The Blue Ribbon Tale
Buffalo Police Detective
Sergeant William E. Burns
Deborah Kufel - Typist
Sergeant William E. Burns will probably never again run into
as fantastic a criminal chase as the one that cut a trail all
the way to Mexico and finally ended with the electrocution of
three Blue Ribbon gangsters for the murder of Ferdinand
The leader of that gang and one of the trio who died in
Sing Sing's electric chair was Alexander Bogdanoff, as cunning
and ruthless a criminal as Detective-Sergt.
William E. Burns has ever encountered in his two-score
years of policing.
"Aleck the Terrible," as he was known, owned up
to 18 murders before he died. But let's let Bill Burns tell
the story of how the Blue Ribbon gangsters were caught and the
mysterious Fechter murder solved, along with numerous other
crimes. "This Bogdanoff was quite a guy." Detective-Sergt.
"He was sentenced in New York in 1919 to serve 15
years for robbery and came here after being paroled in 1927.
He got into the hijacking racket and did pretty well.
Detective Sergeant William
of these things of course, we found out a couple of years
later after we had pinned the Fechter murder on him and he
came clean about everything.
"Well, there came a time in the hijacking racket when
some of the gang pulled a double-cross and Aleck and two pals
went gunning for a fellow who, incidentally, is still very
much around these days in downtown spots."
Aleck and his two pals looked for this fellow all evening
on New Year's Eve, Dec. 31, 1928. Finally, on a tip they
walked into the Peacock Inn early on New Year's morning, Jan.
The Peacock Inn was a second-floor nightclub in Washington
Street around the corner from Chippewa Street..
||"Aleck and his
gunmen didn't find their man so they started to leave.
As they got near the door, Mike George, who owned the
Peacock Inn, grabbed a gun somewhere behind the bar and fired
four or five shots at them. Bogdanoff, who was a dead shot
with a pistol, fired back. He killed George.
"By the time the police got there, Aleck and his pals
had disappeared. The gangland code was at its best then-no
squealing; remember, those still were the days of prohibition,
rum-running hijacking and squealers being taken 'for a
ride.'"Aleck beat it out of town and stayed out for
back to these parts in Mayor June 1929, and with his pals
pulled five different stickups in Niagara Falls; one, you may
remember, was at the Strand Theater when a policeman surprised
them and Bogdanoff shot and wounded him. Another was the
Spirella factory holdup when the gang got an $8000 payroll.
"By the way, Bogdanoff long afterward
learned that one of his pals had shorted him on the divvy and
that was why he and Stanley Piachorski-the famous Ziggy-parted
Bogdanoff swore he'd get Ziggy; he never told
us he did but, then nobody has ever heard of or seen Ziggy
since those days.
"Here's another sidelight on how Aleck
the Terrible and his Blue Ribboners worked. The gang had a
chauffeur, named Stanley Bartchowiak. Every time he got a few
drinks in him he'd become loose-mouthed. So, one day,
Bogdanoff and another man started across the river with
Stanley for a load of liquor.
"Out in the river, they killed Stanley,
wired him with copper and weighted him down and tossed him
overboard. After Bogdanoff told us about this, nearly two
years later, efforts were made to find the body but it was no
go. Only last year I went with the widow to court to prove him
legally dead so that she could collect some insurance.
Bogdanoff became acquainted with a couple of toughies named
Max Rybarczyk, known as "Max the Goose," and Stephen
Grzechowiak, called "Bob the Weeper." Aleck liked
them because they were killers and about his own age-he was 32
at that time, The Goose was 30 and The Weeper, 28.
"Max got wise that Ferdinand Fechter, who ran a soda
grill at Delavan and Northumberland, used to draw about
$10,000 from the bank on paydays
he could cash the checks of the men in the Chevrolet plant
across the street.
"They decided to pull the job on a Saturday morning,
July 27, 1929.Blanche, wife of Bob the Weeper, was given a
part-to go to Bailey and Kensington in a car and pull the fire
alarm box at a certain time, then drive to Genesee and down to
Main and pull another box. That, of course, was to keep the
cops busy while the holdup was in progress.
