Skip to content

Blog: Burlingame Burglars' Bold Spree Busted

The Frayne Gang: A 1931 Crime Spree Unraveled by Meticulous Police Work

The February 21, 1931, edition of The Times reported on some solid police work that had resulted in the multiple arrests of a gang of thieves who had pulled off a string of successful robberies within our county.

Burlingame police approached the house of John and Dorothy Frayne on Dwight Road in the city. Staying with the Fraynes was one George Lewis, who became another burglar.

The police questioned the Fraynes about the burglary of the Visible Service Station the previous December. Once inside the home, the police quickly recognized a torch and set of wrenches taken from the station. The Fraynes confessed to that theft as well as a burglary of Rosette’s Shoe Shop in mid-January. Merchandise from the shoe store and a nearby dress store was found within the home.

The police then wanted to speak with Lewis but were told that he was currently in the county jail, serving 30 days for stealing gasoline. He was transported to Burlingame, confronted with the same evidence, and confessed. 

And then they confessed and confessed and confessed.

The trio stated that they had stolen the car belonging to Burlingame moving man G. E. Sawyer, driven it to Skyline and stripped it. Next up was the burglary of a fancy house at Belle Monti (a former residential area in what is now Belmont). Later, Mrs. R. L. Longwell of Millbrae was relieved of a suit, a polo coat and a dress from her parked car.

Most of the stolen items were found, although police went to the house of some of Lewis’s relatives to see if any more stolen goods could be found.
Dorothy was initially accused of participating in the robberies, a charge she denied - although she did admit to knowing what her husband and Lewis were up to and to wearing some of the stolen clothing.

Wanting to get more information from her, the police bluffed and said that her baby would be taken away from her and she would be going to jail, to which, as The Times reported, “the 19-year-old mother shrugged her shoulders and said: ‘I suppose I should - I suppose that’s where I belong.’” She was never charged.

The trio’s crime spree started small and apparently escalated. The Times completed their coverage by saying that the three “entered the Packard and Chevrolet agency offices at Burlingame more than a month ago in which only a package of cigarettes formed the loot.”

Douglas MacGowan

About the Author: Douglas MacGowan

Doug MacGowan has authored seven books and countless articles, mainly about history and true crime. He has been a resident of Redwood City since 2000.
Read more

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks