April 7, 1907
A. S. ROBERTS.
Who Pretended to Be William McCloud
Raney, the Short Story Writer.
To pose for a year as William McCloud Raney, the author, his employers congratulated themselves upon securing the services of such an able writer and competent employe, who under the cognomen succeeded in defrauding the firm of the Keaton-Williams Gold Company out of $1500 worth of pure dental gold; finally to draw salary secretly for two weeks after his identity became known to the company, is said to be the record of Alexis S. Roberts, the young man who is now in a cell in the county jail awaiting trial on the charge of embezzlement. He was arrested at St. Louis a few days ago on a description set out by the Pinkerton detective agency and brought back to this city for trial.
In his cell yesterday young Roberts, who is only 23 years old, admitted he had deceived his employers by posing as Raney, the author, but says that his real name became known to the company before he left its employ. He admitted that he appropriated a large amount of gold and sold it to local dentists, but says that he had a final settlement with his employers before he left the city. His father, David Roberts, was secretary of the company, and according to his statement, his father assigned his years' salary to the company as partial payment of his shortage, and that he gave the company $500 in cash and signed a promissory note in the sum of $500, payable in one year, bearing interest at 8 per cent. He says that he thought that his troubles were all settled.
Roberts was brought back from St. Louis Friday by detectives and arraigned before Justice Shoemaker. His preliminary hearing was set for next Thursday at 2 o'clock and he was committed to jail in default of $1000 bond.
He began to pose as Raney, the author, two weeks after going to work for the dental gold manufacturers. At that time he showed his employers a forged letter from a publishers' syndicate, addressing him as William McCloud Raney, complimenting his last story and mentioning an enclosure of $150. The letter stated that a story of similar value could be used each week.
Then Roberts began to spend money -- and the money end of the then-new firm began to ask the partner who conducted the laboratory, where the promised profits were to commence showing up. The laboratory man declared his process should be paying, but he could not explain where the gold was going. There was trouble in the firm, and Keaton, who owned the process, several times in despair, deserted his partner, Williams; then he would come back to try to demonstrate that the process paid. Now they both remember that three days after Roberts went to work, a lump of gold weighing about 2 1/2 ounces disappeared and the new employe, convinced both that there had been only four lumps where there were five.
Roberts' father, David Roberts, a Canadian like Mr. Roberts, who financed the firm, had been made secretary of the company. Anytime one of the Raney stories came out in one of the well-known magazines or in the syndicated papers, there was rejoicing among all who were acquainted with the young wizard, who assisted in the laboratory. Two of his sisters arrived from Grand Junction, Col., and smothered him with congratulations on his latest success, "The Robbers' Roost." Out on Troost avenue, where the Williamses lived, there was some discussion as to whether Raney's "Girl from Salt Lake," published in the Red Book, was or was not better than "The Automobile Holdup," with 101 Ranch for its scene.
Meanwhile, Mr. Williams' 999.9 pure gold, costing $21 an ounce at the Philadelphia mint, was being peddled around Kansas City at $19 per ounce, when dentists and jewelers ordinarily used gold only about half as fine. Every month for more than a year Roberts, it is alleged, personally supplied certain customers, and representing himself to be a member of the firm, did his own collecting.
One day the pseudo-author, in the presence of the firm, nonchalantly offered to write his father a check for $1000 to pay off some indebtedness. This was not thought unreasonable, as the Raney stories, coming out regularly, were supposed to be netting him $750 a month.
Finally Mr. Williams, attempting to collect a book account of several months' standing, says he found that Roberts had receipted the customers' bills monthly. Then, for the first time, Williams realized that his partner was not to blame for wasting gold. The Pinkertons were put on Roberts' track. They found at once where about $1000 worth of gold had been sold. Roberts was confronted and it is claimed confessed to each separate transaction he was charged with, but would volunteer no additional confessions, thought it is said now that about $3,200 worth of gold has disappeared.
Williams, whose pocketbook had suffered, caused the young man to report to the Pinkertons each day at 11 o'clock, and in the office and laboratory his absence was supposed to be due to sickness. Twice on payday, however, he is said to have entered the office in Williams' absence and drew his weekly pay.
"Those two weeks pay," said Williams yesterday, "made about the bitterest part of the dose I swallowed, for I was being generous and lenient with him at the time and thought the boy was frightened."
Working hard to see if he could recover any part of his loss, Williams was one day surprised by a payment of $500 from Roberts. This, it was learned later, he had borrowed from his brother-in-law, a merchant in Austin, Mo.
Under the surveillance of the Pinkertons, Roberts works a week at a time in several places, at last coming to Williams with the complaint that his record being known here made it hard to keep employment in Kansas City. He wanted to go to St. Louis, his home. This he was allowed to do, reporting regularly to the Pinkerton agency in St. Louis.
Mr. Williams says that Roberts failed to keep his promises and the authorities of St. Louis were asked to arrest him. His wife is in St. Louis.
Roberts had been graduated from the Christian Brothers college in St. Louis only shortly before coming to Kansas City. His father resigned his position with the Keaton-Williams' company, when the trouble came out last November. He has since gone to Ogden, Utah.