Sam and Lou were known as the Blonger Brothers. Both were con artists during the late 1890s to the mid 1920s. During this time, both men and their associates owned Denver.
Both brothers came out west from Wisconsin during the gold rush days of the 1860s. In Wild West towns in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Nevada, they befriended men like Bat Masterson, the Earps, Doc Holliday, and Texas Jack Vermillion.
Lou and Sam knew the law and learned to take advantage of it. Soon both men had created an organized criminal Bunco ring, simultaneously booting out fellow con man Soapy Smith in 1895, and capturing the gold and silver capital of the west-Denver.
The brother’s approach to the deal was simple: leave locals alone (their votes and connections count) but keep an eye peeled for rich prospects leaving Union Station heading for the Oxford or Brown Palace Hotels.
Barbershops on the take would mark prospects identifying them with haircut.
Crooked police would identify and follow the prospect, and note destinations.
“Friends” would escort and encourage prospects to various saloons and gambling houses along Larimer, Lawrence, Market, or Stout Streets. All these businesses were owned by the Blongers.
Nefarious and ingenious scams caught many a prospect, leaving their pockets empty while also earning a quick escort out of town.
Colonel Phillip Van Cise and his Special Force of Colorado Rangers busted the vast Bunco ring lead by Sam and Lou Blonger during the early 1920s. The political infrastructure of Denver was so corrupt- Van Cise conducted his investigations in secret.
The Blongers escapades in Denver and the West inspired both High Sierra and The Sting; both films capture the vitality of the scam and those who are caught and those who are not.