"Well, as Fechter started to get out of
his car in front of his place, there was Bogdanoff in front,
Bob on the left side and Max on the right. They knew Fechter
carried a gun in his car so they didn't give him a chance.
Bogdanoff put two bullets in him. They picked up the money and
started toward their own car, parked a few yards away-it had
been stolen the night before.
"On the way to the bandit car, The Goose
noticed that Fechter, who had fallen to the running board, was
still alive. So he put a gun to his head and finished him-'So
he'd never be able to identify me,' as he told me afterward.
"The gang went to a house in Fay Street
and whacked up the money-$8396 was the exact amount. Bogdanoff
went to New York and the others stayed here. Well, sir, we
took in many a man on suspicion but had to let them all go. A
week later we had to admit to newspapermen that after
investigating a flood of clues we had made no material
progress in solving the murder. The first break we got came on
Wednesday, Aug. 7, when the stolen car used by the gang was
found at Rawlins Avenue and Genesee Street. In it were a
45-caliber revolver shell and a metal-loaded rubber hose.
"A couple of days later somebody tipped
off Detective Chief John G. Reville that he knew the name of
the man who had killed Mike George in that Peacock Inn
shooting on New Year's Day. The informant said the killer was
named Bogdanoff and was right at the moment living at such and
such and address in New York.
"Chief Reville and Detective Sergt. John
J. Whalen and I were working on the Fechter murder. But none
of us had the remotest idea of any connection between the Mike
George killing and the Fechter case.
"While Reville was on the train for the
New York, the information that he was going there to get the
killer of Mike George was broadcast by a Buffalo radio
station-how the news came to be given out before Reville was
able to get his man has always been a mystery to me. Anyway,
when Reville got to that New York address, he found, of
course, that whoever had lived there had made a hurried
"So that was the end of that, for the
time being; and the Fechter murder still remained a mystery
and the man who, we had been told had killed Mike George,
still was on the loose. But to keep the story straight, I'll
have to tell you what happened next although we didn't find it
out, of course, until later.
"Upon leaving New York, Bogdanoff headed
for Mexico and showed up in Tampico. He went to the Standard
Oil Company plant there and got a job driving a truck. Most of
the truck drivers were Mexican. So the garage foreman and
Bogdanoff became friendly because Aleck was an American. We
have never disclosed the identity of this garage foreman; he
was known to all of us as 'Mr. X' and he'll remain Mr. X.
"They found a common ground for
friendship. Bogdanoff, an expert shot and a fancier of
firearms, was interested in that sort ofmechanism. Mr. X had
been a machine-gunner in the World War.
"As their friendship grew, Bogdanoff
confided in his new friend that he would like to make a set of
plates to counterfeit a $20 bill that would defy detection.
Mr. X suddenly realized that his new friend was a criminal. He
pumped Bogdanoff and learned that Aleck had taken an 8-months'
course in an Indiana engraving school and had the blocks all
ready to make these plates. Bogdanoff said he had some money
to help finance the thing but had a job in mind to get the
remainder of the necessary money.
||"Well, Mr. X had
served in the war with a pal named Eddie Tyrrel who happened
to be a United States Postal Inspector, stationed at San
Antonio. And it was one of Tyrrel's duties to keep abreast of
counterfeiters. So Mr. X wrote to his pal about Bogdanoff;
Tyrrel took it up with his superiors and the result was that
Mr. X was asked to keep a close watch on Bogdanoff.
"Mr.X got all the details of the counterfeiting plan
from Bogdanoff but he didn't find out where the blocks for the
plates were; and what the government men wanted was the
equipment for making the fake bills. Mr. X, of course,
pretended to be willing to become a confederate in the scheme.
"Finally came the day when Bogdanoff told Mr. X how he
was going to get the money he needed to finance his big
counterfeiting scheme. He told Mr. X that he knew where a
government truck often carried more than half a million
"All I need, Aleck told Mr. X, is two machine guns and
a man who knows how to handle 'em and we can take this truck,
easy. You're the man I need for the machine-gun job."
