His full name was Edward Wilhelm Bentz, born in 1894. It may be a name that most aren't familiar with, but he sure hung out with some of the most infamous criminals – including Baby Face Nelson and Machine Gun Kelly.

Bentz was living a lifetime full of crime. As a teen he was nabbed for burglary and sent to several juvenile reformatories. Evidently, the reform didn't work, for once he was out, he continued burglarizing and began safecracking and committing armed robbery. The money he stole helped pay for his extravagant collection of rare coins and antique books.

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In 1930, he and Harvey Bailey were believed to be the culprits behind a $2,870,000 bank robbery in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Two years later in 1932, he teamed up with Machine Gun Kelly robbing a bank in Ponder, Texas; from there they fled to the state of Washington where they robbed another bank in Colfax.

So what brought Bentz to Michigan?

It was just eight days after the Colfax robbery when Bentz came to Michigan. He and some accomplices ended up robbing the bank in Holland. It may have been a close call for him that time, for after that heist, he decided to call it quits and go into semi-retirement. He moved to Long Beach, Indiana and made a half-hearted attempt to settle.

But Bentz wasn't quite done with Michigan yet.

In 1933, who should come calling but Baby Face Nelson. Baby Face was planning his first major robbery – which he had selected the bank in Grand Haven for the job. It didn't take too much to coax Bentz to join up, so off they went. As they completed their $30,000 heist and fled out to the getaway car, they discovered the getaway driver had fled and left them stranded. With authorities closing in, one of the gang was nabbed while Baby Face and Bentz escaped in a second getaway car.

Now out of his semi-retirement, Bentz was involved in more bank jobs and robberies. The last officially-known Bentz job was in Danville, Vermont in July 1934. Over the next two years it is speculated – but not proven – that he had a hand in other crimes, and he was finally caught by the Feds in Brooklyn, New York when they found him hiding in a dumbwaiter in March 1936.

After being sentenced to 20 years, he asked the judge to send him to Alkatraz, because he had friends who were incarcerated there. He was released in 1948 and returned to his old home town of Tacoma, Washington, where he lived out the rest of his life – supposedly crime-free – until he passed away on Halloween day, 1979.

Eddie Bentz and His Accomplices


Michigan's Forgotten Criminals, Vol. 3

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Five Unsung & Unforgettable Michiganders

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