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Walter Minx & the Homemade Extortion That Went Wrong

Walter Paul Minx is one of the more interesting people in Milwaukee's history.  He was the not-quite-mastermind behind a plot to make off with a fortune more than 70 years ago.

But unlike some notorious criminals, Minx was not fated to become the stuff of larcenous folklore.  But his story does live on in the pages of the June issue of Milwaukee Magazine. Writer Matthew Prigge wrote this month's feature about our would-be criminal genius.

Prigge says that Minx was "a German at heart with American ambitions." He emigrated from Germany with his family in 1925 and was an iron worker in Milwaukee - a natural builder and mechanic.

"(Minx) is very proud of his German heritage, he's fairly pro-Hitler, and on the other hand he has this American dream of building a business and making a name for himself. So it's an interesting, not quite a contradiction, but it's just all part of this weird character," he explains.

Prigge notes that while Minx was ambitious, he was also in debt. Minx had started his own ironworks firm but was evicted from a shop and needed capital funds. A local Sears executive caught Minx's eye in a newspaper article, and he hatched a plan to extort the businessman out of  $100,000.

The plot involved dynamite, airplanes, and a submarine.

Although Minx had no trouble building a pipe bomb and a submarine, Minx's smarts didn't serve him well when it came to delivering the ransom note to the right person, Prigge explains. The police had been looking for suspects as soon as the ransom letter was reported, and were even more vigilant after Minx successfully detonated a pipe bomb in a Sears after hours.

After a close encounter at the lakefront when he unsuccessfully tested the submarine, Minx and his brother backed off from his original plan, which involved dropping the money out of a plane flying over Lake Michigan for the submarine to pick up.

Although an alternate plan was created, "at this point Walter Minx gets kind of bored with it, I guess," says Prigge. "At the end he drives to the scene, circles it a few times and decides not to get the money."

"I got the impression that he was more interested if he could pull it off then getting the money," he adds.

In the end Minx was arrested by the police for his connection to the pipe bomb and he admitted to his original plan. "He was really proud of everything he had done...He wanted to make sure people knew how smart he was," says Prigge.

Although Minx tried to take the fall for the whole plot, both he and his brother served time in jail. After six years in prison, Minx went on to live a decent life. He started a business, got married, was one of the first people to get involved in NASCAR and built a 36 foot cabin cruiser in his spare time.

"As far as I know he lived on the up and up for the rest of his days," says Prigge.

Joy Powers is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Audrey Nowakowski is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.