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World’s Richest Cop: Back when I was a kid growing up in Chicago, the town harbored “the richest cop in the world.” Daniel “Tubbo” Gilbert was a brutal thug, dirty police captain, corrupt union boss, crooked district attorney’s investigator, Mafia henchman, and political fixer. And reputedly worth millions.

On the Beat

I remember wondering how anyone could get wealthy on a policeman’s scanty pay. But Tubbo was a man without a conscience. What kind of a man would help fix milk prices during the Depression, when jobless families desperately tried to feed their children?

Tubbo was linked to helping the Teamsters-then under mob rule-in a scandal that also involved Dr. Herman Bundesen of the Chicago Board of Health and officials of the milk drivers’ union in the shameless conspiracy, according to a 2002 article by John William Tuohy (http://americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_216.html). Tubbo-thanks to his boss, State’s Attorney Thomas Courtney, who refused to demand his resignation-beat the rap, as usual. (Oddly, the scandal didn’t involve Tubbo beating anyone senseless, his customary MO.)

If you crossed him, your life was in danger. After Tubbo and Courtney were accused of using the State’s Attorney’s office to harass a city alderman, the frightened politician filed a formal complaint against them. As he was driving home one night, under the protection of two police detectives, a dark sedan pulled up and an occupant fired eight shots. The alderman’s car crashed. No one was hurt, but he dropped charges the next morning.

(In those days, you had to bring your car in for regular safety checks of lights, brakes, etc. If you laid a dollar bill on the seat when you got out to allow the inspector to get in, you were fairly sure of passing, and the greenback would have disappeared.

Sadly, the courts were infected by corruption as well. A good friend was accused of being in possession of a stolen motorcycle seat. Money changed hands, and the charge was dropped. I was sure he was innocent, anyway.)

According to Tuohy, Tubbo “crawled out of a Chicago slum called the Valley and grew to be one of the most politically powerful and wealthiest lawmen in American history.”

During his peak of power, Tubbo was one step away from becoming police chief during the 1930s. That didn’t happen, but in the 1950s he was nominated for Cook County sheriff and was considered a sure winner. Then presidential candidate Senator Estes Kefauver’s committee blew into town, demanding that Tubbo testify about his role in Chicago crime. Tubbo declined. But Chicago newspapers, which had followed his sordid career for decades, made such a fuss that he agreed to testify in private.

Tubbo insisted that he was only worth about $300,000, mostly as a result of trading on the Chicago grain market. (The newspapers estimated his wealth in the millions.) Tubbo didn’t deny charges of assault with intent to kill that had been leveled against him in a 1940 election by a judge running against Tubbo’s pal, the state’s attorney. Records of that event mysteriously disappeared, and then the whole incident went away. Tubbo also admitted that when he was in office as the state attorney’s investigator, justice was on a “cash-and-carry basis.”

Ace crime reporter Ray Brennan flew to Washington and conned a steno service into giving him the transcript of Tubbo’s testimony, key elements of which were then published in the Sun-Times. Brennan dubbed Tubbo “the world’s richest cop.” Disgusted voters gave him a drubbing and elected to the sheriff’s office John “Two Gun” Babb, a World War II vet. A few days later, Tubbo resigned to become police chief at a local race track, where his brother was a lieutenant.

But Brennan found that the brother had been out on sick leave from the Chicago P.D. since 1948, drawing paychecks from both the race track and city police. After that, Tubbo moved to California, where he planned to open a detective agency in L.A., which had enough corruption as it was. A massive heart attack intervened; Tubbo returned to Chicago in a wheelchair in the early 1970s. A forgotten man, “the richest cop” died in 1977.

I’ve only touched on Tubbo’s life of brutality and corruption of public office. These days, Chicago is no paradise of municipal good behavior, but from what I know, there are no more Tubbos.

Brennan was indicted for posing as a public official to get the transcript, and faced a six-year stretch in prison. But three years later, the Justice Department dropped the case on grounds that the reporter had “no criminal intent.”

You might think that crusading crime reporters like Brennan lived in grave danger. But Tubbo “never held a grudge against Brennan for bringing him down,” Tuohy said.

In one of Tubbo Gilbert’s last tirades against the Chicago press, he jabbed his finger against a reporter’s chest and barked: ‘All of you’s are a pack of rat -, the only one of you’s who has any class at all is Ray Brennan, and he’s a rat, too.’”

Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns on Tuesdays and Fridays and a print column on Thursdays.



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