Tag Archives: thieves

Recent (and Insane) Jewelry & Cash Heists

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This has been quite a year in the world of high stakes jewelry heists.  All over the globe, from right here in NYC’s Diamond District to the luxury boutiques of London to Thai airports to Mom ‘n Pop Shops in the Midwest, jewel thieves have been striking with reckless abandon.  The caliber of gem pilferers have ranged from highly successful and calculating posses, like the infamous Pink Panthers, to renegade solo stealers, like a particular femme fatale who has been on quite the tear as of late – and is currently wanted in several US states.

What has lead to this dramatic increase in dangerous, violent and unfortunately lucrative jewel crimes?  Are these new age criminals utilizing technology to figure out the security patterns of jewelry stores with deadly precision, and seeing this as a way to make ‘easy money?’  Have international economic woes contributed to people seeking innovative and coincidentally illegal methods for obtaining cash?  Is it somehow Trump’s fault??  Not ruling out any of these options, it really is hard to say with any certain degree of accuracy what is the true root cause.  One thing is for sure; many of these elite larcenies have been hair-raising, to say the least.  Here we take a look at some of the more jaw-dropping-ly fascinating tales of jewel and dough poaching that have occurred over the last few years.

Diamonds of Anarchy 

London’s Brent Cross Mall, 2012.  A fairly standard autumn morning in homogenized British shopping.  Then…half a dozen masked (helmeted) motorcycle men (presumably from Hades) rode INTO a jewelry store on the second floor of the shopping complex and proceeded to wreak havoc.  They smashed the jewelry containers with bats and axes and grabbed whatever they could carry in their avaricious mitts.  Riding two to a bike, the loot snatchers jumped back on their partners’ backs and blazed out of there to freedom.  After all was said and stolen, 3.1 million dollars in Rolex and Cartier watches, along with sundry loose diamonds and gems (and even a few sale items) were gone forever.  All the police were able to turn up in the ensuing investigation were the motorcycles themselves, which had been stolen and were left abandoned in a golf course not far from the mall.  The motorcycle gang, or “club” as Jax Teller would say, remain at large to this day.

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Couldn’t Belieb their Own Eyes 

In May of 2013, a truly pop-tastic heist occurred.  Technically, no jewelry was stolen, but the amount of plundered cash (half a mil) is enough to raise an eyebrow or two.  More importantly, is the venue where this caper went down: FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Thousands of adoring fans were rocking out to arguably one of the greatest musical talents of our time – heck, of EVER.  That’s right; the Bieb.  While the concert raged on, and many a tween girl wept with hormonally confused ecstasy, a cadre of supplemental security guards (hired just for this epic event) were chainsawing or exploding or god-only-knows-what-ing a two foot concrete floor which gave way to where all the cash from the night’s revelry was stored.  The thieves then high tailed it out of there before the final, haunting refrain of “If I Was Your Boyfriend” was even sung.

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Cannes Not Believe this Happened 

When one thinks of the city of Cannes, nestled on the coast of the French Riviera, images of film festival opulence and extravagant vacations come to mind.  A lone dude in a “baseball cap and scarf” toting a handgun who is somehow able to steal 136 million dollars in gems, watches and baguettes from the extra fancy Carlton International Hotel is probably not what you would picture.  However, that is precisely what went down in 2013 at the famed location.  The reason all these valuables were just hanging around the hotel was because Lev Avnerovich Leviev, an Israelite with billions of shekels to his name, had them on display there, in a “private salon.”  Too bad the paltry guards assigned to watch said watches and jewels were not trained to deal with an actual robbery (also, they had no guns themselves).  So, the solitary fellow strolled over with his pistol, politely asked for the goods and said “au revoir.”  Ironic twist: this hotel is where Hitchcock’s 1955 hit “To Catch a Thief” was filmed.

…This thief has not been caught.

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Putting Seniors to Work 

This past May, London’s premier jewelry district, Hatton Garden (a name befitting a location out of “Great Expectations”) felt a little bit of a squeeze.  One of the area’s  “safest” safety deposit vaults was expertly invaded and drained of 300 million dollars worth of jewels and pounds.  Aside from the staggeringly high amount of quid that was snatched, what makes this case so intriguing is the age of the robbers.  The youngest man, out of the nine suspects, was 48, and the most senior was 76.  They tunneled their way into the vault, carving out a perfectly cylindrical hole just wide enough to fit presumably the thinnest member of the elder gang.  Ultimately, all nine of the thieves were apprehended, which confirms the theory that older people may have the wisdom to pull off a heist of this magnitude, but probably aren’t that particularly great at running away from the police.

