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Fur Coat Thief

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On this date, in 1924, the Fargo Forum carried a story about Joseph Jarvino, a young man with a criminal record that started with frequent visits to the Northern Pacific station in Moorhead. Jarvino was a bell boy at a Fargo hotel, and during his noon hours, he would drop by the Moorhead Depot and lift small amounts of money from the till. After a while, a watch was posted over the Depot, and one day, he got caught in the act.

Jarvino spent the next two years in a St. Cloud reform school, but evidently didn’t get too reformed. He ended up serving time two more times in the “Mandan training school.”

After his release, he went back to Fargo, where on May 5th, 1924, he broke into the home of J.A. Peterson and walked away with a $700 beaver coat that he gave as a present to his girlfriend. Before long, the young woman jilted him, moved to Valley City and took up with another man.

Jarvino followed her to Valley City and asked her to give back the coat. She refused, so Jarvino broke into her place and stole it for the second time! The young woman went to the police, and pretty soon the young thief was arrested and charged with larceny. There was one problem… nobody could find the coat, and Jarvino certainly wasn’t telling.

Back in Fargo, G.D. McDowell, a special agent for the Northern Pacific, had kept tabs on Jarvino ever since the days when he looted the depot till. When McDowell heard Jarvino had been arrested because of a fur coat, he connected the dots back to the Peterson burglary in May. McDowell contacted the Valley City Sheriff, and when officials accused Jarvino of the Fargo burglary, he broke down and confessed, giving up the coat. It was returned to Mrs. Peterson, but it turns out there was another part to the story. After he stole the coat from his girlfriend, he tried to sell it to the gal’s new sweetheart for $150!

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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