I’m sitting on the greatest unknown true crime story of my lifetime. This is every non-fiction author’s dream come true: an exclusive on the greatest mega-heist in history — over one billion dollars in diamonds, gold and precious gems — and you never heard of it because (a) almost everyone was in on it, and (b) they got away with it.
Yes, I had to wait until the statute of limitations was up on every aspect of the story before I could go public. In exchange for my silence, I was rewarded with unlimited personal access to the world’s greatest gem theif masterminds including the personal memoirs of the remarkable genius, “Mr. Stan,” the ultimate gentleman theif who got away with everything.
Stan was a respected member of New York high society, a millionaire businessman, artifact collector and investor with five offices in New York’s diamond district. His lovely younger wife, Branka, was a brilliant artist and friend of Phillip Pearlstein, Walter Chrysler and Joan Crawford. Together, they were a power couple beloved and admired for their charm, honesty and ethics.
What Mr. Stan’s friends and associates didn’t know was that Stan and Branka oversaw six or more teams of highly trained and disciplined specialists who, in the midnight hour, looted the vaults of the jewelry manufacturing firms who were insured for one-hundred-million dollars or more in New York’s diamond district.
Their only son, “Punch,” pulled his first multi-million dollar heist at age sixteen. Educated at the world’s most expensive boarding school in Switzerland, “Punch,” is the one who recruited the security firms to work with him instead of against him. With teams of acrobats, strongmen, safe crackers, locksmiths and alarm experts, the final added co-conspirator was the addition of the Lacka safe mantufacturing company who trained Punch in how to open all of their top-of-the line safes. With the insurance companies long intertwined with the New York mafia families, the firms hit by Mr. Stan and Son promptly paid those specific claims promply.
Now, just as I’m breaking this story in a three-volume set, Amierican Panther: Stealing Manhattan, two of Punch’s former independent contractors, “Coco” and “Gorilla,” were arrested and portrayed aS leaders of a “criminal enterprise.”
What they allegedly did may be criminal but what they were supposedly doing is not a criminal enterprise. Going back to the late 60’s and early 70’s the method has always been the same: you plan each aspect, then you bring in specialists for each aspect of the project. They might not even know who hired them or who else is working the same project. It is like the so-called “Pink Panthers” about whom I know more than INTERPOL because, after all, I’m Burl Barer, the true crime writer that criminals trust.
There are not 600 Pink Panthers. There were, at one time, six people you could rightfully say were “Panthers” — most are dead or retired. I know one of them personaly. There are two left. The people doing the so-called Pink Panther heists are hired hands just as “Coco” and “Gorilla” were hired hands back in the 1990s
This isn’t a gang. This isn’t a mob. This doesn’t fit the criminal enterprise template and, dammit, the Feds know it. Just as the infamous YACS only existed in someone’s fertile federal imagination, this “criminal enterprise” of Coco’s is imaginary as well. Coco was trained by Punch, Mr. Stan’s son. It appears that Coco simply did what Punch did before Punch left crime behind, and Mr. Stan before him. The big difference is that Mr. Stan was never caught, never prosecuted and never spent a day in prison. Now 82 and retired overseas, he has invited me to have lunch and go fishing, If I take him up on his offer, I’ll let you know.
Meanwhile, I’m waiting for someone such as the btrilliant and talented Erin Moriarty to put this story, in all its glory in front of the public prior to the publication of my book, and remind the short term memory media and prosecutors that Coco isn’t head of some gang, mob or criminal enterprise– he’s not even an innovator, but a damn good student of the true masters,Mr. Stan and Son.