Sentencing of Mercer County Counterfeiters

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
June 29, 1911

Two Women Inspiration for Counterfeiters

Mrs. M. M. Leonard and Mrs. Ester Foalding [sic] Leading Figures in Alleged Gang.

Ten Now in Huntington Jail Awaiting Trial

With Round-up of Band That Has Been Operating Extensively in West Virginia Washington Authorities Breathe Easier.

Nearly Thousand Dollars in Spurious Coin Seized

Ten alleged counterfeiters, alleged to have been operating extensively in West Virginia, have been rounded up by the secret service men of the treasury department, and are now awaiting trial in Huntington. In the socalled "gang," whose alleged operations escaped the vigilance of the West Virginia police, are Mrs. M. M. Leonard and Mrs. Ester Foalden, two women whom the secret service men declare are the leading figures and the inspiration for the daring series of counterfeits.

Charles K. Wright, operator for the secret service bureau of the the [sic] treasury department, was sent to West Virginia more than two weeks ago, when the news first reached Washington that two suspicious characters had been arrested in the Widemouth section of this county, which arrests were reported in the Daily Telegraph at this time. Representing himself as one of the "profession," Wright persuaded Mrs. Foalden that he was a friend who could lend aid, and declares he elicited from her a confession by which it is believed the entire "gang" will be convicted.

In commenting on the case Chief John M. Wilde, of the secret service, said:

"It is one of the most remarkable bits of work that we have had for some time. Wright was given the case when two arrests were made on suspicion, and from that developed a case which has led to the arrest of what we believe to be the entire counterfeiting gang. With their arrest the authorities will breathe easier. They had plates which enable them no only to make spurious gold coins, but paper bills."

Wright's report has been forwarded to the authorities at Washington.

That the two women of the alleged gang should have been arrested first lends an atmosphere of peculiar interest to the case. Several months ago the police of West Virginia were mystified by the regular appearance in various districts - particularly the country surrounding Huntington - of gold $5 pieces so closely imitating the original that they could not be detected, except by experts. A careful watch was set for those responsible for the influx of the gold pieces, but nothing resulted until a few weeks ago, when the two women were arrested in a cafe while attempting to pass one of the coins.

Even the police did not believe that either of the women was connected with the counterfeiting plot. Hesitating as to the future action, the police telegraphed at Chief Wilkie at Washington who at once sent Wright.

Wright, on arriving in Huntington, went to the two women and represented himself as a counterfeiter. Th[r]ough them, according to secret service officials, he ascertained the status of the case and was given the trail of their husbands, who, it is claimed, were the instigators of the plan.

Without letting Mrs. Foalden or Mrs. Leonard know of his plan, Wright began a still hunt for the husbands and after two weeks of trailing arrested them.

The arrested were made in this county and John E. Wilson, M. M. Leonard, and R. R Foalden were held on charges of counterfeiting. With them were captured J. R. Leonard and R. R. Foalden, jr., sons of two of the men who are held by the secret service.

The police recovered $110 in $5 gold coins and $180 in $1 silver coins; a counterfeiting outfit, and a money belt containing $635 in counterfeit $5 gold coins.

Crime and Punishment

West Virginia Archives and History