George Wilson Convicted of Forging Finger Prints in Virginia, June 1928

The charge against Wilson grew out of the alleged forgery of finger prints.

What is said to be the only case of its kind in the criminal records of the city of Newport News, Va., and probably in the records of the state as well, was disposed of in Corporation Court when George Wilson, colored, was found guilty of a grand larceny charge and given a year in the penitentiary.

Wilson was arrested under circumstances which are considered unique in the criminal annals of this city, following his attempt to forge the finger prints of Junius Lofton, colored.

So far as can be learned, this is the first case of an attempt to forge the finger prints of another person, detected through Bertillon Officer, Penn Williams, whose investigation of the case led to the arrest of Wilson.

Several years ago, Lofton, who can neither read nor write, opened an account at a locai bank with the understanding that his finger prints were to be used on all checks in lieu of a signature. Recently Lofton decided to leave this city and went to the bank to draw out his balance, which he claimed should total nearly $100, but was informed by the bank that he was overdrawn. The checks were produced and Lofton immediately disclaimed any knowledge of the two most recent of the batch, one for June, 1925, $35, and one for July, 1926, $80.

The finger print expert was summoned, took Lofton's prints and announced that they were not his prints on the checks. Detective Captain J. M. Peach was then called into the case and the two plain-clothes officers began a search for the 'finger print forger." After only a few hours of investigation they arrested two negro men as suspects in the case. Sergeant Williams took Wilson's prints and identified them as the same ones on the checks in question. He was charged with grand larceny forthwith, and after some debate as to the legality of a forgery charge had that additional count placed against him.

Sergeant Williams maintained that in spite of the unusual conditions in the case, it was clearly one of forgery, for Wilson had ofTered his prints at the bank as being the genuine prints of Junius Lofton and by so doing had procured more than $100 of Lofton's funds.

Upon his plea of guilty to the charge of grand larceny, the forgery charge was nolle prossed by Commonwealth's Attorney, Herbert G. Smith. The case is reported to have erected widespread comment in identification bureaus throughout the state and Sergeant Williams is being highly commended for his work, especially in view of the fact that he had no prints of Wilson on record by which to check up before starting the investigation.

1. "Finger Print Forger Caught!", Finger Print and Identification Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 12, June 1928, page 6.

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