At the Central Criminal Court, on Saturday the 6th of February 1841, Richard Moore, aged thirty, was indicted for feloniously uttering and putting off a forged note, purporting to be a genuine note of the Salop bank, for 5l. well knowing the same to be forged, with intent to defraud Messrs. Glyn, Halifax, Mills and Co., the bankers, of Lombard-street.
The circumstances which transpired in the course of the investigation were of a remarkable character. Mr. Moore was a person of gentlemanly appearance, and was a member of a highly respectable Irish family, possessed of good means. The unfortunate young man when he came of age received a property sufficient to have placed him in a situation above the common rank. Naturally wild and unsettled in his disposition, he soon became involved in all the gaieties of the metropolis of his native country; but he ere long changed the scene of his actions to London. Here he entered even more largely into the amusements of life; and few years had elapsed before he had dissipated the greater part of his possessions. The gambling-table had served in a great measure to produce this unfortunate effect, and to the gambling-table he resorted for the purpose of renewing those means of which it had already deprived him. Every effort served but to plunge him deeper into difficulty; and at length he was driven in despair to a method of retrieving his lost fortunes which rendered him open to a prosecution for putting off forged notes.
The circumstances proved in reference to the particular case upon which he was first tried were these:-- On the evening of the 31st of January, the prisoner, accompanied by a gentleman who was in the habit of visiting the billiard-rooms of a person named Cooke, at No.358, Strand, entered those rooms, and after a short time, sat down to play loo with a party. He played throughout the evening with varied successes, paying his first losses with what appeared to be genuine country bank-notes; but when he rose to quit the room, he was in debt to Cooke, the keeper of the house, in the sum of 80l. which he had advanced to him. He gave his I.O.U. for the amount, stating his address to be Wright's Hotel, Strand, and went away. In the course of the evening Cooke had given change for nine of the notes which had been paid by the prisoner; and in the morning he sent his wife into the city to procure cash for them at the various banking-houses at which they purported to be payable. She received the money for some of them; but at length, upon her presenting a note at Messrs. Glynn and Co.'s, she was detained. She immediately explained what she knew of the transaction; and her husband having been sent for, he confirmed her statement, and they were liberated, On that evening a note was taken to Mr. Cooke by the porter of the Hotel Fricour, Leicester-square, which was written by the prisoner, in which he expressed his regret at having disposed of notes which he had discovered were forged; but he assured Mr. Cooke of his desire at some future time to repay him what he had lost, saying, that he had received the notes on the day before from a school-fellow in payment of a bet upon a race which he had won some time before. Cooke accompanied by Forrester, the city officer, who had been engaged to trace the prisoner, immediately proceeded to the hotel from which the letter was dated, and found the prisoner in the coffee-room. They directly took him into custody, and he made no effort to escape or to deny the guilt imputed to him.
Subsequent inquiries proved that the notes which the prisoner had put off were genuine impressions of the plates prepared for the various banking companies, by whom they purported to have been issued, but all that part of them which gave them the character of genuine instruments, including the signature of the director, was forged. The exact means by which these impressions had come into the possession of the prisoner was a mystery; but upon application to Messrs. Perkins and Co. of Fleet-street, who had prepared the plates, it was elicited that it was their custom to send out to the various country banking firms proof impressions of the plates which they had engraved as specimens of their work. The notes uttered by the prisoner were of this character, and they bore upon them evidence of the employment of great ingenuity in their preparation. The specimen notes were invariably issued, pasted upon card-board of considerable thickness; it appeared that the notes in question had been removed from the card-board, but being of insufficient substance, by reason of their being impressions on India paper, a piece of paper of the ordinary quality used in the genuine notes had been placed upon the backs of them so as to give them all the appearance of the notes in common circulation. The signatures appended to them did not appear to have been copied from any of the original notes; and in some instances, indeed, names had been employed entirely dissimilar to those of any of the directors of the bank.
Mr. C. Phillips, who was retained as counsel for the prisoner, addressed the jury on his behalf, urging that in truth he had no intention which was actually dishonest, and suggesting that the unfortunate man having been deprived of his property by gamblers, had sought to recover it back again by means, undoubtedly dishonest, but scarcely more blameable than those which had been employed by those by whom he had been fleeced. He was informed that it was by no means uncommon for flash notes to be employed by persons connected with gambling-houses, as a means of decoying their prey; and he asked whether, in truth, the prisoner had been guilty of anything more dishonest. The absence of all evil intention had been plainly shown in the immediate notice which he had given of the notes which he had put off being fictitious, and this at least was a point in the case which entitled him to some consideration.
The jury returned a verdict of "Guilty," but recommended the prisoner to mercy upon the ground suggested by the learned counsel.
The prisoner was then indicted upon a second charge, of uttering two notes of the respective amounts of 5l. and 10l., with intent to defraud the Boston Bank.
The means employed by the prisoner in putting off these notes were very similar to those which he had used in the former case. The offence was alleged to have been committed on the 28th of January; and it appeared that on that night the prisoner went to a notorious gambling-house situated at No.7, Leicester-square, kept by a person named Thompson, and demanded to know whether there was any play, and what bank there was. He was informed that the bank contained 130l., and Chappell, the attendant in the rooms, offered to play with him, in default of there being any one else there. They played, and in a short time Chappell won 70l. which the prisoner paid in what appeared to be country bank-notes, of various denominations. The prisoner declared that he had no more money left then; but asked whether, if he went for some more, the rooms would be open when he returned. He was answered in the affirmative, and in about fifteen minutes he went back. At this time Thompson, the keeper of the rooms was there, and the prisoner having played again, by about four o'clock in the morning he had lost 75l. more, which he also paid in notes of the same description as those which he had before put off. He said he would fetch more money, if the rooms would be open; but Thompson expressed some unwillingness to allow any more play, as the usual time for closing the house had passed. The prisoner, however, went away and returned, but he found the door closed. He appeared angry and excited, and insisted upon having his revenge, and Chappell at length let him in. By nine o'clock in the morning he had lost 380l. in addition to the sums which he had previously paid; and he handed over a Manchester bank-post bill for 300l., and another for 80l., and then he went away. In the course of the day Thompson and Chappell went into the city to procure change of the country notes, and they obtained cash for some of them, which were not payable in London, at a bullion-dealer's in Cheapside, upon the deduction of two and a half per cent.; but upon their presenting some others at the banking-houses at which they were payable, they were taken into custody. They explained their characters and the manner in which they had obtained the notes, and were set at liberty. When the prisoner was taken into custody, a letter was found on his person addressed to Thompson, which, it appeared, he was about to despatch to that individual, in which he declared that he had just discovered that he had been imposed upon, and had paid him with forged notes, but offered to give him bills of exchange for the amount which he owed him, at various dates.
The defence in this case was the same as that which had been before put forward, and the inquiry was attended with a similar result,-- the conviction of the prisoner.
Mr. Justice Coltman, who was the presiding judge, in passing sentence upon the prisoner, remarked that his offence was materially aggravated by the station in society which he had held, and the education which he had received. In a commercial country, where so much depended upon the proper maintenance of the public securities, forgery could not be looked at as a slight offence. In this case the safety of the commercial transactions of the country might have been peculiarly affected, and a severe example was called for. His lordship then sentenced the prisoner to be transported for fifteen years.