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Herbert Andrews

On November 1, 1913, Herbert T. Andrews was arrested, photographed, and charged with uttering (passing a fraudulent financial instrument) after a $30 check he had written to a Boston merchant was returned marked “no account.” The charge was dismissed before the case came to court because the account on which the check was drawn had been active and in good standing when Andrews wrote the check. Had the check been deposited promptly, it would have cleared, but the merchant had held the check for several weeks and, in the interim, Andrews closed the account.

By the time that misunderstanding was resolved, police had shown Andrews’s photograph to other Boston merchants and their employees who had recently accepted fraudulent checks. Seventeen witnesses identified him as the person who had passed bad checks at their businesses. Based on these identifications, a Suffolk County grand jury returned an indictment charging Andrews with forging and uttering 43 checks.

Andrews, a well-liked cashier at a large Boston store with a wife and young baby at home, was released on $1,200 bond pending trial. When he appeared for trial on February 10, 1914, however, two charges were added, necessitating a delay. Although Andrews had no criminal record, his bond was raised to $4,000, which was beyond his means. He was held in jail until trial, which began on February 23. After three days of testimony, the jury found Andrews guilty of all counts in which a witness identified him, but acquitted him of all the other counts. He was sentenced to 14 months in jail.

Fortunately for Andrews, bad checks similar to those for which he had been convicted continued to be passed in the Boston area. Police found the perpetrator, Earle Barnes, who confessed to forging and passing many of the checks for which Andrews had been convicted. When police informed the prosecutor of this, he moved to vacate the conviction and dismiss the indictment.

The prosecutor said, “Andrews and Barnes were as dissimilar in appearance as could be. There was several inches difference in height and there wasn’t a similarity about them. I can’t understand the positiveness of those witnesses.” Photographs of the two men’s faces, published in the newspaper, confirmed this dissimilarity.

Andrews was released on June 12, 1914. Two days later, Barnes pled guilty to several counts of forgery and uttering and was sentenced to 18 months.
- Rob Warden
Most Serious Crime:Forgery or Counterfeiting
Reported Crime Date:1913
Sentence:1.17 years
Age at the date of crime:
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID