This article was last modified on January 27, 2020.

Griff’s on Teutonia: A Modern Gambling Den?

(The file these notes come from is very redacted, with most names removed and all the mug shots censored. If anyone knows more and can fill in gaps, let me know… otherwise it will just be like this until a better document source is obtained.)

On October 18, 1971, an informant came to the FBI to tell them about Griff’s (3573 North Teutonia) and the horse gambling going on there. Numerous individuals were said to have scratch sheets, and one customer had even said, “It was just a matter of time before Griff’s was tagged by the cops.” An investigative file was opened by the FBI a few days later. (While it is hard to tell from redacted pages, it looks like this investigation may have grown out of gambling case 166-MW-319, though I do not know what the subject of that case was.)

On November 11, 1971, Agent Richard C. Artin made contact with a delivery driver for Paul Rose Distributing, which had the Michelob beer route. The driver said he has never gambled at Griff’s or observed others gambling there, but he had seen dice games on occasion. He said he “would be glad to” tell the FBI if he saw any gambling in the future.

Surveillance was undertaken between December 1971 and April 1972. Many of the agents involved are redacted (suggesting they were still living in 2019), but one of them was Richard Artin.

The surveillance showed that a man would regularly walk between Griff’s and Ward’s Playhouse (3611 North Teutonia) with a clipboard. Another vehicle was followed and the occupant stopped at a few other taverns – Grover and Lulu’s (Teutonia and Chambers) and Teat’s Corner (12th and Meinecke). On another day, the man with the clipboard was seen at the Mandingo Lounge (Hopkins and Teutonia), Mason’s Grocery, Hale’s Grocery, Champagne Bar and Club Bonanza. The clipboard man was followed from Griff’s many times between January and April 1972.

On at least one occasion, a Mercury was followed from Griff’s to the home of James Knox (2865 North 18th). Knox had no FBI record, but he did have multiple arrests for commercial gambling and almost a decade earlier he was picked up by the ATF for possessing untaxed liquor.

On January 24, 1972, some of the information the FBI had gathered was passed on to the Milwaukee Vice Squad. A member of the squad told the FBI that the police were aware of rumors surrounding Griff’s but couldn’t do much about it. The clientele at Griff’s was primarily black, and there were very few black police officers. So few, in fact, that they were all known to the black community, making it impossible to send a man in without blowing his cover.

On February 7, 1972, the FBI spoke with another delivery man – this time for Schlitz. He said he had never seen gambling in Griff’s. In fact, he claimed, there were rarely very many people in there at all.

An agent stopped by the Milwaukee Police Department on February 11, 1972 to compare surveillance notes with the police files. At this time, one of the frequent faces seen was identified as Barrie Franklin. Franklin had numerous arrests going back four decades for gambling, as well one charge of battery and possession of obscene literature.

The record is too redacted to understand why, but the investigation shifted to the US Virgin Islands on April 10, 1972 and a man named Magnus Farrell. Not known to be a gambler, Farrell was known as a “Macko Jumbie” dancer in parades, where he would perform on long stilts. How any of this could be related a bar in Milwaukee is unknown.

A search warrant was executed on April 20, 1972 for a different gambling operation, and a woman was picked up for questioning. After consulting with her lawyer, she told Agent Richard Artin about the various people involved in gambling that he knew and which “territories” they had.

Three interviews were conducted by the FBI on May 10, 1972. Two subjects spoken to are redacted, but the third was Elitha Mae Parker (1540 West Congress). She acknowledged she occasionally went to Love’s Lounge and Griff’s, but did not know about any gambling. She said the only gambling she did was at the horse tracks in Illinois, never at any off-track sites. Agent Richard Artin told her a known bookie (redacted) was seen stopping at her house on multiple occasions, and she claimed not to know him.

