"The production of soup for the Army at a company in Chicago, Illinois, was held up for a period of one week by 16-year-old Victor Mule, who stole a vital part from one of the machines at the plant and held it for ransom."
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Soup and the FBI
It was wartime--October 15, 1942--when Victor Mule, 16-year-old malcontented summer employee of a bouillon cube factory, crept up to the back door of the plant in the dead of night. He fumbled with the duplicate key he'd had made, then let himself in.
He knew exactly what he was about. He'd show that stupid company president. He'd take one key part from the Swiss packaging machine and sabotage the whole operation. They could make all the bouillon they wanted, but they couldn't get even one soup cube out the door without this part!
On October 16, the company president contacted the Chicago field office of the FBI. He was desperate: the machine, which could not operate without the vital part, had been purchased in Switzerland, and the particular missing part could not be replaced in this country.
Here's the FBI's description of what followed:
"Four days after the machine part was found missing, the president of the company received an anonymous communication in which the writer stated he could obtain the missing part for $1000. The addressee was requested to place an ad in the personal column of a specified local newspaper if he wanted the part returned to him.
"An ad was immediately placed in the specified paper.
"On October 15, 1942, the victim received a second anonymous communication requesting $1000. for the return of the missing part.
"The following day, Victor Mule, a former employee of the company, turned over a third note to the president. At that time, Mule said he had been to the plant to see an employee with whom he had been friendly and upon leaving the plant he was handed the note by an unknown man on the street a few blocks away.
"This third communication directed the victim to give the bearer $1000. plus an additional $500., and further instructed the bearer should go to a certain street corner with the money where he would be contacted by the writer.
"Upon receipt of this note, a dummy envelope was given to Mule and he proceeded to the designated street corner, where he was to be contacted by the writer of the note.
"For two and one-half hours, Mule stood in the vicinity of the designated street corner and was kept under constant surveillance by FBI Agents. However, no apparent attempt was made to contact Mule and he returned the dummy envelope.
"The following day, October 17, 1942, the missing part was found in a doorway at the rear of the plant. Immediately thereafter, Mule was questioned at length by Bureau Agents and finally admitted his guilt in the case. He said he had stolen this machine part by entering the plant with a duplicate key on October 9, 1942, and he admitted writing the three ransom communications. He said that he took the machine part because he disliked the company president and after having obtained the part he decided to demand some money for its return. He related that he returned the part to the plant because he became frightened when he learned the Federal Bureau of Investigation was handling the case."
So what happened to hapless Victor Mule? He was charged with violation of the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act. On December 9, 1942, he plead guilty in the United States District Court in Chicago, and he was placed on probation for a period of three years.
Mercifully, soup production for the wartime U.S. Army was instantly restored with the reappearance of the missing part.