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They called her "Petticoat Ponzi"
When I made note of the first story below it was because I seemed to be finding a lot of 1921 cases involving bigamy. Perhaps men and women found it easier during this period to abandon a mate than go through the trouble – and financial consequences – of a divorce. Many who abandoned their mates simply moved to another state and started all over again, often using their true identity. It could take a long time for their pasts to catch up with them.

This first story seemed simple enough. Tragic, but simple. As a precaution, I Googled the persons mentioned. I found no story about a Robert Mountford ever being hauled into court for bigamy and it may be safe to assume the charge was dropped.

But soon I discovered this story was only the tip of an iceberg ... an iceberg known at the time as Mrs. Mildred Boniface.

Syracuse Journal

Woman Drowned Self When Hubby
Admitted Bigamy

CAMDEN, N.J., March 16 – The body of a woman found in the Delaware River Monday was identified as that of Mrs. Mary Mountford of Buffalo.

Augustus Kugler, father of the girl, swore out a warrant for the arrest of his daughter’s husband, Robert Mountford, charging him with bigamy. Mountford is believed to be in Canada.

Following the confession of her husband that he had contracted a bigamous marriage with Mrs. Mildred Boniface in Hadden Heights, N.J., Mrs. Mountford is said to have told friends that she contemplated suicide.

Whether Mountford had married another woman is in doubt, though stories that surfaced years later would refer to a 1921 marriage between a Philadelphia man and the woman temporarily known as Mildred Boniface.

Whether Mountford was the groom remains unknown, as does the status of his relationship with Mary Mountford when she drowned. He became a mere footnote in the story of a woman with many identities whose various cons earned her the nickname "Petticoat Ponzi," a reference to Charles Ponzi, who in 1920 was arrested for an illegal money-making scheme that now bears his name.

In the New York Times was an earlier, more detailed story about Mrs. Boniface, Mountford and the unfortunate Mrs. Mountford. A different picture emerged.

New York Times

‘Female Ponzi’s Fiance Calls Her Swindler
Prisoner Calls on Jersey Man for Aid
and He Swears Out Warrant

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 21 –Remembered by gullible residents of Newfleld, N. J., as one who separated them from many thousands of dollars and whose operations, the police believe will total nearly $75,000, Mildred M. Boniface of Everett, whom they call a female "Ponzi," was found today by detectives living in lavishly furnished apartments in Broad Street. Her arrest followed a telegram received from Oscar B. Redow, prosecutor of 'Woodbury, N. J.

The woman has a criminal record, the police say. At a hearing before Magistrate Mecleary she was held to await requisition papers from New Jersey. Robert Mountford, a motor truck dealer of Haddon Heights, N.J., says he was “virtually engaged " to the prisoner. She summoned him to her aid by telephone, but his ardor cooled suddenly and he swore out a warrant charging her with obtaining' $5,000 and upwards
from him by false pretenses. Mrs. Hannah Mountford of Haddon Heights, his mother, he said, had been defrauded of $7,000 by the woman. She is expected to swear out a warrant today.

According to Mountford, the woman who ended her life by leaping from a ferryboat between this city and Camden last night answers the description of his wife Mary, missing for more, than a week. He had been separated from his wife more than a year, and believes his infatuation for the woman under arrest had a bearing on his wife's act.

The specific charge on whlch the prisoner is held Is for obtaining $2,300 from Everett Marshall of Newfield by false pretenses.

Mountford said the woman gave his mother a note for the $7,000 and promised to give his parent $20,000 when the Harjes estate was settled. He said the prisoner had asserted she was a granddaughter of the former member of the J. P. Morgan firm.

To others, the police say, she claimed to be a niece of the late John G. Johnson, a lawyer, and In another story said she was the daughter of Charles Boniface of Atlantic City.

Putting the two stories together resulted in a bit of confusion, but I made two guesses.

1. There were witnesses when Mary Mountford jumped from the ferryboat on Janaury 20. That led police to conclude a woman drowned in the Delaware River that night, but she would remain unidentified until her body surfaced several weeks later.

2. The charge of bigamy against Mountford may have resulted from a lie his wife told her father. Bigamy eventually returns to the story of Mildred Boniface, but she may have been the guilty party. Mountford is mentioned by name only in connection with the charge he lodged against the woman to whom he was "virtually engaged."

