Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Gaston Means came to Washington, D.C. under the Bureau of Investigation Administration of Benjamin Burns. Burns was a crony of Harry M. Daugherty, Attorney General in the Harding Administration. Burns had employed Means as a detective, and Means demonstrated great skill in not only uncovering the truth, but also as an extortionist. Means was suspended from his government job at the insistence of Daugherty, who was becoming increasing aware that Means was a loose canon.
Means often bragged during the era of the Harding Administration that he had been tried for every known crime, including murder, but never found guilty. This included the murder of one Maude King, an elderly widow that Means shot execution style on a walk outside of Concord, North Carolina. Means was found innocent primarily because of the local outrage that New York Attorneys were used on behalf of the prosecution staff.
In the late fall of 1922, Means began selling his services to local Washington Bootleggers, guaranteeing that he could “fix” their legal problems with the government. In 1924, following Harding’s death, Means was called to testify against Harry M. Daugherty during Congressional hearings that explored the Justice Departments role in failing to over see their duties under the Volstead Act.
Means was indicted for perjury and tried before a jury. During his testimony, Means' implicated the late President and Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon as being part of the cover up regarding the illegal issuance of liquor permits. Unable to support his own counter charges, and unable convince a jury of his innocence, Means was found guilty of perjury and sentenced to two years in a Federal prison.
Means ultimate con was the “writing” of The Strange Death of President Harding, in which Means provided the scenario that exposed Harding as being complicit in all of the scandals of the administration. The book captured the American public’s imagination, foremost of which involved the rumors that First Lady Florence Harding conspired to kill the President along with help from the Harding’s personal physician, Charles E. Sawyer. However in a 1933 edition of Liberty Magazine, Means “authorship” was exposed when Mae Dicker Thacker step forward and announced that she had ghosted the book for Means.
Means final flirtation with America was in 1932, when he convinced Harding friend and confident Evalyn Walsh McLean, owner of the Hope Diamond, that he knew the whereabouts of the Lindbergh baby. McLean advanced Means the sum of $100,000 which he had promised would access to the kidnappers. When this con game was exposed, Means was found guilty of larceny and sentenced to fifteen years. Assigned to the Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas Gaston B. Means died while in custody in 1938.
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