Miguel Guillera

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Miguel (Michael) Guillera (8 May 1889- 25 March 1943) migrated from the Philippines to the United States in 1908. He settled with his family in New Orleans, working as a prohibition officer, steward on a steamship, restaurant/bar operator, and secretary for the masonic organization Caballeros de Dimas Alang Inc., Louisiana Lodge No. 34 U.D..


On the 1910 U.S. Census, Miguel is listed with eight other Filipinos as a mess attendant residing aboard the U.S.S. Kansas. [1] The Kansas circumnavigated the globe as part of the Great White Fleet. In 1908, the ship stopped in Manila on its way to Japan, then returned to the Philippines for three weeks of exercises in Subic Bay. The assumption is that Miguel was enlisted during one of these stopovers. In 1901, President William McKinley signed an executive order allowing the Navy to enlist Filipinos. [2]

May 1910 when the census was conducted, the Kansas was docked in Philadelphia, but later in the year it would sail to Europe, stopping in Portland, England. It was during this stop that Miguel stayed in a boarding house run by the Timpson family and met his future wife, Florence Timpson. Florence would board the Amerika in Southampton, England and travel to the U.S., arriving at Ellis Island on 12 October 1912. She traveled with her mother, Caroline Timpson. The Timpsons listed Mr. M. Guillera in Philadelphia as the person they were traveling to visit. [3]

Move to New Orleans

Miguel moved his family to New Orleans from Camden, New Jersey in 1927, shortly after the birth of his daughter Doris Guillera.

Evelyn Guillera Gonzales Planchard-- "We came down here [New Orleans] because everything was free, that's what that Filipino guy told mama. 'Boy you gotta move to New Orleans everything's free. You get rice for almost nothing.' Poor daddy, he'd lost his job in the post office. Poor daddy, he got mama to pack up all-- that's when she really felt bad, she lost all her furniture, all her linings, all her everything you know she had collected and not, to move down here, to move to poverty. New Orleans was poverty. We had to stay with some lady, I forget her name, for a while until daddy found a house for us and it was hard. It was hard for all of us." [4]


United States Navy

U.S.S. Kansas, Sailor

Mess Attendant (1908-14)

Draft card shows six years of Navy service.

Navy Ammunition Depot

Fort Mifflin, Philadelphia, PA

Ordinance Helper (1917 draft card) (1914? - 1918/9)

Selective Service Act (enacted May 1917) allowed U.S. to draft for WWI.

New York Shipbuilding

Camden, NJ

Clerk (1920 census) (1918/9- ?)

NY Ships built the U.S.S. Kansas.

WWI resulted in rapid expansion of NY Ships.

United States Post Office

Camden, NJ

Position Unknown (? -1926/7) [5]

Bureau of Prohibition

New Orleans, LA

Prohibition Agent (Mar. 1927- Oct. 1928)

Started position before April 1927 when a civil service exam became a requirement for the position, but after Feb. 1927 when his daughter was born in Camden.

Worked as an undercover agent.

Setup in a sting in 1928 that caught him accepting a $20 bribe.

Convicted and then pardoned.


Lived in New Orleans, but worked on a ship. Worked aboard the S.S. Steel Inventor,which was docked in Mobile, AL for the United States Census of Merchant Seaman 1930.

Also, listed as a steward aboard a steamship in the 1930 census taken in New Orleans.

Caballeros de Dimas Alang

New Orleans, LA

Secretary (1940 census)

Prohibition Agent

Miguel was a "star" undercover agent with the federal prohibition unit. He took the job in 1927 after arriving in New Orleans. There was a public distrust of prohibition agents who were charged with enforcing the largely unpopular National Prohibition Act (1920-33). Miguel with few job options and 18 years of service to the federal government took on the job.

Miguel was successful as an undercover agent. He was new to the city, dark enough to be mistaken for a deck hand on a recently docked ship, and fluent in the language of the sea and ships to fit in well in a port city. What role did being Filipino or foreign play in his being assigned to an undercover position?

Shortly after he took the job, Congress passed the Bureau of Prohibition Act which included a requirement for prohibition agents to pass a civil service exam to keep their job. Fifty-nine percent of the Bureau's employees failed the exam, including Miguel who was set to lose his job Oct. 1 1928 and apparently started taking bribes to cushion his impending unemployment. Corruption was commonplace in the prohibition unit, especially in New Orleans which was long known for its appreciation of alcohol.

