It was probably the Printing Club where he went wrong. He developed an unhealthy interest in certain kinds of printed materials.
In January of 1933, when he was 18, Winger was arrested in Omaha when a check of the State of Idaho bond he was trying to pass showed that it had been stolen. Young Winger had lifted $230,000 worth of blank bonds from the Symms-York Printing Company. That would be $4.5 million in today’s dollars.
Blank bonds would by themselves be worthless, so Winger wrote letters to Governor C. Ben Ross. Secretary of State Fred E. Lukens, and State Treasurer George C. Barrett asking questions about state government in order to obtain their signatures on the replies. Once he had them, he practiced forging the signatures until he was satisfied that they would pass inspection.
But forgery wasn’t enough. Each bond needed to carry the state seal. Winger figured that out, too. In an AP story published February 13, 1933 in the Idaho Statesman, Winger related it this way:
“The legislature was meeting and I noticed that the stenographer in the secretary of state’s office remained at her work several nights each week until after 6 o’clock. The building was always open and just at the entrance there was a case with keys to all doors hanging in it.
“I took these keys, opened an office and called the stenographer on the telephone. I told her to go to another office and when she left I went into the secretary of state’s office. I got the seal and carried it into the cloak room of the secretary’s private office and while there sealed all the bonds.”
It took some ingenuity to pull that off, as well as some strength. The seal weighed about 100 pounds.
Once caught, Winger didn’t fight extradition to Boise. But he was quoted as saying, “What’s going to make it tough will be to have to face my mother and the officials whose names I forged on the bonds. Gee, I’ll bet the Governor will be sore.”
With Winger’s arrest, the story seemed to dwindle. I couldn’t find anything about a trial and failed to find any records for Winger in old penitentiary documents. Perhaps they went light on him because of his youth and sent him to St. Anthony correctional center instead of the prison.
But, we know he was convicted, because another shoe dropped in December of 1936. Winger was in the news again as the “former convict” arrested for theft of $4,000 worth of printing equipment from Caxton Press in Caldwell. He seemed to be preparing it for shipping. Ink, apparently, was in his blood.
Again, the trail goes cold. I could find no further mention of Winger in the Statesman or any other newspaper in the region. I do have a good source that indicates he married and had a son some years later. Winger died in 1992.
It’s frustrating not to be able to tie up all the loose ends. That’s not unusual when doing research. Even so, I thought the story of Winger’s audacious crime was worth retelling.