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One Bold Babe

The Eastern Seaboard has very recently fallen prey to one daring and dazzling dame.  The unidentified woman has hit three states thus far: South Carolina, Georgia and Florida (appears this larcenous lady has an affinity for beachy locales).  In all of the accounts, she has allegedly overpowered all the workers, zip-tied ‘em up and made off with thousands of dollars in jewels.  The FBI has stepped in and vows to take immediate action (but if anything can be learned from watching the ‘X-Files,’ it’s that the FBI is not always adept at getting to the truth…even if it really is out there).  Surveillance footage of the woman depicts a tough and attractive individual (possibly similar to Gina Gershon’s character in the film “Bound”), but the police sketch of her makes her look like Carmen San Diego.

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via CNN.com
via CNN.com

Each day it seems at least one jewelry store is hit, somewhere on this vast planet of ours.  No one can say what exactly motivates these enterprising thieves (aside from the obvious: money), or if they will slow down any time soon.  All we can do is hope that no one is injured in any way in these robberies, that the victims are fully insured…and that the stories continue to be this juicy.

-Joe Leone    

Missing Diamond and Gem Treasures!

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Ever since the first diamond was plucked from the earth, these stones have been viewed as objects of immeasurable value.  Consequentially, people have been snatching them from each other with rapacity.  That is to say, diamonds and jewels have been some of the most sought after things to steal for centuries.  As this tradition is still going quite strong today, let’s take a look back at some of the grandest (and unsolved) diamond and gemstone plunders in recorded history.  

The Treasure of Lima

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Dios Mio!  After the Spaniards wrestled control of Peru from the native Incas during the 1500’s, they thought the country would be a perfect place for hiding some of their illustrious treasures.  These valuables included various jewels and gemstones, some priceless candlesticks and, naturally, “two life-size solid gold statues of Mary holding the baby Jesus.”  How much were these historic pieces valued at during the time they were to be transported to Mexico in 1820?  Possibly 60 million unos grandes.  Adjust for a little thing called inflation, and we’re looking at roughly $250,000,000 today.  Now here’s where the story gets greedily good:  A  heretofore trustworthy sea captain, William Thomas, was hired to ship the loot in his majestic vessel the “Mary Dear,” but he and his sea-faring posse thought hey, “Argghh ye matey,” and pirated the whole operation, murdering anyone who opposed them.  They made a quick stop off at Cocos Island (near modern day Costa Rica) and plopped the purloined goods into the supple sand.  Eventually Thomas was caught and brought back to the island to show the Spanish where their stuff was hidden – yet Thomas pulled a fast one and ran off into the jungle.  After many attempts over the decades to locate it, no one has been able to find that luscious gold/gem conglomeration.  Those who believe strongly in Karma hold the conviction that Thomas was hastily devoured by carnivorous parrots deep in the jungle.               (source: The telegraph.co.uk)

*update: the modern day Treasure of Lima is Adriana Lima.

Florentine Diamond  

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The history of this yellow fellow is sketchy at best.  Allegedly, after purchasing the stone, the Duke of “Burgundy” (a region of southern France, now known for wine and being a color), donned the diamond in battle and died ignominiously in 1476.  Some fool-hearty rando then found the massive, 137 carat sparkler, thought it was glass (or “florin”) and sold it to somebody for a few pennies.  The ginormous gemstone eventually found its way into the possession of many famed families, such as the Medicis and then the Austrian royal clan the Habsburgs (now known as the “Has-beens”).  When the Austrian empire was crumbling like a moldy crumb cake during the first World War, Charles the First (of the soon to be defunct Austria) scampered away and hid with his gem in some Swiss castle, clutching it like Gollum.  Well somebody got close enough to snatch that puppy, and flee to South America with it.  The final gemmy gossip is that some Gatsby-like American purchased it in the 1920’s and brought it back to the states.  Here it essentially entered the witness protection program for diamonds: it was potentially cut to become another stone altogether (or possibly two, or…more?) and its whereabouts remain an abject mystery.  It was valued at an estimated $750,000 back at the turn of the century, so who knows what this sparkler would actually be worth now.                            (source: famousdiamonds.tripod.com)

Irish Crown Jewels

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The torrid tale of these lucky little gems (emeralds, rubies, pink and huge white diamonds encased in numerous precious metals) is wrought with intrigue.  After passing hands through many generations of Irish nobility, the jewels ended up in Dublin Castle, under lock and key.  That didn’t stop some enterprising thieves from liberating the valuables in 1907.  The larcenists were never caught, but extremely weird and wild theories circulated nonetheless.  Some lords blamed “Unionist criminals,” while others defamed the very staff of Dublin House, stating that they had “homosexual orgies” and the naughty (yet well dressed) rascals involved were the culprits.  More scandal arose when the King of Arms accused his right hand man of doing the dirty deed.  Regardless of how it actually went down, the jewels are still at large, and they would fetch a cool 7.8 million dollars today.  (source: historyireland.com)

