New York Times

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After Arresting Manager of Her Shop on Charge of Undervaluing Imported Gowns
Only Employe, Not President, of Lucile, Limited, Now, It is Said
Secretary Also Accused


United States Marshel [sic] Henkel and several of his men descended late yesterday afternoon upon the offices of Lucile, Limited, 17 West Thirty-sixth Street, a fashionable international dressmaking establishment of London, Paris, and New York, founded two years ago, with Lady Duff-Gordon as its President. The Marshal had with him warrants issued by United States Commissioner Shields for the arrest of Thomas J. Duggan, manager of the concern, and Abraham Merritt, formerly its secretary, on charges of conspiracy to defraud the Government by false invoices and undervaluation of shipments of imported women's apparel.

Mr. Merritt was not in the establishment at the time, but Mr. Duggan was, and the Marshal placed him under arrest. He was allowed to wait for the arrival of his attorney, and then taken down to the Federal Building, where he was released on $5,000 bail by Commissioner Shields for examination on June 6.

The Marshal also served a warrant of duces tecum on Lady Duff-Gordon, who is stopping at the Ritz Carlton, ordering her to produce books and papers covering the transactions and importations on the basis of which the warrants were issued. Just how much the alleged undervaluations amounted to the Marshal was unwilling to state yesterday, but it is understood that the action was taken on secret information that many undervaluations to the amount of 50 per cent. had been made by the Lucile, Limited. The complaint dates the conspiracy to defraud as far back as 1910.

Charge Filing of False Invoices

The complaint on which the warrants were issued yesterday was made by Customs Inspector John M. Williams, on information and belief, charging both Duggan and Merritt with conspiring on Dec. 18, 1910, "to defraud the United States by means of importing goods from a foreign country, namely England, merchandise consisting of women's wearing apparel, which was dutiable by law, and part of said conspiracy was to import said merchandise and effect an entry into the commerce of the United States at less than the true dutiable value.

"It was further a part of the conspiracy," the complaint continues, "to effect said importations by means of filing at the Custom House with the Collector false and fraudulent consular invoices purporting to cover the merchandise so imported, and in pursuance of said conspiracy and in order to effect the object thereof, the said Abraham Merritt did on March 29, 1911, make and file with the Collector of Customs a paper known as a 'Declaration of Owner in Case Where Merchandise Has Actually Been Purchased,' which declaration was false and known by said Abraham Merritt to be false."

In this declaration, according to the complaint, Merritt stated that the Consular invoice covering the merchandise was the only invoice thereof in existence, "whereas there was in fact at that time, to the knowledge of said Merritt, a private invoice for a larger amount than the consular invoice on file in the office of Lucile, Limited, at 17 West Thirty-sixth Street, New York City."

The complaint adds that the sources of the deponent's information and the grounds for his belief are "records in the Custom House of New York, documents showing the true dutiable value of the merchandise imported, and statements made by a person having knowledge of the facts, whose name cannot be here disclosed for the reason that such disclosure would prejudice the interests of the United States and the ends of justice."

None of the books or stock at the office of Lucile, Limited, was disturbed by the Marshal, and Mr. Duggan, after a brief sojourn at the Federal Building was released on bail of $5.000, although United States District Attorney Wemple explained that the alleged new customs frauds were extensive, and asked the imposing of $10,000 bail. Marshal Henkel said that the second arrest was expected this morning. He was unwilling until then to make any statement as to the amount of alleged undervaluations involved.

Secrecy About the Firm

At the office of Lucile, Limited, a four-story brownstone dwelling converted for business purposes, it was difficult to learn anything about the officers of the concern. One young man, who introduced himself as Johnson Rampling, was not one of the officers, exactly, he said, but a "sort of roving official," who had nothing to do with importations of goods, and knew nothing about the case in point.

"I go to London and to Paris, don't you know," he said, "and then, as recently, I come over here just to look things over for the home firm in London and to boost 'em a bit over here. I know nothing of the present case and was surprised to learn of Mr. Duggan's arrest."

The roving official was unable, he said, to state who the officials of the company are. He knew that Mr. Duggan was the manager of the local house, he said, and asked reporters especially to believe that Lady Duff-Gordon was no longer a member of the firm.

"She is merely engaged to create gowns, as an artist and designer," he said.

At the office in the basement of Lucile, Limited, reporters found Mr. Merritt. He knew nothing about the case, he said, and nothing about the officers of the company. He admitted that he himself had until recently been Secretary of the company, but insisted that at present he chanced to be in the office merely in the capacity of a friend of Lady Duff-Gordon, who, he hastened to inform the reporters, was out of town.

"Lady Duff-Gordon started the company about a year and a half ago," he said, "but about six months ago the company was reorganized, and at present Lady Duff-Gordon is employed only in the capacity of an artist and designer for the company here and at London and Paris. I do not know who has taken her place as President or who the other officers are.

"I remember only, and hazily, that one declaration came to me at my office from the attorneys of the firm and that apparently it seemed to be all right. I don't recall whether or not I signed it, but I sent it back to the attorneys, and it may be this to which the complaint refers. I have no recollection whatever as to the nature or value of the shipment in question."

Mr. Merritt added that the firm dealt in both imported and domestic fabrics and dresses---in fact, mostly American goods.

"It was chiefly the models that were imported," he said. He added that he was speaking only in his personal capacity, being in no way connected with Lucile, Limited, now, and said that all information in the case must come from Eugene V. Daly, the attorney of the company, and of Lady Duff-Gordon.

When Mr. Merritt learned that a warrant had been issued for him as well as for Mr. Duggan, he seemed genuinely surprised. Last night, after he had conferred with Mr. Daly, he announced that he had no official knowledge that any warrant had been issued for his arrest, and that there was therefore nothing for him to do.

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Related Biographies:

Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon

Relates to Place:

New York City, New York, United States


Mark Baber


Encyclopedia Titanica (2005) CUSTOMS MEN CALL LADY DUFF-GORDON (New York Times, Friday 26th May 1911, ref: #4885, published 8 November 2005, generated 25th July 2021 11:33:32 PM); URL :