What is BENSON SYNDICATE? What does BENSON SYNDICATE mean? BENSON SYNDICATE meaning & explanation
- Published on Feb 8, 2019
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What is BENSON SYNDICATE? What does BENSON SYNDICATE mean? BENSON SYNDICATE meaning - BENSON SYNDICATE definition - BENSON SYNDICATE explanation.
Source: Wikipedia.org article, adapted under creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ license.
The Benson Syndicate was an organized crime organization in the western United States which received contracts from the General Land Office (GLO) to perform land surveys of the public lands. It was led by, and named after, one John A Benson (1845-1910), a former school teacher, county surveyor and later a reputable deputy surveyor, Mineral Surveyor and Civil Engineer.
The syndicate operated from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, but was most active in California and was headquartered in San Francisco. Its tenure ran from about 1875 to 1898 and was at its peak from 1883 to 1886. In California alone, at least 40 individuals were known to be involved, and very probably more actually were. Its modus operandi was to generate false demand for public land surveys (see Public Land Survey System) using fictitious land patent applications, followed by contracting with the GLO for the survey of these lands. The surveys were then fraudulently executed, being either shoddy, incomplete or outright fictitious. These "surveys" were "performed" under contract to individual deputy surveyors, some of whom were not even aware that the surveying contracts existed in their names, having been induced by Benson to sign blank papers which were later turned into contracts and other legal documents without their knowledge.
At other times, people with minimal-or even no-surveying experience and/or lacking proper qualifications as deputy surveyors, performed the work without the contracted surveyor ever being physically present, which was patently illegal. Often, an area under contract was surveyed only to the extent that was necessary to create plausible, but fabricated, survey plats and field notes for the remainder of the area. Other times, entire contracted areas, usually consisting of several survey townships (36 square miles), were fabricated by syndicate members at the San Francisco office, with little or no work on the ground at all .
Benson's organization infiltrated into very high levels of the government, and syndicate members in governmental positions as well as members of congress made the group's schemes possible. For example, in California at least two Surveyors General in the 1880s approved numerous fraudulent survey results and approved requests for government payment that were 200 to 700 percent of the originally estimated survey cost, which the government paid.
Theodore Wagner was especially notorious in this regard, and his appointment as California Surveyor General coincided with a large increase in the group's activities and power. Others approved contracts that had originally been rejected (after inspection by independent government examiners), without evidence or assurance that the surveys had been properly corrected or completed. Also, at least one such examiner in California was part of the syndicate, attempting to gain payment for some rejected surveys via bogus field "examinations" (which were themselves later rejected as fraudulent as the extent of the group's activities became known). Banks were also involved, providing the deposits and performance bonds required by the government, in exchange for a cut of the enormous profits generated. These banks later also paid for the syndicate's defense attorneys in trials brought by the government in its failed, ten year effort to convict the syndicate members and recover funds paid for fraudulent work.
Detailed information on the Syndicate's history remains fairly sparse. Two Annual Reports of the Commissioner of the General Land Office provide a glimpse of the group's activities.....