Girls, Lingerie and Money? Stop the Presses!

Modern commentators often bemoan the current state of journalism.

They often point to the lowering of journalistic standards due to budget constraints, an obsession with celebrity culture and an over-reliance on stories designed purely to shock or titillate. If only journalists had the same integrity they had in the good old days then politicians would be held to account, investigative reporting would uncover corruption and organised crime and we wouldn’t find stories becoming front page news merely because they carry the whiff of sex and scandal.

Really?

Yesterday I came across this story at the excellent Museum of Hoaxes from 1950 that broke in local Florida newspapers and quickly became front page news across the USA. And all the modern elements of a tabloid feast  were there in full force…

It was a crime that may well have never been uncovered. At the offices of the Southern Bell Telephone Company female employees had begun a systematic theft of coins as they were delivered from Miami’s payphone boxes. They had worked out that, if they stole the money before the coins were counted (which was their job anyway) then the company would never miss the money. The girls smuggled the coins out stuffed in their bras.

Cash Cow

Lacking actual crime footage, reporters employed model Marge Connors and stuffed her bra with cash

Their criminal enterprise was only uncovered when the sister of one of the girls reported the theft of $5000 from a chest in her house. As the patrolman left, Betsy Corrigan, another employee, pulled up in her car. The officer decided to search it, found over $4000 in coins in a suitcase and the story began to spill out.

And the press went into a feeding frenzy. The story was dubbed variously “The Case of the Silver Falsies,” “The Case of the Clinking Brassieres,” and “The Bra Bandits.” Eventually, the most popular name proved to be the “Brassiere Brigade”.

In a grand twist the newspapermen must have relished, the Assistant Dade County Solicitor Michael Zarowny explained in an interview…

There is no way to tell if the money was taken from the boxes, nor how much. The phone company is not in a position to say if it lost anything. We have no date when the offense was committed, who got the money nor how much was taken. The girls simply dropped rolls of nickels, dimes and quarters into their brassieres before they were put thru the counting machines. Thus no record of the exact amount of silver could be made.

Quickly the women, realising there was no evidence against them, withdrew their confession and turned up for work the next day only to find themselves sacked. Mr Zarowny’s boss stalled for time and told the papers…

If everyone will just keep their brassieres — I mean their shirts — on for a few days we will have some cases. It is a question of assembling evidence and charges definitely will be filed.

And filed they were. An auditor managed to prove there were definite discrepancies between phone records and expected revenues and the women were finally charged with Grand Larceny but received the surprisingly lenient sentence of only a year in prison and an order to pay restitution to Southern Bell of $24,118.

It’s a fascinating story and I’m sure it would have got me buying newspapers. What I’d like to see now is an investigative journalist track down the women and tell me what happened to them when they got out of stir.

Are there kids out there who know their Grandma was a member of the “Brassiere Brigade”?


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