Helen Vorhees Brach (November 10, 1911 - presumably February 17, 1977) was an American heiress to the E. J. Brach & Sons Candy Company family fortune, who lived near Chicago, Illinois. She disappeared on February 17, 1977 and was declared legally dead in May 1984. She was married to Frank Brach son of Emil J. Brach the founder of Brach's , who sold the company in 1966.
Brach endowed the Helen V. Brach Foundation in 1974. The Chicago based foundation is active in funding animal rights groups.
The killing of Helen Brach is widely thought to be part of the horse murders confidence game and insurance fraud scheme that was finally exposed in the early 1990s. Although several people were involved, only a single person was convicted in her disappearance. Richard Bailey was sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to murder and soliciting the murder of the candy empire heiress.
For approximately two decades, Richard Bailey and his confederates engaged in a pattern of racketeering schemes, using Chicago-area stables to defraud wealthy customers with little knowledge of the horse business. Advertisements lured potential customers to the stables; once there, the conspirators evaluated which prospects were most likely to be wealthy, going so far as to obtain confidential credit and financial information. These persons were then persuaded to invest large sums in relatively worthless, or at least significantly overvalued, horses.
Bailey, the owner of Bailey Stables and Country Club Stables, specialized in defrauding middle-aged or older women who had recently been widowed or divorced. After meeting them at the stables or through personal advertisements, he began to romance them, escorting them to expensive Chicago restaurants and sending them flowers and gifts. If he discovered the woman was not wealthy, he declined to see her again. If she was wealthy, he proceeded to secure her affection, engaging in sexual relations and in some cases proposing marriage, despite the fact that he was already married.
Bailey then implemented one or more of several fraud schemes. In one, he claimed that his money was temporarily tied up, but that he had found a horse that was a wonderful investment opportunity. Using the horse as collateral, in order to make the purchase he secured a temporary loan from the victim, which he never repaid. Once he defaulted on the loan, the victim became responsible for the horse's boarding bills (allowing the conspirators additional income as well as the opportunity to take the horse back in satisfaction of unpaid bills). A second scenario saw Bailey persuading the victim to enter into an investment partnership. Bailey and his conspirator (who posed as the seller) agreed beforehand on a price for an overvalued horse. Bailey then bargained with the seller in the presence of the victim. He and the victim each wrote a check for one-half the selling price, but after the victim left he and the seller tore up his check and split the proceeds from the victim's check. A third scheme involved selling a client an overvalued horse which did not suit her needs, then persuading her to trade the horse and additional monies for more expensive horses. While executing his schemes, Bailey was not averse to taking advantage of his victims' weaknesses: he plied an alcoholic with champagne and cocktails while she and her daughter visited the stables, and he schemed to defraud gravely ill women by obtaining their powers of attorney when he visited them in the hospital. When Bailey had gained as much money as he could from the woman, he ended the relationship, though occasionally he passed the woman on for his conspirators to further defraud. His victims were often left broken-hearted and destitute.
Helen Vorhees Brach, millionaire heiress to the Brach candy fortune, was one of Bailey's victims. She met Bailey in 1973 and they entered into a relationship. In 1975, Bailey's brother, Paul, sold her three horses for $98,000; unknown to Brach, Bailey also participated in the sale, and the horses were worth less than $20,000. Additionally, Brach bought a group of expensive brood mares.
On New Year's Eve 1976, Brach and Bailey "danced the night away" at New York's Waldorf-Astoria, but their relationship soon began to deteriorate. Early in 1977, Bailey and a conspirator arranged an extensive showing for Brach, hoping to persuade her to invest $150,000 in more horses. Brach left in less than an hour. Further, an appraiser Brach hired recommended she invest nothing in training one of her original three purchases, contrary to the $50,000 estimate of the trainer recommended by Bailey. Around this time Brach also visited her breeding stock. After viewing the mares, she openly displayed rage at the stables, screaming about being cheated and informing anyone within earshot that she was going to the district attorney's office. Subsequently, she told a close friend that she was disturbed about her purchase of horses from a younger man whom she had been seeing (Bailey), and after hearing that her friend knew state prosecutors, she agreed to visit the State's Attorney's office after she returned from her upcoming visit to the Mayo Clinic. Brach departed from the Mayo Clinic on February 17, 1977. She was never seen again, and her body has never been found. Bailey was interviewed in connection with her disappearance but no charges were filed at the time.
Her body was never recovered. There have been allegations that after she was murdered her body was disposed of in an Indiana blast furnace
Helen Vorhees Brach, known as "the candy lady," lived a life of luxury in a north suburban Chicago mansion in Glenview with housekeepers, butlers, and her beloved horses. Her death, authorities said, was unsightly. According to sources, a three-year investigation determined that Brach's body was brought to an Indiana steel plant by organized crime hoodlums. Agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms say the mastermind behind the murder is Frank Jayne Junior, 70, a stable owner who allegedly had Brach silenced before she could reveal his fraudulent horse business and insurance scams.
According to affidavits filed with the motion, Helen was either beaten or strangled, and her body was dumped in a white-hot steel furnace outside Gary, Ind. The witness, who was granted immunity, said Brach was picked up at the Mayo Clinic and returned to Chicago by car -- a stand-in took her place on the plane -- where she was killed because she planned to go to authorities to file a criminal complaint that she had been defrauded by crooked horse traders.
At the time Zellner filed the paperwork with the court the names of the confidential informants were blacked out, but before long the identity of the chief witness, who admitted he was considering writing a book, was no longer a secret.
Joe Plemmons, who testified at Bailey's sentencing hearing that the con man had once tried to hire him to kill Brach, came forward in an interview with the Chicago Tribune and admitted that "by his own account, he fired two gunshots into Brach's already battered body."
Plemmons said he thought Brach was already dead when he was forced at gunpoint to shoot her, because someone else heard her moan as they unloaded her body from the trunk of a Cadillac.
Plemmons claimed Kenneth Hansen asked him to help his hit-man brother, Curt, take care of Brach, and that when Ken said he heard the woman moan as they transferred her body to a waiting station wagon, Curt -- who has since died -- ordered Plemmons to shoot her.
The killer "ordered Plemmons to 'put holes in the blanket or there will be two of you in the station wagon,'" the Tribune quoted Plemmons as saying.
Kenneth Hansen was eventually convicted and sentenced to 200 to 300 years in prison for several murders that were uncovered by authorities during their investigation of Brach's disappearance. Those killings, which occurred in 1955, were unrelated to her case. He died in prison in September of 2007. Curt was believed to be involved in organized crime in Chicago and was reportedly "one of the most violent hit men associated with organized crime," according to Zellner's brief.
Plemmons said the man who ordered Brach's killing was not Hansen or Bailey, but another horse trader imprisoned as a result of the Brach investigation.
Investigators have accepted Plemmons's account of the case, but the prosecutors acknowledge that it does not give them any more evidence. It simply confirms theories that have been around since Helen disappeared.
"The agents who investigated this case for many years feel confident the information the prosecutors are reviewing clearly shows who is involved in her murder," an ATF spokesman said.
The courts were unimpressed with the bombshell revelations.
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