Publication date: 10/25/2001
Former chief of detectives admits masterminding jewel theft ring
William Hanhardt agrees to pay $4.8 million in restitution, faces up to 12 years in prison.
By The Associated Press
CHICAGO -- Wearing the bright orange jumpsuit of a federal prisoner, the Chicago Police Department's former chief of detectives pleaded guilty Thursday to masterminding $5 million in jewelry thefts.
William Hanhardt, 72, admitted to capping a 33-year career as one of the city's boldest crime-busting detectives by leading a band of thieves who pulled eight heists in seven states over more than a decade.
Hanhardt agreed to pay $4,845,000 in restitution for stolen jewelry, gems and watches and faces as much as a dozen years in prison.
"It's remarkable that a person who was chief of detectives of the Chicago Police Department admits to being part of a racketeering conspiracy," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said afterward.
"There's no controversy over whether Mr. Hanhardt is guilty -- he stood up in court and said that today," Fitzgerald said.
Hanhardt, who took an overdose of pills in what doctors called a suicide attempt only a week ago, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in racketeering and conspiracy to transport stolen jewels over state lines.
While he pleaded guilty to the charges in the indictment, he made a point of saying he disagreed with some of the additional details of the case as outlined in court by federal prosecutor John Scully.
Which side federal U.S. District Charles R. Norgle Sr. ends up believing could have an effect on exactly how much time behind bars Hanhardt gets. Norgle set the sentencing for Jan. 31 and both sides said they might call witnesses.
Among other things, Scully told Norgle that two "active" Chicago police officers, one a detective, had provided information that was helpful to Hanhardt and his henchmen.
Asked after the hearing about the term active, federal prosecutor John Podliska said it meant "active at the time." He declined to comment on whether the officers remain active on the force. Fitzgerald said all the information the police should have has been provided.
Prosecutors had said previously that Hanhardt, although retired from the force, had been able to make use of police computers to get information about such matters as car rentals by jewelry salesmen. Many of the thefts were from automobiles parked by unsuspecting salesmen.
Hanhardt was among six men indicted on the charges in October 2000 as the government surfaced its long simmering investigation of the once powerful police official. Four others also have pleaded guilty and a fifth defendant, William "Cherry Nose" Brown, has never been captured.
Federal law sets a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a fine of at least $500,000 for Hanhardt's two offenses. But under sentencing guidelines, he is likely to get somewhere around 12 years.
Law enforcement officials say the first of the heists took place in Wisconsin in 1984, two years before Hanhardt retired from the force.
"It's our evidence that for decades Bill Hanhardt has been a corrupt policeman," said Gary Shapiro, former chief of the federal organized crime strike force and now first assistant U.S. attorney.
The plea comes a week after Hanhardt was rushed to a hospital from his suburban home where he was found unconscious.
Doctors determined that he had taken an overdose of a powerful pain killer in a suicide attempt. He was arrested and placed in the psychiatric unit at Bethany Hospital in Chicago. Since then, he has been moved to the government's Metropolitan Correctional Center.
Federal prosecutors say that the heists masterminded by Hanhardt took place in Arizona, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. While the gang actually got more than $5 million worth of goods, they had targeted more than 100 jewelry salesmen and $40 million in jewelry, gems and watches, according to federal prosecutors.
Prosecutors said the gang's operations were among the most sophisticated they have ever encountered, with smoke grenades, fake beards and mustaches, listening devices and other high-tech paraphernalia.
"William A. Hanhardt directed one of the country's most successful and long-lasting organized-crime schemes," Scully told the judge.