This article was last modified on October 3, 2017.


Bingo Bruce: The Life of Benjamin Paddock

Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, Jr. was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin on November 1, 1926 to Wisconsin natives Benjamin Hoskins Paddock and Olga Gunderson Paddock. While in Sheboygan, the Paddock family lived at 1928 North 6th Street and Benjamin Senior worked as a traveling salesman for Henry Heyer and Son. By 1930, the family had moved north to Superior and Benjamin Senior was a salesman for a wholesale business.

Benjamin Junior served in the United States Navy during World War II. In 1946, he was convicted of ten counts of auto larceny and five counts of confidence game and was confined at the Illinois State Penitentiary until July 1951. In 1952, Paddock married Dolores Irene Hudson at a ceremony in Reno. In 1953, he was convicted of conspiracy in connection with a bad check passing operation and was again held at the Illinois State Penitentiary until August 1956.

In the mid-1950s, Benjamin Hoskins Paddock Jr. sold garbage disposals under the name of Arizona Disposal Company and worked as a repair man in Tucson, Arizona. He also sold used cars at a service station. Paddock Sr. died in January 1958 at Grants Pass, Josephine County, Oregon. Paddock Sr. was buried in Oregon; interestingly, Olga Paddock is buried in Sheboygan with the Gunderson family. Did they separate, or did she return to Sheboygan after his death (she outlived him by 10 years)?

In the late 1950s, Paddock volunteered with the Pima County Juvenile Probation Department and in 1959 was named special deputy to handle cases of wayward youths. He was accused of robbing branches of the Valley National Bank in Phoenix, Arizona of $11,210 on February 19, 1959 and of $4,620 on July 26, 1960. He robbed another branch on July 26, 1960. He was captured and then convicted for the third robbery in federal court in January 1961. During his arrest, he attempted to run down an FBI agent with his car. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was convicted in 1961 and sentenced to 20 years in federal prison, when his son Stephen was only 8. Paddock was sent to a federal prison in West Texas.

Paddock served less than half of his sentence in Texas. In December 1968, he escaped from La Tuna prison and made his way to San Francisco, where he robbed another bank that June, and eventually traveled up the coast and settled in Oregon.

He altered his appearance, shaving his head and growing a forked goatee, and changed his name to Bruce Werner Ericksen. In 1969, the F.B.I. placed him on its Most Wanted list, describing him as 6 feet 4 inches, 245 pounds and “diagnosed as psychopathic. “He reportedly has suicidal tendencies and should be considered armed and very dangerous,” the poster read, adding that he was an “avid bridge player.”

In Oregon, Paddock played poker with friends in Eugene and opened the state’s first permanent bingo parlor in the late 1970s, the Bingo Center in downtown Springfield. Through his lawyer, Paddock borrowed $12,000 from Frederick van Deinse II to buy bingo equipment for the parlor. He was twice cited for traffic violations and in September 1977 he applied for and was granted a license to operate the bingo parlor, but his identity was not uncovered.
Paddock, who was called Bingo Bruce, never spoke about his past — not about his family, how he came to Oregon or his life as a bank robber. Mr. van Deinse said he first learned of his criminal history on the night of September 6, 1978, when van Deinse was running a bingo game in the parlor.

A group of men entered the hall and asked Paddock to help with an issue outside. It was a ruse, and when he went outside, federal agents arrested him. “He was a con artist,” Mr. van Deinse said. “I took it in the shorts. The money was gone.” He said that Paddock corresponded from federal prison with friends he had made in Eugene. But once again, his stint in federal prison was short-lived, this time because he was released on parole after a year in custody.

Paddock returned to Eugene, where he was welcomed by elected officials. He “did one hell of a lot for kids,” a mayor told a federal parole board, according to the newspaper. He also returned to bingo, opening a hall sponsored by a church, but ran into trouble again. State authorities charged him with racketeering in the 1980s. Paddock settled the civil charges and avoided jail after paying $623,000, and he eventually left Oregon for Arlington, Tarrant County, Texas, where he lived until his death on January 18, 1998.

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