Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Clifford Irving's Hoax

A State and Federal Case

Clifford was up to his neck in legal problems. There was a wealth of evidence now available that made for a potentially damaging case against him. There was evidence that Clifford had committed the federal offense of mail fraud, based on the forged letters sent to McGraw-Hill. Moreover, there was also evidence that he had violated state laws by obtaining money under false pretenses and committing perjury by lying in a sworn affidavit about his role in the hoax. Therefore, Clifford as well as his accomplices who faced similar charges, was to face an investigation by two grand juries in New York, one investigating the obstruction of state laws and the other to investigate a violation of federal laws. 

During the month of February, Clifford and his accomplices confronted both grand juries. A vast amount of evidence against Clifford, Edith and Suskind was presented in both cases. The juries viewed the forged letters and the checks cashed by Edith. They also heard testimony from experts who examined the documents involved, as well as testimony given by Suskind about his role in the affair. Moreover, those who were directly and indirectly exploited in the hoax testified before the jury, with the exception of Howard Hughes, who was enroute to Nicaragua.

Britannia Hotel, Nassau, Bahamas
Britannia Hotel, Nassau, Bahamas
 

Howard moved from his long-time residence in the Bahamas following an investigation by Bahamian immigration officials. It was believed that some of Howard's staff had bypassed registration for work permits and immigration procedures, which were necessary for them to live and work in the Bahamas. Bahamian officials were allegedly alerted to Howard's unregistered staff during the controversy concerning Clifford's book. Thus, according to Fay, Chester and Linklater, Howard became an unsuspecting victim of Clifford's grand hoax.  

On March 13, Clifford, Edith and Suskind appeared before the grand jury and pleaded guilty to their roles in the literary fraud. They made a complete confession before the federal jury and revealed the entire scheme behind the hoax. Following their declaration of guilt, further testimony was heard from several more witnesses, including that from Baroness Nina van Pallandt.

After listening to approximately one hundred witnesses, the federal jurors assessed the evidence before indicting the defendants. At about the same time, state jurors were also in the process of charging Clifford, Edith and Suskind. The state charged all three defendants on fourteen criminal counts, including possession of forged documents, intent to defraud, grand larceny for stealing monies from McGraw-Hill, perjury and conspiracy. Moreover, the federal grand jury indicted Clifford and Edith on two counts of mail fraud.     

On June 16, 1972 following a federal court hearing, Clifford and Edith were both found guilty and sentenced. Clifford received a two-and-a-half year sentence in a federal prison, whereas Edith received a total of two years. However, according to Clifford Irving's book, most of Edith's sentence was suspended and she served only two months in New York's Nassau County Jail. Irving further stated that the Swiss authorities eventually caught up with Edith and sentenced her to two years in prison. Dick Suskind was sentenced by the state of New York to a half-year in prison, in which he only served five months for good conduct. On top of their sentences, they were ordered to pay back a total of more than $750,000 to Clifford's publisher.

 

According to a CBS interview with Clifford by Mike Wallace in 2000, Clifford caused as much trouble during his stint in prison as he had prior to his sentencing. Clifford stated that he was put in three different institutions due to his bad behavior. He claimed to have been kicked out of Allenwood Penitentiary after being, "caught with a bottle of gin." He then was placed into solitary confinement in Lewisburg penitentiary and eventually "dispelled" for not fitting in. Finally, Clifford stated that he was sent to a penitentiary in Danbury, Connecticut, where he was accused of plotting to kill a warden and provoke a prison riot.

In February 1974, Clifford was released after spending a total of seventeen months in prison. To date he's continued with his writing and has authored approximately a dozen books. According to the CBS interview, the almost seventy-year-old Clifford currently spends his time traveling between New Mexico and Mexico. The infamous autobiography that he had written was finally published in 1999 on the internet.

 

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