With the end in sight for prohibition, many gangsters turned away from bootlegging and run-rumming to become kidnappers, which was regarded as a more profitable risk than bank robbing, since so many banks were failing or closed by frequent "bank holidays." Most robberies proved to be of the nickel-and-dime variety.

John "Jake the Barber" Factor, a Chicago con man who had returned home after swindling English investors in a Ponzi scheme, found other uses for two kidnappings in 1933. Both were family affairs and were well-covered by newspapers. Though suspicious from the start, these two kidnappings had to be taken seriously until proven otherwise. Now it is recognized that Factor engineered both of them, each for a different reason.

"Jake" was the brother of Max Factor, who went to Hollywood and became famous in the make-up and cosmetics business. "Jake" probably should have gone to Hollywood, too, because he could act with the best of them.


Syracuse Journal, April 17, 1933
CHICAGO (INS) — “Return my boy and I will gladly give up everything I have.”

That was the gesture of despair uttered today by John “Jake the Barber” Factor, multi-millionaire stock promoter, after four sleepless days and nights of search for his 19-year-old son, Jerome.

Murray Humphreys of the gang formerly headed by Al Capone is directing negotiations for payment of a $50,000 ransom.

Factor, a former barber, is fighting extradition to England where he has been charged with having swindled British investors out of $7 million in stock promotions.


Most significant items in the above story are the name Murray Humphreys and Factor's efforts to avoid extradition to England.

On the morning of April 21, Jerome Factor, a Northwestern University student and a good son, returned after his nine-day "captivity." He was unharmed, of course, and his father claimed he hadn't paid any ransom, though later there would be reports that $25,000 was paid to the "abductors," whoever they were.

"Jake the Barber" demanded vengeance, but reporters suspected his son had willingly gone along with a plan to help his father avoid an appearance before the July grand jury.

Helping orchestrate the plan was slick gangster Humphreys, who soon arranged another kidnapping, this one intended to prevent Barber's extradition by perhaps exhausting the statute of limitations on the crime in Great Britain.

More importantly, Humphreys hoped to pin the kidnapping on a rival gangster.

Note in the following two story how "Jake the Barber" is referred to as a "stock wizard" and that Dells Cafe is called "the swanky roadhouse." Newspapers loved to embellish. Reporters also had difficulty keeping figures straight. The first story says Factor swindled British investors out of $7 million; the story below says it was $8 million.


Syracuse Journal, July 1, 1933
CHICAGO (INS) — For the second time this year kidnappers have struck the family circle of John “Jake the Barber” Factor, boldly abducting the multi-millionaire stock promoter today as he was leaving the Dells Cafe with a gay party.

A band of gunmen, numbering about a dozen, seized Factor from the side of his 19-year-old son, Jerome, and whisked the internationally known stock wizard away in one of the gang’s two automobiles. Jerome Factor was kidnapped last April 13 for $25,000 ransom.

Factor’s wife, Bella, likewise was a horror-stricken witness to the abduction.

The gunmen wheeled alongside the Factor party this morning as they were leaving the swanky roadhouse. Three automobiles made up the Factor party, with the financier, now fighting extradition to England in connection with stock promotions, riding in the second car.

Brandishing a formidable array of weapons, the gangsters forced Factor and Al Epstein, wealthy attorney and investment broker, to accompany them. They made no attempt to harm the youth, who recently was held captive for eight days. Neither did they pay attention to the women in the party.

The gunmen blindfolded their two captives, and the two high-powered cars roared away. Three miles further on, the kidnappers liberated Epstein, warning him not to spread the alarm.

As Epstein was leaving the car, Factor pleaded from behind his blindfold:

“This is a kidnapping, Al. For God’s sake, do whatever they tell you to, and get them anything they ask, and don’t hesitate. It looks like a long ride for me.”

Epstein informed authorities and immediately made his way to his home here and began organizing friends by telephone in a movement to free Factor.

