The First Panther — Pavle “Punch” Stanimirovic

I am on my way to Florida where gem heist mastermind, Pavle “Punch” Stanimirovic is about to open the vault and reveal a treasure trove of true crime, true romance, and the true history of home-grown American crime that gave birth to, among others, the notorious Pink Panthers.

“I made a big mistake,” confesses Punch, “when I taught others how to do what I did so well.  It turns out that some of them don’t have the ethical altruism of benevolent outlawry, or what one could call the ‘Simon Templar ethos’. These thieves know all the moves, but they don’t hear the music.  If their driving force is selfishness and greed, they are fruitless trees fit for the fire.”

“In 1994 the Panthers went into the Carlton Hotel in Cannes,” explains  Punch. “Three masked men took $60 million in diamonds and precious gems. When they came into the hotel, they scared the hell out of everyone by shooting up the place with high-powered fully automatic weapons…or so it seemed.  After the heist was over, police noted that there was not one bullet hole to be found. It was. all a show. The number one rule upon which I always insisted was, no one gets hurt.”

“I pulled my heists brandishing a .357 Magnum. It looked scary enough to get everyone to follow instructions, but no one was ever in danger of being shot because the gun had no bullets – only blanks.  It’s showbiz. It’s a performance. It is a well-produced melodrama, and the actors rehearse every aspect of it for three solid weeks before going in front of a live surprised audience.”

“Some of the actors only do one show, get their share of the loot, and invest that money in a legitimate enterprise such as real estate. Take a look at the New York skyline.  I can look up at those Manhattan skyscrapers and recall the heist that got the real estate company off the ground. We built the New York skyline by stealing Manhattan.”

Stealing Manhattan? Hmmm. Not a bad title for the book.  I fly out of LAX Monday night on the red-eye, and back Friday night in time to do my show, TRUE CRIME UNCENSORED, on Saturday 2pm pt on  You can call Pavle “Paul”  He used the alias Paul Montana when he married swimsuit model Ashley Richardson, and when he ran those hot night spots in Miami.   This should be a fun trip!

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