On May 15, 1972, a man in St. Louis was interviewed by the FBI. He had recently been arrested for a dice game in East St. Louis, and his license plate matched a frequent visitor to Griff’s in Milwaukee. The man said he had never seen any gambling at Griff’s and the reason his car was there often was because he was dating a girl who lived across the street above a grill. He further said his arrest at the dice game was a mistake because he was “merely watching” and was not one of the players.

June 1972: Agents continued to note which cars were parked at Griff’s (3573 Teutonia), Hegwood’s Soul Lounge (3519 Teutonia), Golden Realty (3580 Teutonia), Ward’s (3611 Teutonia) and Love’s Lounge (3621 Teutonia). An officer with the Milwaukee vice squad told the FBI that “horse bets” were made at Hegwood’s.

On June 22, 1972, the FBI considered asking for a search warrant on (redacted). The US Attorney advised against it, however, as the target was expected to be a witness in another gambling case and it would be better to see how things played out.

On July 25, 1972, agents held a meeting at 4pm to discuss how raids would go the following evening. The next day at 6pm, these agents met with Milwaukee police officers who would assist them, with the strike to start around 8pm. Because the Milwaukee FBI had no female agents, they brought female police with them to conduct searches on female suspects. At 8pm on July 26, the agents raided Griff’s, Love’s Lounge, Ward’s Playhouse, the Bessie Virginia Davis residence (3437A North 11th), Flamingo Tavern, Perkins’ Clark Service Station, and a few redacted people and places.

After months of surveillance, Griff’s was raided by Agent Russell D. Jones on July 26, 1972 at 8:02pm. A large amount of gambling material was collected: many slips of paper with numbers on them, sweepstakes tickets, loose cash, an adding machine, as well as a variety of programs outlining the races at Illinois horse tracks.

On the same day, agents raided the Flamingo Tavern (2501 West Hopkins). Similar items were taken: an issue of Illinois Sports News, a pamphlet called the Complete Guide to Handicapping, and more.

From a redacted source, agents took a Colt .32 automatic pistol, an Omega .22 revolver, gambling slips and 44 “brown envelopes” of a “grassy material” (the last of which was turned over to the Milwaukee police vice squad). It is unusual for a business name to be redacted, but for some reason this one is.

Still further on July 26, agents raided Ward’s Playhouse. A wide variety of papers with names and numbers were found – notes were taken on pamphlets, business cards and all sorts of scraps.

And still further, a residence was searched and four address books were taken, along with racing forms and other gambling information.

At Love’s Lounge, “no evidence of gambling activity was found,” and the owner denied any bets were made there. He said it was possible horse betting was discussed, because he went to the track on occasion. The employee at the Clark station (redacted, but identified as the stepson of Milton Seller) said he was not aware of any gambling at the station, nor did he ever witness his boss make any bets. One of the residences searched (redacted) turned up gambling material, as well as marijuana and some guns – including one stolen in Los Angeles in 1969.

July 27, 1972: The FBI issued a press release (thankfully unredacted!!!) announcing “a large supply of gambling paraphernalia” had been seized from “a substantial horse betting operation.” Unlike the FBI file I received, the press release named the people operating the gambling business: Joan Teasley (3437 North 11th), Bessie Davis (3437A North 11th), Samuel Perkins (3621 North 22nd), French Griffin, French Griffin Jr, and Eddie Davis.

On October 2, 1972, “after several weeks of deliberation,” the US Attorney decided not to prosecute anyone in the Griff’s case. Although a fair amount of gambling material was found, there was nothing there to strongly suggest a federal violation. In order for a gambling offense to meet federal standards, it typically had to have an interstate element or at least a connection to organized crime. Griff’s was merely a local matter.

Also try another article under Organized Crime
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

One Response to “Griff’s on Teutonia: A Modern Gambling Den?”

  1. Drew Hunkins Says:

    Fantastic stuff Gavin. Always entertaining and insightful. These types of posts always give me the urge to go take a little walking tour of the area where it all went down.

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