The New International Encyclopædia/Star Route Frauds

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STAR ROUTE FRAUDS. Certain frauds connected with the management of the star route postal service during the administration of President Hayes. The term ‘star routes’ was applied to those routes over which, owing to the lack of railroads and steamboats, the mail was carried on horseback or in wagons, such routes being commonly marked, in the books of the Post Office Department, with an asterisk or ‘star.’ A ‘ring,’ including Brady, the Second Assistant Postmaster-General, and Senator S. W. Dorsey, of Arkansas, on the one hand, and certain mail contractors on the other, was alleged to have been formed for the purpose of defrauding the Government by increasing unduly the remuneration of certain mail contractors. The sphere of operations of the combination included 135 mail routes on which the compensation for carrying the mail was increased from $143,169 to $622,808. This increase was accomplished by securing numerously signed petitions from the localities interested praying for an increase in the number of trips, after which the schedule time for each trip was shortened. Estimates from the contractors largely in excess of the actual cost were allowed, and the profits were alleged to have been divided between the contractors and the members of the ring at Washington. The frauds were brought to light early in Garfield's administration, and the chief participants were prosecuted. Dorsey was tried, but the jury failed to reach a decision. Upon a second trial in 1883 he was acquitted. Brady was also tried, but was not convicted. Of all those prosecuted only one was ever punished. The ring was eventually broken up, but not until a number of those interested had acquired fortunes.