"But Aleck didn't tell Mr. X where the job was to be
pulled. So Mr. X said it was OK by him but he wanted to bring
in a buddy in San Antonio.
"Aleck and Mr. X went to San Antonio and met Tyrrel,
who posed as a gangster. They talked
the plan for capturing the federal money truck but still Aleck
didn't let on what city it was in. Aleck and Mr. X went back
||"One day Tyrrel
got a letter from Mr. X. It said that Bogdanoff had told him
that he was wanted badly in Buffalo and that Buffalo was where
they were going to hold up the truck carrying a load of money
to the Federal Reserve Bank.
"Tyrrel wrote to the police in Buffalo, asking about
the bank and the truck, to make sure he wasn't being kidded.
Well, sir, we all found itwasn't anything to kid about-because
there was such a truck makingfrequent trips to the Federal
Reserve Bank at Main and Swan Streetswith half a million or
a further exchange of correspondence, Reville and I began
thinking the thing back and trying to figure out what it was
that Bogdanoff had told Mr. X he was wanted for in Buffalo.
Mind you, we didn't know it was Bogdanoff but we decided that
was who it must be.
"Came the day when Bogdanoff and Mr. JX
left Tampico. Chief Reville assigned Johnny Whalen and me to
join two government men 'roping' him; that is, keeping close
tab on him all the time. We followed Bogdanoff and Mr. X all
around-from St. Louis to Boston to Buffalo.
"Remember, we don't know that Bogdanoff
did the Fechter job but we feel sure he did the Mike George
murder; but we can't take him in because the government men
want to find out where Bogdanoff's stuff is for making bum $20
bills. So we have to play along with them.
"When Bogdanoff and Mr. X came to
Buffalo, they went out to a house in Fay Street to live. The
house had no cellar; it rested on pins. And Johnny Whalen and
I used to go out there, get under the house and listen in on
what went on inside.
"Mr. X knew we were there, of course, and
he used to get the gangsters inside who were meeting with
Bogdanoff to start bragging about the jobs they had pulled.
And I took plenty of notes-they're right here in this little
"Bogdanoff bragged about the holdups he
had pulled in Kansas City and in St. Louis and New york. He
told about the killings he had committed. He cleared up a lot
of unsolved crimes in various cities. And finally, one night,
out of a clear sky-Whalen and I almost fell over in sheer
surprise-Bogdanoff told the whole story of the Fechter murder.
He and The Goose and The Weeper-they all were there in the
house-laughed and joked about how they had split the money up
and had given Blanche the small change that was left over for
pulling those false fire alarms.
couldn't do anything because the Secret Service men wanted to
find out where that counterfeiting equipment was.
"Meanwhile, besides the Fechter murder, Whalen and I
listened in while the gangsters cleared up a lot of unsolved
crimes; Bogdanoff bragged about his Niagara Falls holdups, how
he had weighted down his chauffeur's body and thrown it into
the Niagara River, and how he had done no less than 18
"Tom Daly, one of the government men, and I used to
keep in touch with Mr. X who'd keep us informed of the plans
for the federal truck holdup. Mr. X used to get out for a walk
now and then and Whalen remained behind to keep watch.
"Later on, because the gang thought that the best way
to do the thing right was for Mr. X to have a pistol permit
and a job as a guard at the steel plant, we fixed it up for
"The gang's plan was this: A team of horses pulling a
wagon would cross directly into the path of the federal money
truck; they'd throw tear gas in through those little
portholes, kill the driver, take over the truck and drive it
to a farm in Marilla.
There an aviator pal of Bogdanoff's would be
waiting. They'd unload the money into the plane and Bogdanoff
and the aviator would fly to a small place on the Hudson
River, Port Aloen was the name, I believe, and remain in
hiding for a while. "On Sundays, Bogdanoff and Bob the
Weeper and his wife, Blanche, used to go to a farm near
Marilla and there they'd practice shooting, especially aleck.
