Harriman Loot in Ridgefield

This article is likely from around 1932.  William Roth is found on the 1930 U.S. census as a 39-year-old male electrician living in North Bergen, Hudson County, New Jersey, with his wife Emma, both from Germany.  He arrived in the U.S. in 1913.

Allen Harriman, husband of the widow in this story, was the son of Joseph Harriman (cousin of future New York Governor W. Averell Harriman), who died in 1928 after an auto accident on Long Island.  His father Joseph Harriman was the president of Harriman National Bank & Trust.  Just the year before this incident, Joseph Harriman was arraigned on charges of bank fraud.  You can read more about his history here.

1931-1935 Harriman Loot in Ridgefield


Jobless Electrician Is Held In Theft

Rare and valuable pieces of antique furniture, a moving picture camera and projector and other articles stolen last Thursday afternoon from The Crossaways, the home of Mrs. Allan Harriman, at Gigh Farms, Glen Head, L. I., were recovered yesterday in Ridgefield when police arrested William Roth at his home, 492 Columbia Avenue, just across the line from Cliffside Park.  Mrs. Harriman is the widow of the son of Joseph W. Harriman, the former banker who disappeared yesterday for the second time from a nursing home in New York.

Roth, police said, readily admitted the burglary.  After being booked on a charge of burglary and then fingerprinted he was turned over to the County authorities, who were ready to surrender him to the Long Island police if the prisoner waives extradition.  At Ridgefield headquarters Roth expressed his willingness to be returned to Long Island for trial without the formality of extradition proceedings.

The arrest of Roth was made on a “John Doe” warrant by Acting Chief August Kiel, Sergeant Walter Gallagher and Patrolman Arthur Kalbhenn of the Ridgefield Department, who were accompanied by Frank McCue, Chief of Police of Glen Cove, L. I. and Sergeant Detective James Farrell of the Nassau County Police Department.  Roth readily submitted to arrest, but before taking their prisoner to the police station, the officers searched the house taking with them articles corresponding in description to those appearing on a list given to to [sic] them by Mrs. Harriman.

The prisoner was identified as the robber by a young man, whose family it is understood will soon occupy the Harriman home.  The Long Island police refused to reveal the identity of this young man.  [except that they just said where he lives …]

According to the police this young man went to the Harriman home which is now unoccupied, but still contains the family’s furniture and personal effects last Thursday afternoon.  He saw a man removing furniture from the place and when he questioned him, the man, later identified as Roth, claimed he was a chauffeur for the family and was instructed to remove some articles from the house.

The young man though became suspicious and after jotting down the license number of the car used by the stranger, notified the police.  They immediately communicated with Mrs. Harriman, who claimed she had given no one permission to remove anything from her home.

An investigation by the authorities then revealed that a cellar window had been “jimmied” and a door leading into the house proper smashed.  A check up on the license number of the car used by the burglar showed it had been issued to Roth and immediately a warrant was sworn out charging burglary in the third degree.

While the value of the loot was placed conservatively at about $600 it is believed to be worth far more.  Roth maintained that this was the first crime he had ever committed, but police are working on the theory that he may have been one of a mob specializing in robbing homes of wealthy people now away for the summer.

This theory is strengthened by the fact that the prisoner when asked why he happened to select the Harriman home for the robbery he replied “I don’t know why but while riding through Long Island something came over me and I just drove in and did the job.”  While Roth stoutly maintained that he alone committed the theft, it is believed that he may have had the assistance of someone who informed him that the Harriman home was empty.

A search of Roth’s house, which he rents, according to the police revealed many beautiful dishes and rare articles of furniture in the attic.  They also say they found an unusually large assortment of valuable tools, many of which might be used in burglaries.

He claims he has not worked in more than a year and a half, but at the same time maintains two automobiles and the police say he has about $1,500 in two bank accounts at the Phoenix National Bank and the Irving Trust Company, New York.  He is 41 years old and is an electrician by trade.  Born in Germany he came to this country some years ago and when war broke out in 1917 became an American citizen and enlisted with the forces from this country.

He claims he has lived in Ridgefield about three years, but little is known of him here.


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