As for "the Harjes estate" mentioned in the New York Times story, that is a reference to John H. Harjes, a partner of J. P. Morgan. Harjes died in 1914; I have found no mention about any complications with his estate. His position at the J. P. Morgan firm was taken by his son Henry Herman Harjes, who died in a polo accident in 1926. However, since Harjes lived mostly in Paris it was relatively easy for a con artist to claim a family relationship.

Mildred Boniface, later known as Amelia Everts Carr, continued to claim she was the granddaughter of John H. Harjes, but after 1926 stated this claim differently, saying she was the daughter of Henry Herman Harjes. It was one of her favorite cons. Like every skilled con artist, the woman had little trouble finding trusting marks.

She took her act on the road for a few years, but eventually returned to New Jersey where she led a double life, enjoying a comfortable existence until ...

New York Post 1942

The Queen of Charity Goes to Jail
By MAUREEN McKERNAN
Post Staff Correspondent
NEWARK, Jan. 12.—Everyone who knew Mrs. J. Clarence Carr —and everyone means all the parishioners of Roseville Methodist Church as well as many recipients of her charities— walked around in a daze today, stunned by the revelation that she was a confidence woman with a 50-year record.

Mrs. Carr, who married a real estate broker five years ago and immediately joined his church, was in Essex County jail, charged with defrauding Mrs. Mabel Burnett, 71, of 15 Myrtle Av., of $4,700.

Prosecutor William Wachenfeld said that the total of her frauds among fellow church members probably will approach $100,000.

Never a Slip
The Rev. Edson Leach, pastor of the church, spoke the thoughts of the community today:

"Good people are not suspicious people. Who would suspect a woman famous for her kindness and friendliness? She was 100 per cent what a pastor would want in a parishioner – loyal, devout and devoted. There was never a slip, I've tried to think back, for anything suspicious she might have done and I cannot think of a single thing.

"She was always doing something for somebody —picking up an old lady at the church door to take her home, or sending her car for children to bring to Sunday school. She was charming and gracious, always smiling.

"You can understand how we feel. A thing like this is a thunderbolt."

Mrs. Carr today submitted to an interview in the Essex County Jail, if you could call it an interview.

Her Own Affair
She came from her cell, an eminently respectable figure in a simple black dress with blue trimming, and announced forthrightly:

"This is strictly my own affair. Whatever I have to say I will say to these men" — gesturing to indicate the detectives.

"We'll ask you some questions anyway?" this reporter said.

"By what right?" she retorted, and her manner was not at all that of the churchwoman caught up in a frightening aspect of the law. "I won't answer." She paused. Then: "Why don't you people have some compassion on that poor heartbroken man?" she asked, obviously referring to Carr.

"Why didn't you?" she was asked.

She removed the handkerchief with which she had been dabbing at her eyes, repeated in a loud voice, "I won't answer!" and went away.

"A Queen" to Husband
The woman's 70-year-old husband was all but prostrated by news of her alleged crimes.

"She'd been a queen to me," he said. "She was noble, good and loyal. Nobody who has shown so much goodness and loyalty could do what they say."

Nonetheless, the record of her arrest and the investigation leading to it was clear. It began last month, when Mrs. Burnett made her charges.

The Newark police took the accusation lightly. Mrs. Carr had been known for her philanthropies too long for the charge to be given immediate credence. Living in a community hard by a neighborhood of the poor, Mrs. Carr had for years answered every appeal for help she had received.

Claims Illness
But an investigation was ordered anyway. Lieut. Louis Sklarey was assigned to check up on Mrs. Carr. Detectives Mark Freeman, of the prosecutor's office, and Alex Schmidt, of the Newark police, helped him. They went to Mrs, Carr's house to ask her some routine questions.

After one questioning, Mrs. Carr took to her bed, claiming illness. Police sent several doctors who could find nothing wrong with her. They brought her to the prosecutor's office in an ambulance, and seated her between two matrons in an ante room. The matrons were supposed to be prisoners, too.

But when Wachenfeld came out to talk to her, the first thing she said was:

"You didn't think I'd blow my top with these dames sitting here, did you?"

The criminal argot, came strangely from a gray-haired, gentle-voiced church lady. Wachenfeld questioned her further and said a new complaint had been received from another member of the Roseville Church,

"Oh, a canary, eh?" said Mrs. Carr.