Tucker’s Cross

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The narrative of Tucker’s Cross may seem relatively tame in comparison to some of the previously listed stories, however the ending to this account is slightly more melancholic.  Teddy Tucker, an explorer extraordinaire and native of Bermuda, was exploring the high seas as usual (no big deal) in 1955.  He chanced upon a 22 karat, solid gold crucifix, bespectacled with giant glistening emeralds.  Legend has it that this priceless cross went down with the San Pedro, an ill-fated Spanish ship that sank in 1594 (qué lastima).  Tucker made a deal with the Bermudan government, selling it to them so that it could be displayed in a museum that Tucker and his gorgeous and sultry wife oversaw, as a symbol of Bermudan beauty (even though it was really from Spain, but whatever).  Valued at $250,000 at the time, it was considered the world’s “Most Valuable Sunken Treasure.”  After a lot of hullabaloo involving the sale of the museum and a visit by Queen Elizabeth II, a closer inspection of the cross revealed that it had been pilfered – a carefully crafted replica sat in its cherished spot.  Tucker hung his head in shame, while the heretic thieves laughed with devilish delight and deviously danced into the tropical night.  The cross was obviously never recovered, and sunken treasure exploration has never been the same.  (sources: teddytucker.com / thescuttlefish.com)

The Patiala Necklace

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When you are one of 2,930 diamonds in a necklace, it may be hard to stand out.  That is, unless you are the “De Beers Diamond,” a 234 carat cutie, holding the distinction of the world’s 7th largest diamond (before it was cut, it’s carat weight was 428).  These are just some of the gemstones that comprise the Patiala, which was made specifically for the eponymous maharaja in 1928, by a small local jeweler called “Cartier” – and who says men don’t like to wear jewelry?  In any event, this necklace never really wanted to be in the spotlight: it went missing just two decades later.  In a bizarre turn, it made a famous reappearance at the Geneva Sotheby’s in 1982, selling for $3.16 million (apparently the Swiss aren’t sticklers for producing certifications of ownership).  However, it was revealed that many of the original stones were missing, including Burmese rubies and various other diamonds in the modest 18 to 73 carat range.  Where those missing stones are is yet another enigma in the wide world of perpetually disappearing diamonds.   (source: thehindu.com)

…more Missing Diamonds coming soon!  (well, an article – not the actual diamonds …they’re missing.)

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-Joe Leone

Stolen Diamonds: Reclaimed!

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All good things must come to an end.  That includes the dizzyingly euphoric and fancy free period when a purloined gemstone comes into one’s possession.  Due to inscriptions and intaglios of authenticity etched directly on to the facets of super valuable diamonds, it’s a lot harder than one would think to “move” them.  Unlike stolen cash or even gold (which can easily be melted down), diamonds are highly traceable, and often result in reclamation by the rightful owners (unless of course the thieves in question are smart enough to employ a corrupt diamond cutter, who can expertly remove any signatures of ownership without significantly diminishing the carat weight …just saying).  Of the millions and millions of dollars worth of stolen diamonds that have disappeared over time, many have been recovered and the perpetrators of the crimes punished accordingly.  Here are some of our favorite tales of thievery…and retribution.
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Top Ten Diamond Heist Movies 

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Pilfering diamonds is a great way to make a buck.  Think about it: in order to snatch a significant amount of loot, by robbing a bank for instance, you need a lot of people carrying a lot of bags.  Cash is really bulky, and gold is just too darn heavy.  Diamonds on the other hand, are incredibly compact and relatively lightweight.  Just a handful of the right ones could yield somewhere in the 7 figure range.  As a result, a lot of people have attempted (and gotten away with) stealing diamonds; for instance the $136 Million in such stones stolen from The Carlton Hotel in Cannes last year.  Hence, anything that people do in real life that is both cool and illegal, a movie gets made about it.  Here are the top ten best Diamond Heist flicks of all time.

To Catch A Thief (1955)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
StarringCary Grant, Grace Kelly

To Catch A Thief film poster
Photo via Wikipedia

Continue reading Top Ten Diamond Heist Movies 

The 10 Biggest Diamond Heists in History

Diamond heists make for some of our favorite movies. There’s something exciting about watching the suave, good-looking international jewel thief masterfully plan and execute the perfect crime, staying one step ahead of the cops the whole time. Diamond heists don’t just happen in Hollywood though. Real life jewel thieves may not look like George Clooney or Cary Grant, but the schemes they come up with rival and sometimes even surpass Hollywood’s in terms of planning, creativity and sheer audacity. With that in mind, we present 10 of the biggest diamond heists in history.

10. Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, NetherlandsDiamond-Lighthouse-broker-Dutch-airport-heist

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
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