Thursday, October 4, 2012

Florida History: Bra Brigade and Southern Bell's missing coins

By Jane Feehan 

 A Miami group made headlines as the “Brassiere Brigade” in 1950 when they confessed to embezzling $100,000 from the coin counting room of Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company by stuffing rolls of coins into their bras.
Police accidentally stumbled upon the crime when a woman called to report a chest of missing coins at her home. Betty Corrigan, a friend of the caller and employee of Southern Bell, happened to drive up to the house at the time. Police searched her car and found nearly $4,000 in coins and $1,000 in paper currency. Corrigan spilled the story and implicated her friends. Most of them continued to sing about their complicity in the embezzlement and revealed how they did it.

When boxes of money were dropped off at the counting room for pay phone revenues, women grabbed rolls of coins before they were counted and stuffed them into their bras. They dropped the money off in a restroom or somewhere else where an accomplice was waiting, making away with up to $150 a day.

The “Brassiere Brigade,” as newspapers called them (or “Silver Falsies”), made prosecution difficult when they refused to sign statements about their crime. Complicating matters was the company’s failure to figure out exactly how much was taken. Police let them go in September 1950; the brigade then took the opportunity to recant their stories.

The gang of men and women did not get away with the theft, which some estimated could have been much more than $100,000. Several among them bought houses and new cars during their coin caper. Weeks later, Southern Bell officials produced records showing $400 was missing one month – enough to charge several with felony theft.

Eleven were charged - three with theft, eight with receiving stolen property. Three women – all under 30 - were convicted of theft by a six-man jury in 24 minutes. They were sentenced to a year in jail and ordered to pay back about $24,000.

At the time of the publicity about the incident, Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph asked Florida’s State Railroad and Public Utilities Commission for a rate increase. The commission placed the request on hold until the telephone company’s accounting practices were clarified.

Palm Beach Post, Sept. 26, 1950
Miami News, Sept. 29, 1950
Miami News, Nov. 14, 1950

Tags: Miami history, Southern Bell history, Miami in the 1950s, clinking bras, film industry researcher,  historical researcher

No comments: