported him as a merchant of an inexhaustible capital. The next was Henry Weiller, a German Jew, who, having served under Napoleon, came, in 1816, to England, with ten francs in his pocket. This fellow they dressed up, and instructed him to represent himself as a foreign merchant. Weiller having been once in business in Paris, and being known to a respectable house there, he procured a letter of recommendation to a London banker. By this means he established his credit, and began to pass bills with amazing rapidity.
Having these two houses under their control, they wanted another, and in the formation of this they shewed the greatest skill; for they established it in such a manner, as to procure goods to a large amount, without creating suspicion. They took a Jew boy, named Joseph Leigh, who had been once or twice tried at the Old Bailey, and represented him as the son of a Dutch merchant. Levy then called upon a man named Reeves, who had been known in the Manchester trade, but who had been unfortunate in business, though his character stood yet high at Manchester. To him Levy represented Leigh as a youth well acquainted with the Continental trade, and stated that his father, being a wealthy man, proposed giving him a thousand pounds, provided he could get a person to join him who understood the country trade of England. Reeves consented to become his partner, and articles of partnership, with a great shew of candour, were drawn up between them. The one thousand pounds was then handed to Reeves, and lodged at a banker's. Levy also lent them five hundred pounds, and appeared a very good friend. He introduced Reeves to Meyer, as well as to Weiller, and recommended his dealing with them, as they generally traded on ready money. Reeves readily became their dupe. He made a circuit of the manufacturing countries, being supplied with the loan of one thousand pounds, and sent home goods to the amount of thirty-three thousand pounds, for which he paid by bills on Meyer. Before the conclusion of his business, however, he was informed that Meyer had absconded; and, on hastening to London, he found himself not possessed of a shilling, all the goods he had purchased having been sold, on their arrival, to Meyer.
A disclosure now took place, and it was found that these fictitious houses had practised the vilest impositions. Weiller was sent out of the way, but, being apprehended in Holland, he was brought back, and made a bankrupt of. On his examinations it was discovered that Kinnear, Woolf, and Levy, were the contrivers of the fraud, and, in consequence of this information, they, with several others, were indicted for a conspiracy. Meyer and several others who were implicated escaped detection, but the three leaders in, and contrivers of, the scheme were brought to justice in the Court of King's Bench, April the 20th, 1819, before Lord Chief Justice Abbott and a special jury.
Reeves, Leigh, and Weiller, were the principal evidence against them, and after an investigation of two days they were found guilty. No sooner was the verdict made known, than the vast crowds who waited for the decision manifested the greatest satisfaction. A man named Le Vay, who was indicted with them, was acquitted. The trial disclosed the means by which they procured credit. One of the fictitious houses served to give a character to the others, while at the same time they played into each other's hands, by drawing and discounting bills, accepting and negotiating drafts, &c. &c. The goods thus dishonestly procured were shipped off to Holland, India, &c. on Levy's account.
On the 30th of April a motion was made for a new trial, on the ground of the jury having dispersed and slept at home, no officer being sworn to keep them together, or prevent their intermixing with the multitude. The Court, however, decided that the mere separation of the jury was no ground for setting aside the verdict, unless some improper tampering with them could be shown, the Court having a discretion to allow the jury to disperse. The application was, therefore, refused, though it was the opinion of some leading counsel that a new trial would have been granted in consequence of this irregularity.
On the 14th of May they were brought up to receive judgment, when two affidavits were put in on the part of the defendants, stating that the deponents had seen two of the jurymen, on the first night of the trial, conversing with Mr. Harmer and Mr. Adams, the solicitors for the prosecution. In answer to these, affidavits of the jury, the above gentlemen, &c. were put in, denying that any such intercourse had taken place; also two affidavits of the owners of the houses, where the deponents on the part of the defendants stated themselves to reside, stating that no such persons lived there; whence they were supposed to be fictitious names.
The sentence of the Court was, that John Kinnear should be imprisoned in the gaol of Ilchester for two years; that Lewis Levy should be imprisoned in the gaol of Gloucester for two years, and pay a fine of five thousand pounds; that Mosely Woolf should be imprisoned in the House of Correction, Coldbath Fields, for two years, and pay a fine of ten thousand pounds: and that Levy and Woolf should be farther imprisoned till those fines were paid. Levy had sent large quantities of goods to India, obtained by this conspiracy, and the Court considered that from the sale of those goods he might obtain remittances to pay his fine.