$58,000 From One
And that remark pretty well broke the case.

Wachenfeld dug into the case and turned up a number of persons who said Mrs. Carr had obtained money from them—a real estate dealer who gave up $58,000, a Trenton school teacher and her sister $8,000, a beauty shop operator $700. The latter said she gave Mrs. Carr the money "because she could pray so fervently."

The woman was jailed on Dec. 26 and held in $50,000 bail, highest ever set for a woman in the country. And then Wachenfeld found out about the earlier record.

It was police routine that turned up the amazing record of Mrs. Carr's 51 years in crime.

Essex County authorities sent her fingerprints to Washington for the ordinary check with FBI files. The reply, received Saturday, stunned the prosecutor's office.

The dossier showed that Amelia Mildred Evarts, a native of Bustleton, Pa., now part of Philadelphia, was first arrested in 1891, when she was 15, on a fraud charge. She served her first time 10 years later, 10 months in Trenton jail for obtaining money under false pretenses. And since then -

She had used eight known aliases.

She had been arrested 19 times.

She had served prison terms in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Walla Walla and Spokane, Wash., and San Quentin, Cal.

There are definite charges against her in Wahington, Maryland, Oregon, Utah, Colorado and Texas, and the police of nine other states at least want to talk to her.

Another Church Worker
Her activities in Newark, Wachenfeld said, began in 1936, a few months after she was released from San Quentin.

She came to the city as a delegate to a conference of Jehovah's Witnesses, which she had joined on the Pacific Coast. She put up at the Park Lane Hotel. There she met one Annie McGuire, who was sick and blind and a former maid for Carr and his first wife. Annie, it developed, was being cared for by Carr, and the Witness from California quickly befriended her.

Presently, Mrs. Carr met the man she was going to marry. He was impressed with the kindness she had shown Annie McGuire. They became friendly, and she told him she had a fortune to invest in real estate and would like to deal through him because he, like herself, was an ardent church worker.

And So They Were Married
Carr married her Dec. 24, 1936, and they moved to a house at 14 N. Ninth St., in the Roseville section. She immediately busied herself with charitable and church labors. She maintained her own car and chauffeur, which was freely lent for funerals and to take the sick to hospitals. She distributed baskets of food and arranged for coal to be sent to poor families.

She had told her husband that she was a relative of a Morgan partner, but when he asked to meet her family she said they were "crass people, interested only in making money," and dissuaded him.

Wachenfeld said that he had talked to a number of her victims, who repeated to him stories she told. The stories varied. One was to the effect that she was shortly to receive a huge legacy and needed money meanwhile. Another concerned oil lands in California, fabulously rich but needing development. Still another was that business men occasionally let her in on a good investment and she wanted to do the same for her friends.

She operated always under her own name. Apparently, Wachenfeld said, she depended upon being able to pay a disgruntled victim with the money obtained from a later one.

She turned away requests for a note, when she made a loan, with the pious statement, "There is no need for anything in writing between two good Christians."

And all the money she took in, Wachenfeld charged, went for luxurious living, the car and chauffeur, jewels and the like, leaving nothing in her safety deposit box but a great stack of canceled checks.

As news of her arrest spread, her victims contacted police who hadn't the time or the manpower to investigate all of the complaints.
New York Post 1942

Complaints On Mrs. Carr Are Pouring In
NEWARK, Jan. 13- There were so many complaints against Mrs. Amelia Mildred Carr today that Essex County authorities decided to disregard all but those in which her victims would file formal charges.

By telephone and letter the office of Prosecutor William Wachenfeld continued to receive reports of how the wife of J. Clarence Carr, 70, real estate broker, had posed as an ardent giver of charity and a pillar of the Roseville Methodist Church while "borrowing" and "taking for investment" a minimum of $100,000 in six years.

8 Formal Charges
Wachenfeld had at least eight formal charges on file today, accusing the 66-year-old woman, whose arrest revealed a 50-year police record, of obtaining money under false pretenses. His investigation also turned up two startling new
developments:

1. Complaints from several persons that Mrs. Carr's charities were part of a "machine for fraud."

2. A belief that her willingness to plead guilty to any of the early charges, coupled with her failure to seek a lawyer or make bond, may be an effort to conceal something else.

