U.S. Department of Justice

United States Attorney

Northern District of Illinois

INDICTMENT

Scott Lassar Federal Building

United States Attorney 219 South Dearborn Street, 5th Floor

Chicago, I1fnois 60604

(312) 353-5506

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE PRESS CONTACTS

THURSDAY OCTOBER 19, 2000 Randall Samborn, U.S. Attorney's Office

(312)353-5318

Ross Rice, FBI Press Office

(312)786-2645

MEDIA ADVISORY

 

The U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI will hold a press conference at 3:00 p.m. today to

announce arrests in Chicago and Phoenix stemming from the indictment of six defendants, including William A. Hanhardt, retired Chicago Police chief of detectives, for their alleged roles in a nationwide jewelry theft ring. The press conference will be held in the U.S.. Attorney's press conference room on the 11th floor, north end, of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 South Dearborn St., Chicago. The press conference will be conducted by Scott R. Lassar, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and Kathleen McChesney, Special Agent-in-Charge of tile Chicago Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

It is expected that Hanhardt and other defendants will have their initial court appearance after the press conference in the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.

 


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U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney

Northern District of Illinois

 

 

 

Scott R. LASSAR Federal Building

United States Attorney -19 South Dearborn Street, 51h Floor

Chicago, Illinois 60604

(312) 353-5300

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE PRESS CONTACTS:

THURSDAY OCTOBER 19 2000 U.S. Attorney's Press Office  (312) 353-5318

FBI Press Office (312) 786-2645

 

NATIONWIDE JEWEL THEFT RING ALLEGEDLY LED BY EX-CHICAGO DETECTIVE

 

CHICAGO -- A retired Chicago police chief of detectives was the leader of a sophisticated nationwide ring of jewelry thieves who targeted traveling jewelry salesmen and stole millions of dollars of high-quality jewelry in the 1980s and 1990s, according to a federal grand jury indictment returned today. Scott R. Lassar, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Kathleen McChesney, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that FBI agents immediately began arresting or searching for four of the defendants in the Chicago area and one in Phoenix and were seeking the sixth man who is a fugitive.

The indictment alleges that five of the defendants conspired to steal and transport across state lines j jewelry, gems and watches having a total value of approximately 54.85 million involving eight previously unsolved heists in Arizona, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. Among the thefts was the S1.5 million jewel theft from safe deposit boxes at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Columbus, Ohio, on Aug- 27, 1994. The sixth defendant allegedly participated in a theft in Indiana in which watches were stolen from, but later returned to, the trunk of a salesman's car.

The indictment alleges that the leader of the criminal enterprise was William A. Hanhardt, 71, of north suburban Deerfield, who retired from the Chicago Police Department in 1986 after a 33-

 


 

year career during which he served as chief of detectives, chief of traffic, commander of the burglary section, deputy superintendent for the bureau of inspectional services and district commander. Hanhardt at times personally participated in the theft of jewelry, according to the indictment. It alleges that he directed his co-defendants and others in their gathering of information on and surveillance of potential victims. He used certain Chicago Police Department officers to conduct database searches of CPD and other law enforcement computers to obtain information about salesmen and, similarly, he caused a private investigator to conduct credit bureau database searches and other inquiries to gather information about salesmen- He supervised co-defendant Joseph N. Basinski and, together, they directed the activities of others employed by and associated with the theft ring, the indictment alleges.

"Hanhardt's organization surpasses in duration and sophistication -just about any other jewelry theft ring we've seen in federal law enforcement," said Mr. Lassar. "The defendants would determine the most opportune time to steal jewelry from places such as cars and hotel rooms by surveilling traveling salesmen and by keeping detailed records analyzing their routines, all with the purpose of providing income to themselves from the stolen property," he added.

The indictment seeks forfeiture of $4,$45,000 from five of the defendants, along with the suburban Chicago residences of Hanhardt and co-defendant Sam DeStefano.

"This indictment effectively dismantles a prolific jewelry theft ring that operated with virtual impunity, directed by a corrupt law enforcement official," said Ms. McChesney. "The public expects aggressive enforcement of the law by its police officials, not collusion with criminals."

 

The indictment names and describes the other defendants as follows:

 

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Joseph N. Basinski, 55, of Chicago, who also personally participated in the theft of jewelry and identified potential targets for the enterprise, including owners of or salesmen to jewelry stores, by physical surveillance, telephone calls and database searches;

 

Paul J. Schiro, 63, of Scottsdale, Ariz., who also personally participated in the theft of jewelry and conducted physical surveillance of jewelry shows, owners of jewelry stores and jewelry salesmen;

 

Sam DeStefano, 46, of west suburban Downers Grove and Chesterton, Ind., who also personally participated in the theft of jewelry and conducted physical surveillance of jewelry shows, owners of jewelry stores and jewelry salesmen;

 

Guy Altobello, 69, of west suburban Elmhurst, who worked at Altobello Jewelers, Inc., a retail jewelry store located formerly in Villa Park and now in Wheaton, who provided one or more of his co-defendants with information about jewelry salesmen that conducted business with Altobello Jewelers so that they could further identify salesmen and determine the most opportune occasion to steal jewelry from them; and

 

William R. Brown, 74, formerly of the Chicago area and most recently Gilbert, Ariz., whose current whereabouts are unknown, and who was charged only with conspiring in the 1996 heist of watches from a jewelry salesman in Chesterton, Ind.

