Memories of the 1933 kidnapping in Baltimore of Albert Hendler, scion of the wealthy and prominent Hendler Creamery Co. family, have recently been revived in an exhibition of documents relating to the case at the Crime Museum in Washington.
The nation was still jittery after the shocking nighttime kidnapping a year earlier of Charles A. Lindbergh Jr., son of aviartion hero Charles A. Lindbergh Sr. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, from the crib of his home near Hopewell, N.J.
Hendler was the son of Lionel Manuel Hendler, the founder in 1905 of the Hendler Creamery Co. in the 1100 block of E. Baltimore St.
Early in 1929, the elder Hendler, who was a philanthropist, had sold his company to Borden's for 79,000 shares of Borden's stock in a deal that was estimated at the time to be worth $6 million.
Young Hendler, who was a junior at the Johns Hopkins University, was kidnapped Nov. 18, 1932, by three men after he attended a dance at the school.
He was taken to a cottage in Anne Arundel County, where he was asked by the kidnappers if his father would agree to pay a $30,000 ransom. After debating their next move, Hyman Goldfinger, one of the kidnappers, wanted to kill Hendler but was talked out of that by the other two.
Driven back to the city, Hendler was released near the Hanover Street Bridge and warned not to tell anyone what had happened.
One of the kidnappers removed $3 from Hendler's pocket and, to prove they weren't all bad, gave him a dollar for taxi fare.
"Shortly after the kidnapping, the young man's father is said to have received several letters demanding that a sum of money be paid to the kidnappers under a threat of harm either to Mr. Hendler or to his son," reported The Baltimore Sun. "These letters are reported to have been postmarked in New York."
The letter that arrived at the Hendler home at 913 Lake Drive incredibly contained the name and address of Lucian Pesco, a Bronx painter. Postal inspectors arrested Pesco on April 20, 1933, when he appeared at the post office to claim a package that had been mailed from a Baltimore roominghouse at 242 E. 39th St.
He admitted to police that he had sent the letter.
Pesco was turned over to federal authorities and was arraigned under the Lindbergh extortion law that set a maximum sentence of 20 years for sending an extortion letter through the mail.
He then told Assistant U.S. Attorney Alvin Sylvester that he knew nothing of the one-night kidnapping of Hendler by the Baltimore gang.
Meanwhile, the elder Hendler had received a second letter from another party of extortionists, Baltimore police said, who saw "a chance for some easy money," reported The Sun.
"We will not try to kidnap you or your son; a few bullets from a passing automobile into your or your son's car is one way of paying our unsatisfactory business debts. It will also serve as an example in our remaining business matters with our clients in Baltimore and Washington," read the letter, part of which was published in the newspaper.
The kidnappers were eventually found. A Baltimore grand jury indicted Hyman Goldfinger, Samuel Max Lipsizt and Harry Surasky on charges of robbery with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to extort money, The Sun reported on May 12, 1933.
"Because of the importance of the matter involving the family of one of our respected citizens, nothing will be left undone by me in the handling of the case, so if they are the guilty parties they will receive their just desserts," State's Attorney Herbert R. O'Conor told The Sun.
Goldfinger, Lipsizt and Surasky were found guilty and sentenced to prison. Goldfinger and Surasky were paroled in 1942. Lipsizt, who also came up for parole in 1942, turned it down.
He told the parole director, "I don't want a parole; I want a commutation," The Sun reported.
"If Lipsizt wants to stay in prison another six months that's his business," parole director Herman M. Moser told the newspaper.
After graduating from Hopkins in 1934, Hendler went to work for the Hendler Creamery Co., eventually becoming its president. He retired in 1965 as chairman of Borden's Southeast division and had served on the company's board of directors.
He died in 1997 at age 86.
The Crime Museum exhibition file includes the original Hendler ransom note and two mug shots of the kidnappers.
The museum is at 575 Seventh St. N.W. in Washington. For more information, call 202-621-5567.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun