Chasing family history can be fun, but it can also be difficult and even a little surprising. For instance I’ve been trying learn why my great-grandfather Luis Jose Olivera left his family in Scotia, California, and returned to the Azores.
It could be that I’ve finally found the reason and it is not a happy one. It appears he was in trouble with the law and may have been compelled to leave the country.
From the 1938 ‘Modesto Bee and Herald-News,’ datelined: “Merced, August 9 – District attorney F.A. Silveira yesterday filed complaints charging eight dairymen with violation of a quarantine order of the department of agriculture issued August 1st against the movement of milk taken from reactors into market channels.”
The final paragraph of the story reads: “The dairymen named are Joe Lawrence, Antone G. Pimentel, George Silveira, Antonio Silva, Saverino M. Souza, Joaquin Olivera, Frank Roberto, Joe Oliveira and Augustine Ferreira.”
A number of times during my searches for great-Grandpa Luis, I’ve found his name and my Grandpa Joaquin Luis Olivera to be confused with one another. It has happened to me a time or two, when people referred to me as ‘Thomas Darby, Jr.,’ when they actually meant my dad, whose full name was ‘Thomas Junior Darby.’
(I’ve also found instances of Lou, Louis, Joe and Joseph.)
Great-grandpa’s troubles seem to start five years earlier though, when is appears he was implicated in a ‘swindle case probe.’ I found the story in the January 28, 1938 edition of the Oakland Tribune.
Evidently a dragnet had been established to keep the alleged ringleader from getting away. In this case V.L Coffelt and L.W. Garcia were arrested by the District Earl Warren’s office.
It completed the roundup of officials and agents of the ‘Pittsburg Building and Loan Association’ and the ‘Lusitania Corporation, Ltd.,’ who were accused of participation in a swindle of some Central California residents.
According to the article, Coffelt, vice-president of the Pittsburg company and secretary of the other, was captured on the Altamont Pass highway after eluding police sent to Los Angeles. As for Garcia, described as “an agent for the interlocking companies,” he was arrested in Mariposa and returned to jail.
Two other men, also described as agents, Jack Freitas and Rufino Fernandez, were taken into custody at Fernandez’ Oakland home. Earlier that day, G.R Searl, secretary of the Pittsburg and president of the Lusitania, was arrested at the company’s headquarters, while agent Frank L. Smith, was handcuffed in Sacramento.
All were charged with grand theft and booked ‘for investigation,’ to prevent release on bail until witnesses, many of them unable to read or write, can identify them. All, with the exception of Coffelt, were taken to Hayward and questioned by the D.A., Warren.
So how does my great-Grandfather fit into all this?
Evidently, Fernandez told investigators that he acted as a ‘salesman,’ for the companies and that another company, ‘General Explosive & Powder Company,’ was brought into the case by Joaquin Olivera, of Niles. Meanwhile, Police Judge George H. Hickman, secretary of the powder company claimed no knowledge of the stock fraud scheme.
Fernandez also told officials that he ‘worked on’ Olivera and Antonio Silva to invest $7,000 and $6,000 respectively into the Lusitania Corporation. He then admitted he directed Freitas to take Silva and Olivera to a couple of women’s homes to tell them about their investments and the great returns they were getting on the money.
Problem is, there were no returns and the women, smelled a rat, but not before handing over their savings to Freitas. Emily Pine gave the alleged con-artist over $6225 and later using the same ruse, bilked Antonia Gonsalves and her three daughters, Laura, Adeline and Louise, out of $1,500.
By all appearance, my great-grandpa was cleared of any charges brought against him and he even went on to become a complainant in the case against the company officers. But by then he was a marked man and under the watchful eye of the law and a second brush with the legal system sent him packing for the old country.
The chase continues.