The attorney refused to affirm a report that Murray Humphreys, present kingpin of the rackets, has again been enlisted to talk with the kidnappers to bring about the stock promoter’s release. It was Humphreys and five other leading members of the old Capone gang who acted as a “secret six” three months ago to comb gangland for Factor’s son.

Police began a search early today for the tough gang of “cowboys,” a rough and ready mob that rules the beer and gambling rights in the northwest outskirts of the city.

Factor has been accused of mulcting British investors out of an estimated $8 million in an alleged bucket shot venture in London. He has since been fighting attempts on the part of the British government to have him extradited to London for trial.

Not many years ago, Factor was a Halsted Street barber. Becoming interested in finance, he acquired a modest fortune on the Chicago Stock Exchange and then transferred his field of operations abroad.

Also that day, it was reported the widow of slain New York city racketeer Jack “Legs” Diamond had herself been killed, apparently because she knew too much and had a big mouth.

Mrs. Alice Schiffer Diamond was shot in the back of her head by a .38 caliber pistol. She had been dead for two days in her Brooklyn apartment before her body was discovered.

Police found fingerprints and announced they knew the identity of her murderers.

That Factor and "Legs" Diamond would be in the news on the same day was interesting because the two men had had business dealings several years earlier and Factor had good reason to believe Diamond was out to kill him.


Factor was "released" a few days later and delivered an award-worthy performance. Police were slow to pick up on the second motive behind the "kidnapping" — in fact, many authorities didn't acknowledge it even after it became obvious — but Factor and his partners in this farce were going to frame an enemy for a crime that never happened. Factor planted the seeds with a tale he told police about three wealthy Chicago men who might soon be abducted.


Syracuse Journal, July 14, 1933
CHICAGO (INS) — Every move of three of Chicago’s wealthiest sportsmen was under the careful surveillance of government agents today, following a tip the trio had been marked as kidnapping victims.

The gang which kidnapped John “Jake the Barber” Factor and for 12 days subjected him to mistreatment until $50,000 ransom was paid, is said to be awaiting an opportunity to seize John D. Hertz, capitalist and former taxicab and moving picture executive; Otto Lehmann, wealthy department store owner, and Warren Wright, rich real estate operator.

That the men are in imminent danger was revealed by Factor, who told authorities that one of his abductors told him while he was being held prisoner:

“Jake, you can get all the ransom back by setting up some of your rich friends for the ‘snatch.’ You tell us who will make good pickings, show us where we can seize them, and we’ll split with you.”

On his indignant refusal, Factor said, he was threatened by his captors.

While Factor said the amount paid by friends for his release was $50,000, it was reported the ransom payment was much larger. He denied he has promised to pay more following his release, but it was said by friends of the millionaire stock market operator that the sum ranged between $100,000 and $200,000.


The kidnapping of "Jake the Barber" Factor was a diversion in a Chicago mob war. The plan was to pin the kidnapping on Roger Touhy, an Irish-American mob boss whose home base also was Chicago. In hindsight, Factor seems so transparent that it's difficult to believe anyone fell for his nonsense, but his ability to lie is probably how he fooled so many investors.

Touhy was convicted and would have spent the rest of his life in prison hadn't the truth come out — several years later. Even at that, Touhy wasn't pardoned. On November 24, 1959, after a long series of legal battles, Touhy was released from prison on parole, still officially considered guilty of a crime he didn't commit. For Touhy, It would have been better had he remained behind bars. On December 16, 1959 — after just 22 days of freedom — he was gunned down by three men on the steps of his sister's house and died about an hour later.

Touhy had had enemies galore. A few months before he was convicted to the Factor kidnapping, he was framed for another famous 1933 kidnapping, but he and his alleged cohorts were acquitted. That kidnapping, which took place in June, had as its victim William Hamm Jr., a millionaire brewer. The gang actually responsible for the Hamm kidnapping has since become famous and the subject of several movies.