Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Million Dollar Murder

Sanctioned Loansharking

Jacques Mossler had lived the American dream. The son of Romanian immigrants, he grew up in New York and Chicago, quitting school at age 13 to help support his mother when his father died young. The enterprising Mossler worked as a newsboy, hawking papers in the Chicago Loop, and he dabbled in a lucrative sideline, lending money to kids who found themselves in a temporary financial fix.

Jacques Mossler, victim
Jacques Mossler, victim

Mossler went around with pockets bulging with jangling coins - the sweet sound of the young loansharks vigorish. As he reached adulthood, Mossler graduated from newsboy to auto mechanic, but that job was a stepping stone. His initiative earned him an opportunity to sell cars at a Chicago dealership, and he soon naturally shifted to the financing department. Mossler learned what Henry Ford knew: Automobiles presented unprecedented financial opportunities.

In 1895, the year Mossler was born, four autos were registered in America. There were 8,000 five years later, 469,000 by 1910 and 9.2 million in 1920.

During the 1920s, Ford, Chevrolet and other manufacturers cranked out cars for a population crazy with automobiles. Every family had to have one, whether they could afford it or not. Mossler was positioned to cash in on a companion craze: consumer credit.

He saw installment loans as a legalized form of his old street-corner loansharking. Interest was the vigorish in a starched collar. After the Great Depression, Mossler founded a string of small financing companies that tapped the expanding installment loan market. This led him into the related banking and insurance businesses.

By the end of World War II, Mossler had assembled more than 40 bank, finance and insurance firms that were waiting when returning soldiers needed credit to buy houses, cars and refrigerators. His firms, clustered around Chicago, Houston, South Florida and New Orleans, included the Mutual National Bank of Chicago, Central Bank and Trust of Miami and three dozen finance and insurance subsidiaries of two holding companies, Service Trust and Mossler Acceptance Corp.

His lending firms used a credit-friendly slogan that echoes in television commercials today: The Yes Banks.

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