Journey to Millville
The latter possibility was strengthened by the mysterious journey to Millville, 140 miles from here, of defectives sent to investigate a phase of the case. Detective Lieut. Louis Sklarey remarked that the Essex County prosecutor would hardly send men so far unless interesting disclosures might be expected.

Another county – Monmouth — entered the case today when officials there investigated a charge that Mrs. Carr had obtained $3,000 from a Mrs. Cunther, who runs a nursing home near Asbury Park. Wachenfeld said that Mrs. Carr had been financially active for the last six summers, which she spent at the Carr shore home in Ocean Grove.

As more and more of her past caught up with Amelia Mildred Carr, it was only natural for police to consider that her crimes were not limited to her various cons. Perhaps the Philadelphian she married in 1921 was Robert Mountford, perhaps it was some other poor soul. Perhaps there actually was no wedding in 1921. I found no follow-up to the next story, but I think it – and especially the one after that – indicate how authorities came to believe the woman was capable of anything.
New York Post 1942

Mrs. Carr Revealed As Bigamist, Too
NEWARK, Jan. 13.— Mrs. Amelia Mildred Carr, 66-year-old churchwoman who proved to be a swindler with a 50-year police record, was revealed today as having bigamously married a Philadelphian in 1921.

Mrs. Carr subsequently left the second husband, and when she married J. Clarence Carr, 70-year-old real estate broker and leader of the Roseville Methodist Church, she still had not obtained even one divorce.

Nevertheless, Carr, who had planned to institute annulment proceedings, stood fast by his second-thought decision to do nothing until Mrs. Carr's case is settled.

New York Post 1942

Sift 6 Deaths in Carr Case
Special to The Post
NEWARK, Jan. 30. — Essex County today investigated the deaths of three men and three women who had had dealings with Mrs. J. Clarence Carr, 66, the churchwoman-swindler, but admitted that there was nothing suspicious about any of the deaths.

The investigation was undertaken, Prosecutor Wachenfeld's office said, because authorities want the fullest possible background on Mrs. Carr before she appears for sentencing in the theft of $4,700 from a Newark woman.

The deaths were those of Anthony Ambrose, 71, former gardener to Mrs. Carr, who was found in the Passaic River, supposedly a suicide; the wife of a Philadelphian who bigamously married Mrs. Carr in 1921, also a suicide by drowning; Benjamin L. Wade of Millville, N.J., and Frank L. Price of Newark, victims of heart attacks; Mrs. Annie McGuire of Newark and a man named Stover.

When Mrs. Carr was sentenced, she received a severe tongue-lashing from the judge. A few years later it would be obvious the judge's words had no effect on the woman.
Auburn Citizen-Advertoser 1942

Woman Sentenced to Eight Years
as Petticoat Ponzi

NEWARK, N.J., Feb. 25 (AP) –Mrs. Amelia Everts Carr, revealed by police records as a “petticoat Ponzi” with a half-century career, was sentenced today to serve eight to 12 years in prison on her plea of no defense to eight charges of obtaining money under false pretense.

Proscutor William W. Wachenfeld of Essex County has estimated Mrs. Carr obtained $1,000,000 in coast-to-coast operations.

County Judge Daniel J. Brennan pronounced sentence on the woman’s 66th birthday. He decreed that consecutive terms of two to three years at hard labor be served on each of four charges and that similar sentences, to run concurrently, be served on each of the others.

“Mrs. Carr,” said the court, “apparently during the better part of your lifetime, behind the mask of pietistic pretense, you have hidden an incredible and almost grotesque duplicity and destroyed the confidence of decent trusting people wherever you went.

“I suppose people like you get some perverse satisfaction out of the fact that a few old persons who have saved money against the specter of poverty in the old age are now bereft on their property, but you are forgetful of the propositions that civilized society operates on confidence which is something that is akin to faith.

“Your whole adult lifetime has been a destruction of that kind of confidence, putting people on their guard even against decent charity.”

Mrs. Carr will be registered at State’s Prison, Trenton, but transferred shortly to Clinton Reformatory because the prison keeps no female prisoners.

The defendant made no comment. She smiled faintly on the way out of the courtroom, under the escort of a matron.

A delegate of women from the Roseville Methodist Church where she was an ardent churchworker, was present.

