‘Hand’ of justice

William Oldfield and Victoria Bruce

A new book highlights a Postal Inspection Service investigation that changed law enforcement’s understanding of organized crime operations.

“Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society: America’s Original Gangsters and the U.S. Postal Detective Who Brought Them to Justice” tells how Frank Oldfield busted a turn-of-the-century underground criminal network that used the mail to extort money from Italian-American immigrants.

The book, co-written by William Oldfield, Frank’s great-grandson, and Victoria Bruce, features documents and photos from Frank’s extensive collection.

“He kept everything,” William said.

For eight years, William traveled and researched the files and trial evidence Frank collected, including the letters and journals that the Black Hand Society members used as part of their crimes.

He discovered his great-grandfather used unconventional methods for the time, such as working with reporters to place bait stories in the newspaper to help flush out the criminals.

The Oldfield family kept Frank’s involvement in the case a secret for more than 100 years out of fear of retaliation.

“The people he prosecuted had family members who lived near us,” William said. “But enough time has passed now.”

Bruce’s site has more information about the book, which is slated for release Tuesday, Aug. 21. She called the story a “writer’s dream come true. It’s an epic tale. There’s law enforcement, criminals, good guys and bad guys.”

“Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society” also underscores the Inspection Service’s enduring role in protecting the U.S. Mail, as well as postal employees and customers.

Said William: “These are people who are serving quietly without much fanfare that are doing such a great job for us worldwide.”