After being convicted of land fraud, he lived as a fugitive for several months before capture, wrote a book after conviction, received a Presidential pardon, and later was convicted of mail fraud. As a young man, he worked as a surveyor and a logger. He left California in 1888 and moved to Portland, Oregon.
Early in the 20th century, Puter was instrumental in carrying out the, which transferred tens of thousands of acres of federal lands given to the Oregon and California Railroad to private hands, ultimately benefiting large timber companies and some Oregon politicians, including United States. Senators John H. Mitchell and Binger Hermann, who was later exonerated.
Puter was considered the kingpin of the scandal. In 1902, he took his family to Berkeley, California.
He was indicted early in 1905. Allegations besides the land schemes included bribing then-Senator Mitchell $2,000.
Puter fled Oregon before being sentenced as had two of the other defendants.
While they fled to China on a steamship, Puter was in an armed confrontation with two United States. Secret Service officers in Boston, Massachusetts in March and was subsequently a fugitive for several months before being captured in late May 1906 by the Alameda, California police who also discovered weapons in his rented room. After his capture and return to Oregon he served two years in the Multnomah County Jail. In 1906, while incarcerated, Puter co-wrote the book Looters of the Public Domain with Horace Stevens, a former land office clerk.
In the detailed tell-all, Puter both confessed to and accused others of their role in the scandal, and in it were portraits of his co-conspirators and copies of documents confirming their criminal acts.
In his book he wrote a clear statement of the scope of the scandal:
Thousands upon thousands of acres, which included the very cream of timber claims in Oregon and Washington, were secured by Eastern lumberman and capitalists,…and nearly all of the claims, to my certain knowledge, were fraudulently obtained. The timber land scandals were not limited to Oregon.
The California Redwood Company in Humboldt County had also been running a claim scheme to secure title to thousands of acres of redwood timberlands. President Theodore Roosevelt pardoned Puter after he had served 18 months of his sentence so that he could turn state"s evidence.
His testimony led to the indictment of Mitchell, Hermann and John North. Williamson, who made up three-fourths of Oregon"s congressional delegation, as well as a number of other prominent Oregonians and federal officials.
In 1907 he testified to having bribed a grand jury during the land schemes in Oregon. Puter was on a train headed to Portland at the time of the indictment and was to be arrested on arrival. Puter and some of the codefendents pleaded guilty to the charges.
Puter"s date of death remains unknown.