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The Somerset Affair

During 1926 Max Fox had arraigned for a Nova Scotian outside contact ship the Lutzen, which had a partial cargo already, to off-load from The Gaspee Fisherman, a larger rum ship. Both had got liquor from St Miquelon Nova Scotia. For reasons unknown, perhaps just confidence, the Lutzen, a 155 foot ship which had never before entered U.S. territorial waters came right up the Taunton River to Somerset, MA and unloaded on the banks of the river just south of High Hill at about 9:30 pm. Five smaller contact boats were used to offload the liquor. Herb Cavaca's boats the Cachalot and the Mary C. and three others, the George Curtis, an old pogie boat, a schooner, the Smead, and the speed boat Eaglet. Half of the load was to go to the Parsons Farm in Somerset and the other half to the Bergeron Farm in North Dartmouth. According to Herb Cavaca, "It was the craziest operation I'd ever seen in the racket. They had lanterns on deck, they were smoking cigarettes and yelling. Three quarters of the guys had a slant on. You never heard suck a racket. There was no attempt to hide or keep quiet."

"The Eaglet had gone to a drop in Tiverton, the Snead unloaded between the bridges in Tiverton, and the George Curtis went to Crowenshield's in Somerset. She got there so late- it was coming daylight-that there wasn't time to unload her. So she was put on the (marine) railway so no one would notice how low in the water she was. The Mary C. and the Eaglet were too take the liquor off the Lutzen to the shore boats. The Cachalot however hit a rock coming in and sank in 20 feet of water."

To make things a sure bet Max had arranged that the local 75 foot Coast Guard boat wouldn't be butting in. They had someone from New Bedford invite the CG's out for a party. He brought plenty of liquor and some fast women who were paid by the gang and took them down to the patrol boat. After they were all good and drunk they went out to a road house and had "a hell'uva good time." Cavaca later said "$2000 protection for the night would have been cheap and it didn't cost anywhere near that."

The Somerset Affair, as it became to be know as by the newspapers and the police, began happening when one of either Herb Cavaca's or Max Fox's men had previously contacted two New York gunmen. They were described as "two tough eggs." The gunmen were in with two rogue Federal agents. The plan was to stage a fake raid using the Fed's badges and fake paper work. The plan was for the New Yorkers to meet up with the traitor at 2:00 that day. The local guy made arrangements for the hijacked liquor to be stored in the old Portsmouth coal mines.

The gunmen and Feds showed up at 3:30, drove into the Parson's place and while waiving the fake warrant around declared the liquor was seized. The local men guarding the farm tried bribing the four men but all offers were refused and the 4 locals were "placed under arrest" and handcuffed. The Feds then called a local mover for 4 trucks to move the liquor. Herb Cavaca's interview in the Providence Journal quoted him as saying 9 trucks were used but other sources said there were only 4.

The New Yorkers were supposed to meet the tip off man at the Brightman street bridge to continue on to the coal mines. When the trucks crossed the bridge the traitor was waiting. A man in one of the trucks fired a rifle at the local guy, the bullet wizzed past his head. He ran off and the truck convoy turned north, headed back over the bridge on their way to New York. The shot was only a warning to keep his mouth shut.

While all of this was happening Fox and Cavaca were driving around keeping tabs on how things were progressing. They saw activity at the Parson's farm and and thought they'd be pinched by Feds if they went into the farm property. Once the trucks left Cavaca and Fox went into the farm and it didn't take long for them all to realize they had been held up. Someone called the New London police to alert them of a big load of liquor rolling through town. By the time the trucks got to Groton they were stopped by the cops and everone was arrested. The truck drivers were unaware that the Feds were crooked and they were only fined but the other 4 served up to 5 years. The trial was held in New London, CT.