Make Sure Your Getaway Vehicle Doesn’t Break Down

National Bureau of Standards, Washington, DC, ca. 1920
National Bureau of Standards, Washington, DC, ca. 1920

by Spencer Howard

The following story is filed with Bureau of Standards reports to Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover:

On Sunday morning, March 20, 1921, the arrest of a young man and the recovery of a truck full of Government radio equipment was reported to the Superintendent of the Bureau of Standards.  The robbery was committed by Oscar Nauck, a former employee of the Bureau.

The young man had evidently had trouble with the truck, which was found stalled on Tilden Street near the Bureau.  Police Officers Belt and Warren of the Tenleytown Precinct arrested him because of his suspicious actions and his attempt to draw a revolver.  The truck was later discovered and taken to Tenleytown Station.  Here the property, valued at $11,000, was identified by the senior officers of the Radio laboratory of the Bureau and released.

One year ago there was a theft of Bureau platinum valued at $11,000.  Numerous clues were followed up in cooperation with the Department of Justice and the District Police.  The District Police by telegrams and circular letters successfully tied up all outlets for the disposal of platinum throughout the country and sent broadcast printed itemized description of the Bureau’s stolen platinum…

When the radio equipment theft was reported last Sunday, those in charge of the platinum case were at once convinced that young Nauck was concerned in the platinum theft of a year ago.  This was more certain since a number of keys were found in his possession admitting to Bureau rooms.  Further investigation Monday morning disclosed several additional grounds for suspicion.  Request was promptly made for a search warrant which was finally issued Monday afternoon, and a search of Nauck’s laboratory uncovered $2,000 worth of additional radio equipment belonging to the Signal Corps, the Navy Department, the Post Office Department, and the Bureau of Standards.  The material was promptly identified by the Government radio representatives and will soon be released for return to the Bureau.  Young Nauck was found also to have in his possession more than one hundred books belonging to the Library of Congress, also tires and other automobile equipment.

Among the material recovered at the Nauck house were a small piece of platinum and a piece of platinum ribbon which the platinum custodian of the Chemistry Division of the bureau recognized as Bureau property.  With this evidence, Police Officers Bauer and Mullen further questioned Nauck who finally broke down, admitted the platinum theft, and sketched the location of the stolen platinum.  The small box containing the platinum was then dug up from the cellar floor of the Nauck house.  The full amount was not recovered and further search and inquiry are now in progress.  About four-fifths of the stolen platinum is actually recovered.  Nauck is now out on $12,000 bail awaiting trial.

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