The New York Times January 26, 1911
CUSTOMS MEN RAID
TWO OPIUM SHOPS
Drug Selling Agencies for United
States in League with Police
of Various Cities.
BUSINESS DONE OPENLY
Well Dressed People Buying the stuff
at Retail Over the Counter--- No
Police Hindrance Here.
What is believed to be the national distributing centre of the traffic in opium in this country was uncovered yesterday afternoon, when Acting Deputy Surveyors Norwood and Harris, with ten Custom House Inspectors, raided two ostensible Chinese tea importing houses in Seventh Avenue, between Thirty-seventh and Fortieth Streets.
In the desk of the proprietor of the Tuck Long & Co. concern, at 496 Seventh Avenue the Deputy Surveyors found bundles of letters showing that the proprietor, Charlie Boston, carried on a mail business with white and Chinese customers all over the country, had relations with several large manufacturing chemical houses of distant cities, and was on intimate terms with police officials of Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Chicago, and Boston.
The raiders have been watching the place for several days and during that time they have seen hundreds of well dressed people. the most of them white, go into these two stores and buy opium over the counter. Their own men have been inside and bought the drug as they would buy a package of needles.
It to almost unbelievable," said one of the deputy surveyors after the raids. "Here within a short block of Broadway, and only a few steps below Forty-second Street, this business is carried on openly and the police in several years have not been able to discover any evidence of it."
Shortly after 3 o'clock the raiding party entered the "Chinese tea and cigar shop" of Sam Lee, at 554-1/2 Seventh Street.
The establishment looks very much like any of the thousands of confectionery and stationery stores that line streets like Third and Second Avenues, except that it is difficult to see through the show windows into the store. When the raiders got in the front door they found themselves in a kind of a cage, half-inch bars of iron extending from the counter to the ceiling. Through these bars the customer had to tell what was wanted.
There were three Chinamen inside when the Inspectors entered. They did not have to be told that the entrance of this body of men meant trouble. They refused to comply with orders to open the bars. When the raiders tried to break them the Chinamen screamed in rage. 0o Wah, apparently the oldest, made a dash toward the end of the counter, and Inspector Murphy, thinking he was after a revolver, braced his back it against the wall of the store and broke through the boarding under the counter. His example was quickly followed by the others, and just as he made a space large enough to crawl through, the old Chinese got the revolver he was after. Murphy jumped on him behind the bars before he could bring it into play.
Meanwhile the two other Chinaman made for the rooms behind and endeavored to get out the rear door. This leads into a rear yard in which are built some two-story inside tenements. They might have gotten away had not Norwood taken the precaution to place two inspectors on guard at the exit there.
They caught the two fugitives as they were dashing out. The three were taken before Commissioner Shields in the Federal Building. He had issued search warrants under which the premises were entered. The gave their names as Oo Wah, Kay Chung, and Fong Kee.
Each was held in $1,500 bail and sent to the Tombs on charges of selling opium unlawfully brought into the country.
Letters From Police Heads.
At Charlie Boston's place, where "imported Chinese teas" were supposed to be sold, there was no difficulty experienced in making an entrance. Nobody opposed the three raiders who were sent there. In a rear room they found a young Chinaman dressed in American fashion, who, they say, had just composed himself to smoke an opium pill.
He was also taken before Commissioner Shields, at whose hands he received similar treatment to that accorded the other three.
It was in searching Charlie Boston's desk that the Inspectors came upon the evidence of a wide opium traffic. There were two large bundles of letters, all of recent date. There were several which showed the proprietor to be on good terms with police officials of various cities. One appeared to be from J. M. Morin, Director of Public Safety of Pittsburg, in which were thanks for the gift of tea and a kimono "to Mrs. Morin and myself."
Another of similar character was signed with the name of Chief of Police Thomas A. McQuaide, and in this was a Pittsburg Police card.
There was another, ostensibly from Capt. Murray, of a police precinct in Pittsburg, which was in the form of a letter of introduction to the Superintendant of Police at Chicago, which said that Charlie Boston was a good friend of his and that any services in his behalf would be appreciated by the writer.
Another Communication to a police official of Boston introduced Charlie is as "a good celestial."
These communications are in the United States District Attorney's hands.
There were several letters from large manufacturing chemists in other cities in which mutual trades were suggested. One from a firm In Rochester, asked if he could use fifty cases of a commodity that was only alluded to by a Chinese name.
In both establishments complete "layouts" for opium smoking were found for sales. They were all disposed on the shelfs, behind the counters with the prices plainly marked on them.
During the time that the Inspectors have been watching the places they say they have seen customers come in throngs.
Charlie Boston, whom the Inspectors believe to be one of the biggest opium dealers in the country and probably allied with the "opium ring" which is supposed to have its headquarters in San Francisco, was not found yesterday. The Surveyor's men say they believe he left for Philadelphia yesterday morning.
Special to The New York Times.
PITTSBURG Penn. Jan 25--- "Yes, I gave Charlie Boston a police card when he was in Pittsburg, and when he sent me some trinkets from New York on his return on account of courtesies he had been shown in Pittsburg, I directed that a letter or thanks be sent him. I suppose Morin did the same."
This was the reply made to-night by Chief of Police Thomas A. McQuaide to an inquiry as to why the letter from himself and the Director of Public Safety John I. Morin should have been found in Charlie Boston's possession.
"The Chinese big follows from all over the country had some sort of a convention here, and Boston appeared to be the head of them all," explained McQuaide. "He came to see me, and I gave him a police card--- a card entitling him to go anywhere in the city.
"I also went out of my way to make the stay of all those Celestials pleasant, and when they went away they were loud in their praise of their treatment, and announced publicly that they would send some presents to Pittsburg, which they did.
They sent me some little trinkets like handkerchiefs, &c., for Mrs. McQuaide, and I suppose they did the same for Morin.
I replied, and that's all there was to it."
Director Morin could not be found to-night.