Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Helen Brach: Gone But Not Forgotten

Richard Bailey

When Richard Bailey's name surfaced in connection with the missing heiress' case, there were plenty of people around Chicago who were certain that meant Helen Brach had met with foul play. Bailey was well-known among the horse people who bought, sold, showed and trained the expensive toys that were the living equivalent of yachts.

Bailey was a con-artist who specialized in fleecing wealthy older women out of their savings through bad investments in horses. He was well-connected and well-versed in the business of horse trading and Richard had an eye for both shady deals and blissfully ignorant women. His modus operandi was to get himself introduced to a potential victim, wine and dine the woman while slowly bringing her into his world of expensive horse shows and pricey stables.

Bailey, the owner of Bailey Stables and Country Club Stables, specialized in defrauding middle-aged or older women who had recently been widowed or divorced. After meeting them at the stables or through personal advertisements, he began to romance them, escorting them to expensive Chicago restaurants and sending them flowers and gifts. If he discovered the woman was not wealthy, he declined to see her again. If she was wealthy, he proceeded to secure her affection, engaging in sexual relations and in some cases proposing marriage, despite the fact that he was already married.

"His favorite prey were women who were wealthy due to having been widowed, women whose thinking was not as straight as it should be because perhaps they were dying, very sick or acutely lonely," said one investigator who helped put Bailey in prison.

Depending on the interest level or sophistication of his mark, he would either act as a broker in a horse deal — obtaining a cheap, run-of-the-mill horse and passing it off as a champion — or ask to borrow a large sum of money until his own cash flow problem was fixed. When he worked the loan scam, Bailey would usually end up having the woman buy a horse for him and then board it at a friend's stable. Then the woman would be on the hook for the cost of caring for the horse. 

"Using the horse as collateral, in order to make the purchase he secured a temporary loan from the victim, which he never repaid. Once he defaulted on the loan, the victim became responsible for the horse's boarding bills (allowing the co-conspirators additional income as well as the opportunity to take the horse back in satisfaction of unpaid bills)," was how the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit summarized Bailey's operations. The court, which would have cause to comment on Bailey's character, left no doubt about how it felt about Richard Bailey.

"While executing his schemes, Bailey was not averse to taking advantage of his victims' weaknesses: he plied an alcoholic with champagne and cocktails while she and her daughter visited the stables, and he schemed to defraud gravely ill women by obtaining their powers of attorney when he visited them in the hospital. When Bailey had obtained as much money as he could from the woman, he ended the relationship, though occasionally he passed the woman on for his co-conspirators to further defraud. His victims were often left broken-hearted and destitute."

In one of his final duties as guardian ad litem, John Menk deposed Everett Moore about the state of Helen Brach's finances. Much of the deposition was devoted to dry fact-gathering for the purposes of figuring out how best to divide Helen's estate when the time came, but in one area, Moore revealed a great deal of interesting information that would eventually bring the Brach case to some semblance of closure.

Everett Moore's reputation as Brach's financial advisor was beyond reproach and there was absolutely no evidence that the accountant had anything to do with Brach's disappearance. In fact, if anyone had reason to want Helen Brach alive and well, it was Everett Moore, because his job duties dealt only with the assets of a living Helen Brach, not her trust. Once she was dead, her estate would be disposed of according to her last will and testament.

But Moore's deposition revealed a great deal about Helen's love of horses and the depth of her financial commitment to them. In the few years she had been involved in the horse business, she had spent easily a quarter of a million dollars, Moore testified.

He also told Menk that Richard Bailey had helped Helen Brach get into the horse business. The two had been friends for some time before they found themselves at Gulfstream Park race track in Florida. Almost as an aside, Helen mentioned she would like to own some horses. Bailey mentioned in a seemingly offhand way that his brother, P.J., was a jockey and could possibly find some horses for Helen to buy. Several months later, P.J. sold Helen a pair of mares for $50,000. He neglected to tell her that he and Richard had bought the horses for a little less than $9,000.

A few months after selling the mares to Helen, P.J. and Richard sold Helen a stallion named Potenciado. She paid $45,000 for the horse while the Baileys had bought him for $8,500.

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