How many bank robberies need to be committed by the same team to constitute a crime spree? At least four, according to Summit County Sheriff Pat Hutchinson. Still, Hutchinson and his detectives had their hands full when four banks across the region, including the Sharon, Peninsula, Bedford, and Twinsburg banks, were held up over the course of several months in 1920.
On March 6, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Robbers made an unsuccessful attempt to blow the safe in the Sharon Center Banking Company.” The modus operandi was nitroglycerin, a smokeless yet highly volatile explosive. A neighbor of the bank was awakened around three a.m. by a noise he assumed came from his barn, but most likely was the detonation of the nitro next door.
On September 16, four men again attempted to blow open the safe maintained by Sharon Center Banking. The bandits escaped due to the late hour and the use of mattresses to muffle the explosion. Nearby residents, dressed in their bedtime attire, rushed to the scene, reporting the explosion as having occurred around four a.m. One of the would-be bank robbers took the idea of a clean getaway quite literally and washed up before making his exit. Detectives located the latent fingerprint in a bar of soap. Fingerprinting was still a relatively new science, having been introduced to the United States in New York late in 1905, just fifteen years prior to the robbery streak that gripped Northeast Ohio.
On October 13, 1920, the band of bandits struck closer to home. Nitroglycerine and basement walls seldom encounter one another, though this seemed to be a more common occurrence than one might suppose. The thieves were credited with taking $1,250 from the Twinsburg Banking Company. Adjusted for inflation, that 1920 figure would be worth close to $15,000 in 2016. Sheriff Hutchinson and a team of special detectives vowed to apprehend the culprits, claiming, as reported in the Plain Dealer, “to have evidence that the Twinsburg job was done by the same gang of highwaymen which robbed the Peninsula Bank several months ago, the Sharon Bank only a few weeks ago, and which also had been operating on Sherbondy Hill [Akron] in holding up pedestrians and motorists.”
Greed begets more greed, and too much greed almost always ends poorly for those involved. Such was the case for the band of bank bandits and their legendary lucky streak. A rain of bullets would end in bloodshed on October 22, 1920, following an attempt on the Bedford branch of the Cleveland Trust Company. The Plain Dealer reported: “One bandit was killed. Three other robbers, including George ‘Jiggs’ Losteiner, much wanted crook, were seriously wounded. A bank clerk was shot and is near death. This occurred in a battle in which more than 200 shots were exchanged between the bandits and citizens armed with revolvers and shotguns.”
Jiggs Losteiner’s legal problems only escalated, as charges of murder were brought against him a month later. According to the Sandusky Star-Journal, Jiggs was under the guard of one hundred Cleveland police and deputy sheriffs for the murder of Patrolman Patrick Gaffney, two years earlier. A plea of not guilty was entered for the murder, though his guilt in the armed bank robbery was affirmed.
The Plain Dealer published the following list of men shot in the final robbery:
Albert Joyce, alias Johnson,
Killed. Said by police to have a
long police record.
George (“Jiggs”) Losteiner,
wounded , not seriously. A noto-
rious crook and pal of John Gro-
gan, who is serving a life sentence
for the murder of an East Cleve-
Harry Stone, wounded, not se-
riously. Alleged by police to have
a long criminal record and only re-
cently released after a term of six
years in Leavenworth penitentiary.
Unidentified Man, wounded se-
verely. Police are comparing Ber-
tillon records in an effort to identify him.
Four Men, who escaped, all believed
to have been wounded. Bank em-
ployes furnish police with general
William Petre, bank clerk, 9011
Bucckeye road S.E. In serious con-
dition with buckshot wounds in
chest and abdomen.
C.H. Maxseiner, barber. Bedford,
wounded in hand by two of bandits