Wachenfeld had said the defendant waived jury trial so her fellow churchwomen would have no chance “to come down and gloat.”

Mrs. Carr’s compusure was unruffled throughout the brief proceedings.

The eight charges involved a total of $11,242. Her long record was disclosed after a fellow church member had lodged a complaint against her of obtaining $4,700.

Under her plea, which threw Mrs. Carr on the mercy of the court, Judge Brennen could have sentenced her to a maximum of 24 years in state prison and fined her a total of $3,000, or he could have placed her on probation.

Judge Brennan had before him confidential records submitted by prosecutor’s Lt. Louis Sklarey, who returned Saturday from a swing through Washington, California and Oregon cities where he investigated Mrs. Carr’s far-flung activities.

The defendant is the wife of J. Clarence Carr, 70, chairman of the Board of Trustees of Roseville Methodist. He knew her only as a “noble, loyal and good woman” who had nursed him devotedly through three serious illnesses in their five years of marriage.

After her arrest, Carr announced he would seek an annulment of their marriage, but later said he would not. He visited the jail yesterday, but was unable to see her. He was not seen in court today.

Mrs. Carr said nothing to the women from her church on the way out of court after sentencing, but she did greet them on her way in:
Gloversville Morning Herald 1942

'Petticoat P0nzi' Gets 8 Years in N.J.
Mrs. Carr Fleeced Church Folk; Jaunty in Court
NEWARK, N. J., Feb. 26 (AP) -An eight-year prison sentence rang down the curtain yesterday on one of the most fantastic stories ever unfolded in the Essex county court house, that of Mrs. Amelia Everts Carr, "Petticoat Ponzi."

The court psychiatrist reported "she played her part without much subtlety ... almost like taking candy from a baby," but the county prosecutor estimated her methods had mulcted a million dollars from persons from coast to coast.

Seeking to satisfy her vanity, Mrs. Carr kidded others so loud and successfully that she grew to believe her own stories, the mental expert said. Mrs. Carr epitomized her attitude when she greeted in the courtroom a group of fellow churchworkers who had come to hear her sentenced.

"Hello, you old hypocrites," said the smiling Mrs. Carr.

She was released from prison after eight years ... and immediately resumed her con woman ways, but not for long.
Schenectady Gazette 1950

FBI Arrests Aged Woman As Swindler
PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 24 (AP) —Mrs. Amelia Mildred Everts, alias Mrs. Amelia, in and out of jails the last 48 of her 74 years, was arrested today by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The matronly, kindly-faced woman, released five months ago from the Clinton, NY, Reformatory for Women, is charged with impersonating a major in the U.S. Army Nurses' Corps and swindling a Philadelphia woman out of $15,000, said Arthur Cornelius Jr., FBI agent in charge.

The elderly woman, known In police circles as the "Petticoat Ponzi" because of her swindling career, has served terms in Pittsburgh, San Quentln and Spokane, Wash., all for false pretenses and forgery, Cornelius said.

The FBI agent said Mrs. Everts allegedly borrowed large sums of money from the Philadelphia woman at Atlantic City by saying she was waiting for her government check. She also borrowed money which he pretended she was going to invest, Cornelius added.

Mrs. Everts' first arrest, In 1902, was In Philadelphia where she was sentenced to six months for false pretense, according to FBI records.

In 1947 she successfully contested a suit for annulment brought by her husband, J. Clarence Carr, Newark real estate broker. He contended she had represented herself as a wealthy widow and that she concealed her criminal background from him when they were married in 1936.

About six years after her marriage to Carr, a fellow church member, brought charges that Mrs. Carr had taken $4,700 from her to, "invest" in oil stocks. Several other persons then brought charges against her, including Robert L. Ross, president of the Franklin Savings Institution, Newark, NJ, and William T. Becker, West Orange, NJ realty broker.

According to a 1942 story in the Brooklyn Eagle, the woman was born Amelia Mildred Everts in Philadelphia. I've tried this name and several aliases, along with Mrs. J. Clarence Carr, but I have yet to find the date of her death or whether her 1950 con turned out to be the last one in her long career. She seemed to live by two guiding priciples – "There's a sucker born every minute" and "Never give a sucker an even break."

Many who met the woman along the way were wiser for the experience, but, alas, also poorer.

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