Miguel admitted to taking a $20 bribe for "protection" to the proprietor of a "soft drink stand." The proprietor was working with prohibition officers to set Miguel up and handed him a marked twenty-dollar bill.

Why was Miguel targeted by his fellow agents for the sting that caught him accepting a $20 bribe? Miguel was about to lose his job effective two weeks after his rest, so setting him up didn't serve the longterm goals of cleaning up the unit. Was his arrest meant to be an example to the new hires?


Dry Agent Held for Taking Bribe on Raid Threat

(transcript of Times-Picayune story Sunday, Sep. 16, 1928)

After he had taken $20 in marked bills from the proprietor of a soft drink stand on Clara street in return for “protection” Michael Guillera, federal prohibition agent, was arrested late Saturday night on charge of extortion and accepting bribes, federal officers reported. A man who gave his name as Bernard Robin was apprehended with Guillera and charged with assisting him in his operations.

The arrest was made by Prohibition Officers E.S. Smith, E.S. Chapman, and W.E. Passenger immediately after Guillera was said to have been handed the marked money by the owner of the drink stand, and they declared that they found it intact in his pocket.

Guillera had been under suspicion for some time, they said, and the trap was set to catch him. They refused to divulge the name of the proprietor of the stand who assisted them. This man, however was supplied with marked money by the prohibition office.

When Guillera tried to “shake him down” with a threat of a raid, the man said he offered the officer $20, which he took without hesitation. Robin was with Guillera at the time, and the arresting agents were stationed nearby.

Guillera had been on the local prohibition force about a year. [6]

Fired Dry Agent Indicted on $20 Bribery Charge

(transcript of Times-Picayune story Sept. 29, 1928)

Michael Guillera, federal prohibition agent dismissed several weeks ago, was indicted for bribery by a federal grand jury Friday when a true bill was returned against him charging that he received $20 from the operator of a speakeasy at 423 Clara street to give advance information on dry raids. [7]

Ousted Federal Agent Gets Year in Liquor Graft: Michael Guillera also Draws $60 Fine for Accepting Bribe Here

(transcript of Times-Picayune story Oct. 11, 1928)

Michael Guillera, star under-cover agent of the prohibition unit who was dismissed effective October 1 because of his failure to meet civil service qualifications, pleaded guilty Wednesday to an indictment charging him with grafting from speakeasy operators. Judge Wayne G. Borah sentenced him to serve a year and a day in prison and fined him $60, three times the amount of the bribe alleged to have been taken from Sam Green, 428 Clara street. Guillera told the court that he was dismissed without intimation of the action and that the decision found him in dire financial straits. Because of this he said he yielded to temptation in order to obtain funds with which to move his family from New Orleans.[8]

Agent Sentenced for Taking Bribe

(transcript of AP story Oct. 11, 1928)

Michael Guillera, former undercover federal agent, was sentence to serve a year and a day yesterday by Judge Wayne G. Borah in federal court when he pleaded to accepting a $20 bribe from the operator of a soft drink stand.

The defendant pleaded for leniency, saying he had a wife and children and that he was ill and in desperate circumstances at the time he accepted the bribe. He said he had been in government 18 years. [9]


  1. US Census, 1910. [1]
  2. United States Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel. "Filipinos in the United States Navy." October 1976, "Filipinos" file, Vertical File collection, Navy Department Library.
  3. Ellis Island Ship Manifest, 12 October 1912. [2]
  4. Evelyn Guillera Gonzales Planchard, Interview, 2008. [3]
  5. Evelyn Guillera Gonzales Planchard, Interview, 2008. [4]
  6. "Dry Agent Held for Taking Bribe on Raid Threat'" Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA) Sep. 16, 1928. [5]
  7. "'Fired Dry Agent Indicted on $20 Bribery Charge'" Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA) Sep. 29, 1928. [6]
  8. "Ousted Federal Agent Gets Year in Liquor Graft" Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA) Oct. 11, 1928. [7]
  9. Associated Press "Agent Sentenced for Taking Bribe" Daily Herald (Biloxi, MS) Oct. 11, 1928.[8]