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Colonial Cases

United States v. Meyers, 1875

[obtaining by false pretences]

United States v. Meyers

United States Consular Court, China
Source: The North China Herald, 3 July 1875



   Wednesday, at the U.S. Consulate-General, before Geo. F. Seward, Esq., Consul-General, and J. P. Kelly, A. A. Fisher, and C. H. MacCaslin, Assessors; Charles F. Meyers was placed on trial, charged on three indictments of obtaining money and goods by false pretences.  The history of this case is somewhat remarkable.  The prisoner had formerly been in the American Navy, serving on board the Saco an engineers'' yeoman.  Discharged from that vessel, he remained for some time in Japan, and came to Shanghai a very short while ago, having but little if any money, but well-dressed and looking respectable.

   On Sunday night, the 20th ultimo, he was standing at the gate of the U.S. Consulate-General, when a Chinamen, Tung-ah-qua, came to him, and showing him two letters, one open, the other sealed, asked him to read the name they were intended for.  These letters had been given to Cheap Jack & Co., by an officer of the Palos to be handed to Mr. Roche, pay clerk of the Monocacy, who was expected over from Japan on the 20th, but did not arrive.  The open letter instructed Cheap Jack & Co. to give Mr. Roche what money, &c., he might require.

   The prisoner, on reading this letter, put both of them in his pocket, and told the Chinaman he was Mr. Roche, adding that he would call at his store next day.  He accordingly called there, and by means of the letters he obtained the $20.  Tung-ah-qua, who is in the shipping  department at Cheap Jack's, also has a sail-loft in Hongkew, and from him, by representing himself as Paymaster of the Palos, and on the strength of giving an order for fifty mattresses, he obtained $5.  The letters appear to have given him the idea of representing himself as an American Naval Officer, and as he was in possession of and wearing an officer's cap and vest, his deception was greatly aided; in fact, not only enabling him to defraud the Chinaman, but to make a much greater attempt upon Messrs. Henry Miller and Co., to the tune of $246; though they fortunately recovered their property. Prisoner also attempted to obtain $60, by a second attempt on Cheap Jack and co, but suspicion having been excited the Police were informed of what had taken place, and he was ultimately interviewed at the office of the German Consul, by Mr. Annecke; as he at first said he was a German, but afterwards claimed American nationality. 

   His statement as to his nationality, taken before Mr. Seward, on Friday last, was to the effect that he was born in Germany, but went to the United States when he was 13 or 14 years of age, residing there until he was 21 years old.  He was never formally naturalized, being told that the attainment of his majority in the United States would be sufficient to make him a citizen.  He had never voted there, having been usually in the Naval service.

   The charges were fully proved against him, and he was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, the Court being lenient for various reasons.  A full report appears elsewhere.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School