James V Lago was born on February 12th 1889 in Mugardos, Coruña, where he remained until he migrated to Cuba. According to the 1920 census James migrated to New York in 1917 – according to his prison registration he migrated in 1900. Upon his arrival in the US James was registered in the U.S., World War I Draft on June 5, 1917. Prior to the draft he was a cashier & manager at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. 3 years later, in the 1920 Census James was living at 344 West 14th Street with his brother Domingo Vilas Lago (29), Felicita Lago (20), and Robert Lago (0).
On January 12, 1921 James married his wife Anna Stroh in Manhattan. On November 7th, 1921 their son James was born. On September 19th, 1922 James submitted a petition to become a naturalized citizen. In the summer of 1925 Lago opened up a 4 story hotel for Spanish lodgers next door to his bank on West 14th Street.
Lago bank was closed on July 3, 1928 due to a $200,000 shortage. 1929, James V Lago plead guilty to accepting deposits in his bank at 145 West Fourteenth Street, while insolvent. Lago was 39 years old at the time of the case and lived at 190-11 Hillside Avenue. According to the NYT article written about his case in 1929, he had been operating his bank for more than 14 years at this point. His bank had about 3,000 depositors (another report says 2,800), a thousand of whom were miners, shepherds and steel workers of Spanish extraction and whose life savings rarely exceeded $1,000. Many of them had planned to return to Spain but were stranded in New York after they lost their savings in the bankruptcy.
Because many of the depositors were Spanish the NYT reported that the Spanish Consul of New York had formed a committee to look after the interests of the Spanish depositors. It was explained that Spanish merchants in the city felt that it would be advisable to have a Spanish speaking receiver assisting in administering the affairs of the bank so that the alarm of the depositors would be more easily quieted. It was said the bank had been insolvent for some time before the banking department ordered the bank closed on July 3rd, 1928. In order to increase assets and pay off his debt, he and his wife turned over $110,000 worth of their personal property to the bank’s liquidators.
On September 10th, 1929 James was sentenced to 2 years in Sing Sing State Prison. His registration documentation at Sing Sing states that he immigrated in 1900, when he was 11 years old. At the time of his arrest, he was not yet a naturalized citizen and his occupation was listed as a “clerk”.
In the 1940’s Census James had become a naturalized citizen and owned/worked in a grocery store but was no longer living with his wife or son, although his marital status was still “Married”. In 1942 James registered for the U.S., World War II Draft at the age of 54. James died on October 23rd, 1959 at the age of 70 in Brooklyn, New York.