|The Naked City||Feb 20 2013|
Some real world pulp for you today. The news is just coming out in the last day, but apparently on Monday night in Belgium, there was a diamond heist at Brussels National Airport. A group of men driving two black vans with flashing police lights entered the airport through a hole cut in a perimeter security fence, drove up to a Switzerland-bound commercial jet idling on the tarmac, held at gunpoint workers who had loaded a cache of diamonds onto the plane, and snatched the gems right out of the cargo hold. Passengers on the plane were unable to see any of the action. A few minutes later the vans sped away and slipped through the previous gap in the security fence. The vehicles were later found burnt to a crisp outside Brussels. The diamonds are said by industry spokespeople to be worth about $50 million, which must be very interesting news to the men who dig them up somewhere in Botswana or Yakutia. In any case, the theft investigation is ongoing and as yet there are no leads.
|The Naked City||Aug 6 2012|
They were known as the Two Tonys—Brancato and Trombino, a pair of wild mobsters out of Kansas City. In May 1951 they robbed the cash room at the mob-controlled Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. They and their three henchmen had been wearing hats, but Tony Brancato lost his mid-robbery, was caught on camera, and from there ended up on the FBI’s most wanted list. Brancato and Trombino were also identified by a mob subordinate who recognized them because he’d been robbed by them in Beverly Hills. The pair were arrested for the Flamingo robbery, but made bail, then promptly headed to Los Angeles. There they shook down a mob bookmaker’s right hand man, which put them on L.A. crime boss Jack Dragna’s most wanted list. But the difference between his list and the FBI’s was that Dragna’s had nothing to do with capture and trial. He ordered the Two Tonys to be killed, and mob shooter Aladena Fratianno, aka Jimmy the Weasel, took on the task. Brancato and Trombino desperately needed money for their legal defense, and Fratianno told them he’d help them take down a high stakes poker game worth $40,000. The Tonys were thrilled and grateful, but the heist was fiction. Instead, in a car on Hollywood Boulevard, Fratianno had two subordinates murder them. The aftermath appears above and below. Today, 1951.
|The Naked City | Vintage Pulp||Feb 16 2012|
Above is an Inside Detective published February 1963, containing a feature on Albert Nussbaum and Bobby Wilcoxson, a pair of armed robbers who were among the most sought after fugitives of their time. Nussbaum was the brains of the operation, and was adept at chess and photography, and was a locksmith, gunsmith, pilot, airplane mechanic, welder, and draftsman. With his spatial and mechanical aptitude, many careers would have been available to him, but he chose instead to become a bank robber. Predictably, he was good at that too.
|The Naked City||May 20 2010|
Of course, the fascinating bit about these art thefts is that they are strictly pre-order—which is to say, they are financed by wealthy individuals who have the capacity to pay for the pieces, store them indefinitely, or perhaps even display them in their homes with no fear of exposure to authorities. The black market for stolen art is robust, to say the least, and for thieves the jobs are irresistible because it’s physically impossible to steal 500 (or 150) million in actual cash. At least not without the starting offensive line of the Philadelphia Eagles to help you carry it. Even if the sale value for stolen art is a fraction its estimated value, it’s still probably impossible to physically steal, say, 60 million dollars—or even 10 million. Enticed by such rewards, and outfitted by rich backers who can pay for the latest in security-thwarting gear, it’s very possible no protective technology can prevent these thefts. French police made a statement earlier today in which they revealed that they have a security recording of one thief entering the museum through a window, but otherwise they seem to be sans indices—i.e. clueless.
|The Naked City||Feb 15 2010|
Most people think it’s pretty hard to rob a bank, but that perception is mostly a result of good marketing by financial institutions. The reality is, all you need is the huevos. Take for example the Blue Note Bandit. Here’s a guy who has robbed fifteen California banks in four months and shows no signs of slowing down. They call him the Blue Note Bandit because during his first heist he showed the teller a blue note demanding money. Other times the note was on white paper. Sometimes off-white. But the end result was the same every time—he walked with the green. Except for having a dye pack explode on him after one of the robberies, everything has gone the bandit’s way so far, but of course, the odds of him getting nabbed go up with each foray. We seriously doubt he’ll get away with many more. Back during the heyday of the pulp era bank robbers became folk heroes. Dillinger. Pretty Boy Floyd. Bonnie and Clyde. Today, most people are far too responsible to support criminals in such fashion. But isn’t siding with a bank over a bank robber in these interesting economic times a bit like accusing a woman of assault when she slaps the vampire who’s sucking her blood? Just a little moral complexity to get your Monday off to a good start. You’re welcome. And Mr. Blue Note? Quit while you’re ahead and visit sunny Guyana for the next, oh, rest of your life.
|Hollywoodland||Feb 1 2010|
Actor Rip Torn, best known for his role as Zed in the sci-fi blockbuster Men in Black, was found Friday inside Lichfield Bancorp, a Connecticut bank, drunk and carrying a loaded handgun. Police arrested the 78-year-old and charged him with first-degree burglary, third-degree criminal mischief, carrying a firearm while intoxicated, first-degree trespassing, and possession of a firearm without a permit. Quite a laundry list. The mug shot here is actually from a previous arrest, but we’ll just assume he looked more or less the same Friday. Anyway, we laid out the rules for American justice in yesterday’s post—the richest person or entity wins. Torn is, one would assume, reasonably well off, which means he’d walk from this crime if he broke into, say, your house. But since he broke into a bank, he’s basically screwed. His only chance is to blame it on alcohol. That’s a lot like shooting someone, then rubbing the gun’s nose in the victim’s blood and screaming, “Bad weapon!” But for some reason, it seems to work for celebs.
|Intl. Notebook||Feb 2 2009|
Winona, Paris, Nicole—read and learn. Patty Hearst was first a millionaire socialite, then a kidnap victim, then a self-described urban revolutionary and machine gun toting bank robber. She went on trial for armed robbery in January 1976, and the proceedings continued through March. Newsweek produced the grainy cover you see above twenty-two years ago today. Despite the efforts of celebrity lawyer F. Lee Bailey, Hearst was sentenced to 35 years. But her sentence was commuted by president Jimmy Carter after a mere 22 months of time served, even though she had refused at trial to give evidence against her kidnappers/accomplices. She was later given a full pardon by Bill Clinton. Psychologists claim Hearst was not responsible for her actions due to the effects of Stockholm syndrome, which basically means she started digging her kidnappers. We're gonna try that excuse next time we get arrested, but we have a feeling it won’t work.
|The Naked City||Dec 5 2008|
In Paris yesterday evening, in a scene right out of a Hollywood heist movie, a gang of thieves robbed high-end jeweler Harry Winston of €108 million of diamond rings, necklaces and watches. At least three of the crooks were dressed as women, and all were reportedly armed with guns. After entering the store in plain sight of customers and bystanders, they overpowered fifteen boutique employees, bagged one of the most valuable collections of loot in jewel theft history, and fled before the police could be called. This is the second time the New York-based jeweler has been hit—just over a year ago the same shop lost more than $28 million in merchandise to another gang. Police claim to have few leads in this new robbery, but have said that because stolen jewels are difficult to sell in Western Europe, the gang probably has connections in the east.