1923 drug bust on Front Street in Orange would fit today’s blotter

Published 12:30 am Saturday, January 28, 2023

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The Orange Daily Leader reported on Jan. 28, 1923, about what today is called a “drug bust” conducted by George V. Denman, Orange Chief of Police and Federal Narcotics Agent John Tully on January 27.

The two officers had been watching the American Express freight office on Front Street waiting for two men they had been informed would be picking up a package containing illegal substances.

Chief Denman and Agent Tully observed the two men as they stopped their auto in front of Toup’s Domino Parlor. The men were identified as Leonard McDonald, 38, and Nathan A. Taylor, 36. Both men were residents of Beaumont.

McDonald stayed in the car as Taylor went into the freight office. Taylor had in his possession an order form that was signed, J.H. Thomas, M.D.

Earlier McDonald had posed as “Dr. J.H. Thomas” and ordered that the shipment should not be delivered to Taylor.

When Taylor entered the office and presented the order, the agent would not give the package to Taylor. Taylor told the agent he would bring Dr. Thomas to the office so Dr. Thomas could allow him (Taylor) to receive the package. He said he would be back in about 10 minutes.

Taylor returned to the office accompanied by McDonald, posing as Dr. Thomas, and the agent delivered the package to Taylor. Chief Denman and Agent Tully had entered the office, Tully jabbed his pistol in Taylor’s ribs, then handcuffed him. Taylor offered no resistance, only commenting “My God, mister.”

Denman grabbed McDonald and handcuffed him. McDonald also did not resist being arrested.

The shipment of drugs contained morphine and cocaine. It was sent from the Direct Sales Company, Inc., a standardized pharmaceutical company of Buffalo, New York. It was addressed to J.H. Thomas, Orange, Texas. The value of the package was listed as $53.

Information about the suspicious order had been forwarded to Agent Tully. Tully had information that the order for the drugs had been placed on a regular physician’s order blank signed “J.H. Thomas, M.D.” Suspicion had been raised due to the frequency and large quantity of such shipments.

Agent Tully had been sent to Orange by W.S. Woods, head of the narcotics squad of the El Paso office. On his arrival in Orange, Tully contacted Chief Denman and they made their plans.

Chief Denman had already been “tipped off” about the suspicious shipment and was preparing to confiscate it when Tully arrived.

The Chief had received a complaint from Dr. Thomas, formerly of Orange, that order blanks and bill heads had been stolen from his office and orders had been placed in his name.

Two prior shipments had been made on Nov. 4 and Nov. 29 and been received and carried from the express office by Taylor.

The shipment confiscated on this date contained three one-ounce bottles of morphine sulphate, 16 one-ounce bottles of morphine tablets, one-half grain of morphine, eight one-eighth ounce bottles of cocaine hydrochloride in flakes, 25 hydro tablets of one-eighth grain of cocaine each and 100 hydro tablets of heroin of one-eighth grain each.

These drugs together with another shipment expected in two days, with its contents known from shipment records, were estimated to be worth $8,742 at what was then called “bootleg prices.”

Agent Tully stated he would go to Beaumont to file charges against the two men before the U.S. Commissioner in the federal offices there.

The men would be held on a conspiracy to violate three parts of the Harrison Narcotic Act by selling narcotic drugs, a violation of the law by transporting narcotic drugs, and a section of the act dealing with forging a doctor’s signature on an order blank in an effort to secure drugs.

The maximum aggregate penalty for the chargeable offenses was 12 years in the penitentiary.

The two men could also face state charges for the forging of Dr. Thomas’ name.

“And now you know.”

— Written by Mike Louviere