We found out about it and we used to hid nearby and watch 'em
shoot. Bogdanoff used to throw up something about as big as a
cop's badge and shaped like it and plug the thing right
through the middle. Boy, he could shoot!
"One day we discovered that the gang had
disappeared from the Fay Street place. Later we found out how
come; Blanche used to talk with some of the precinct men
occasionally who didn't suspect here of anything. She was
trying, of course, to find out if they suspected anything at
the house. And once an unsuspecting policeman remarked that he
wondered why headquarters men were hanging around.
"That's why the gang up and moved to a
house in Sloan which had no buildings on either side and made
everybody visible who approached the place. Naturally, we
found out about it from Mr. X. Don't ask me how we did it, but
anyway, we planted Dictaphones in the place.
"Seven days before the time set for the
bank job, the gang had a big party in the house. No less than
33 cars were on hand and the guests included politicians,
doctors, lawyers, business people of prominence and
others-none of whom, of course, knew what their hosts really
were. Even the Sloan cops were there. We were planted around
the place and took the license numbers of the autos. The
doctor who treated Bogdanoff on the night of the Mike George
shooting-Bogdanoff was wounded in two places that night-was
among the guests.
||"The day for the
bank job drew near. We didn't dare let the job go through; my
Lord, there would have been several people killed! They had
their tear gas and machine guns ready.
We couldn't take a chance any longer. So early on Sunday
morning, Sept. 8, we closed in on the mob. We used tear gas
bombs and made it very spectacular.
Whalen and I probably could have arrested the gang without
any trouble. But a hot political fight was coming on and lots
of publicity was wanted. So that's why it was done the
"Well, the gas that was tossed in the
house set the place on fire. Then a few of us had to go in
wearing gas masks that didn't work at all, they were so old.
We got Bob the Weeper and his wife out of the house. Aleck
heard the commotion, came out to see what it was all about and
we grabbed him. Later we got Max the Goose.
"Reville and Whalen and I decided on our
plan of action with the prisoners. I was to be the tough guy,
Whalen the soft, fatherly fellow, and Reville the
intermediary. We got Bob the Weeper into a room at the old
Police Headquarters; he wanted to talk to his mother. We got
her and they talked about 10 minutes. Then we sat Bob down in
"I proceeded to tell Bob the entire
Fechter story, word for word. He started to sweat. When I got
done, he started to cry. He was a big, husky fellow but he
broke completely and admitted that it was all true. Then we
called in a stenographer and he made a full confession.
"Then we brought in Max the Goose. He was
ice-cold, absolutely unemotional. I proceeded to tell him the
Fechter story, the part he played
in the holdup and murder. He was amazed, then
wanted to know who had told.
"Sure, it's true,' he admitted.
"Last, we brought in Aleck the Terror. Again I told
the story-this time quoting his own words as I had heard them
while I squatted under that house in Fay Street.
"Where did you get that?' Aleck wanted to
know, I told him about listening in on his bragging
"And I thought,' Aleck remarked, that I
was a smart hombre.'
"Well, there isn't much more to tell, I guess. Oh,
yes, the Secret Service men located the counterfeit equipment
and Aleck the Terror, Max the Goose and Bob the Weeper were
convicted of the Fechter murder and electrocuted."
On the Job
History of Police Woman
History of Black Officers
Meet Detective Sergeant Coyle
Meet Detective Sergeant Burns
Meet Patrolman Nicholas Donahue
Buffalo Housing 1980's
Days Gone By
Underwater Recovery Team
Homicide Cold Case Squad
CSI Crime Scene Investigation
Mobile Response Unit
Band and Drill Team
World War II
The Blue Ribbon Gang
The Mystery Perfume Case
The Felons Fang
Contract For A Hit
An Eye For Murder
The Boarder Bandits
Detective William Burns
Callea Brothers Murders
Magaddino Cheats Death
Aquino Brothers Murders
DeLuca Gangland Murder
Battaglia Gunned Down
Gerass Found In Trunk
Albert Agueci Murder
Birth Of Witness Protection
Murder Gangland Style
How America Meets The Mob
Anti-Gambling Crusader Murder
The Easy Money