Monday, April 30, 2012

Living the Good Life

Photo: Donna Firnhaber
A 3,300-square-foot swimming room in Welch's Great Falls, Virginia,
home. Welch was arrested for Dr. Michael Halberstam's murder
before the pool was ever filled.  Ironically, Welch did not know
how to swim.
When Bernard Welch was arrested for murdering Dr. Michael Halberstam in 1980, one of the things that amazed investigators was his home. Police are accustomed to finding criminals living in roach-infested dumps. Welch's house was a long ranch-style home on a three-acre lot in a wealthy neighborhood. It had a three-car garage, a tennis court, and an almost completed full-size indoor swimming pool addition. How did an escaped convict living under an assumed name purchase a home in a such a prestigious neighborhood?
The answer is that Welch's common-law wife, Linda Hamilton, was his shill. Everything that Welch legally bought was in her name. The home mortgage, insurance, bank accounts, investment portfolio, tax filings, and three new cars were all in the name of Miss Hamilton. Even his three young children bore her last name.
How was this accomplished? Bernard Welch and Linda Hamilton had purchased a home in Duluth in 1978 and rented a house in Great Falls, both in her name, of course. When he accumulated enough cash, they found a home they liked in Great Falls that was for sale. Its price was $235,000. They put $10,000 down and paid $155,000 in cash, leaving a mortgage of $70,000. Linda qualified for the loan because she had a work history, she owned a home in Duluth, and she had been paying income taxes on the proceeds from Welch's "business." This money was laundered through Linda's bank account and was the source of the $155,000. 
Photo: Donna Firnhaber
Rear view of the Welch home on Chesapeake Drive.
Over the five-year period that “Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton” shared together, this became their standard operating procedure for purchasing. Welch stole and turned his loot into cash through various means. His money went to Linda. She processed the cash through her bank accounts providing a legitimate front as the bookkeeper for their “business.” Linda Hamilton wrote the checks for the items that Welch desired, including the indoor pool addition.
The house in Great Falls, Virginia, with its addition and furnishings, would cost about two million dollars today. Extraordinary, considering that neither Bernard Welch nor Linda Hamilton had a legitimate job.
The bottom line is, without Linda Hamilton, Welch would have been a criminal on the run, driving a stolen car, living in rented rooms, and looking over his shoulder for the cops – exactly what happened to him when he escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago in 1985.
– James King

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