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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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Cop held in bribery


May 3, 1957
Santa Monica

1957_0503_photo Thomas Alfred Gates, 33, a chef at a Santa Monica restaurant, approached The Times with a story. Gates, who was charged with grand theft, said that during a recess in his preliminary hearing, Detective Curtis Frank, 45, offered to get his case reduced to a misdemeanor for $150.

The Times and district attorney's investigators gave Gates marked money and a wireless microphone. A Times photographer using a telephoto lens took pictures of the transaction as Gates handed Frank an envelope containing $80 in money marked with fluorescent powder.

Santa Monica Police Chief Otto Faulkner fired Frank, but told the detective he could ask to be reinstated if he was found not guilty.

Dist. Atty.'s Lt. Howard Hooper testified that when he took Frank to the rear of the restaurant to be searched, a packet of money fell to the ground next to Frank's feet. Times reporter Clarence Mortenson testified that Frank asked "for a break" during his arrest. Frank, meanwhile, said that he had been framed.

During the trial, Douglas Huff came forward to testify that when he was arrested for attempted burglary, Frank offered to reduce charges against him for $150. Huff said he refused to pay the money and was sentenced. Jurors also heard a recording of a conversation between Gates and Frank, a conversation that Frank said never occurred.

The Times said an "all-woman jury" found Santa Monica Police Detective Curtis Frank not guilty despite the testimony, photographs, recording and presence of fluorescent powder from the marked money. Unfortunately, we don't know the details because the story got bumped off Page 1 for the microfilmed edition, so all that remains is a photo caption of Frank, his wife and his attorney in the hallway of the courthouse.

And as of 1965, according to The Times, Frank was still with the Santa Monica Police Department. According to the Social Security Death Index, a man named Curtis Frank, born Jan. 10, 1912, and issued a Social Security card in California, died in Henderson, Nev., on Dec. 4, 1995.

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Comments (1)

Raymond Chandler called it Bay City, a hotbed of vice and corruption. Crooked cops patrolled its streets and a Mafia owned floating casino was anchored off the coast.

You are speaking, of course, of the Rex and Tony Cornero.

I'll post an ad.


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