 

The indictment also identifies two additional co-conspirators who are now deceased: James D'Antonio, of suburban Chicago, who maintained information on traveling jewelry salesmen, along with various tools of the enterprise until he died in December 1993, and Robert Paul, of Apache Junction, Ariz., and formerly of Chicago, who conducted physical surveillance of jewelry stores and salesmen in Arizona.

 

Hanhardt, Basinski, Schiro, DeStefano and Altobello were each charged with one count of racketeering conspiracy for allegedly conspiring from the early 1980s until April 1998 to engage in a pattern of transporting stolen goods across state lines and receiving, possessing and disposing of stolen property that crossed state lines. Hanhardt, Basinski, Schiro and Brown were each charged

 

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with one count of conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property in connection with a planned theft of watches in Indiana in 1996.

 

Hanhardt, Basinski and Altobello were arrested this morning without incident. They were scheduled to have an initial court appearance later today in U.S. District Court.

 

The eight alleged jewel thefts are described as follows:

 

The theft of approximately 180watches worth approximately $310,000 from  the vehicle of a salesman for Baume & Mercier, Inc., on Oct. 8, 1984, in

Glendale, Wisconsin;

The theft of watches worth approximately $500,000 from the vehicle of a

salesman for Rolex Watch USA, Inc., on or about Oct. 13, 1986, in

Monterey, California;

The theft of jewelry worth approximately $125,000 from the vehicle of a

salesman for Gordon Brothers Corp. on or about Aug- 28, 1989, in

Englewood, Ohio;

The theft of a bag containing jewelry worth approximately $1 million from

a salesman for J. Schliff and Sons, Inc., doing business as Gem Platinum

Manufacturing, on or about June 30, 1992, at Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas;

The theft of jewelry worth more than $1 million from the rental vehicle of a

salesman for Gem Platinum Manufacturing on June 23, 1993, in Flat Rock,

Michigan;

The theft of jewelry worth approximately $240,000 from the rental vehicle

of a salesman for H.K. Mallak, Inc-, on Aug. 3,1993, in Mankato, Minnesota;

The theft of jewelry worth more than 5170,000 from representatives for

Nafco Gems, Ltd., and Mayfield's Company on May 7, 1994, at the Sky

Harbor Airport, Phoenix, Arizona;

The theft of jewelry, gemstones, cash and other material having a total value

of more than $1.5 million from safe deposit boxes at the Hyatt Regency

Hotel, Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 27, 1994.

 

In two other instances, the indictment alleges that the defendants attempted to steal:

 

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a suitcase from a salesman for Solar Diamonds, Inc., from a hotel room at the

Los Angeles Airport Hilton on June 17, 1994, and

two jewelry cases, one of which contained 15 fine watches, from the car of

a salesman for Baume & Mercier on Oct. 2, 1996, in Chesterton, Indiana.

Hanhardt, Basinski, Schiro and Brown allegedly conspired to commit this

theft between April and October 1996. The indictment alleges that,

separately or together, they traveled to Wisconsin and Indiana on occasion to

identify potential opportunities to steal the watches, and they conducted

surveillance of the Baume & Mercier salesman at his house and in his car.

On Oct. 2, 1996, while the salesman was in the Spa Restaurant in Chesterton

and with Hanhardt, Schiro and Brown serving as lookouts, Basinski entered

the trunk of the salesman's car and removed two cases, one of which

contained the watches worth approximately $58,000. Within a short time,

Basinski returned the two cases to the trunk of the salesman's car.

As part of the racketeering conspiracy, the indictment alleges that the defendants attended jewelry trade shows for wholesalers and retailers, some not open to the public, to identify individuals and to evaluate the quality and quantity of their jewelry lines. Among the shows they attended were:

 

                              the American Gem Trade Association's 1996 annual convention in Tucson, Arizona;

      the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society's 1996 trade show in Tucson;

      the 1996 Jeweler's Circular Keystone International Jewelry Show in Las

Vegas.

The defendants also kept and used various tools and instruments to assist in gaining access to vehicles, trunks, ignitions, hotel rooms and safety deposit boxes, to avoid detection or to escape law enforcement, including locksmith tools, keymaking machines, related publications, automobile instruction books, automobile keys, hotel keys, key blanks, lock picks, "slim jims," smoke grenades, fake mustache and fake beard, key cutting dies, wrenches and other hand tools, evasion devices, taser, cam set, key cutters, bullet proof vests, cameras, listening devices, and key code books. They


obtained and made keys that opened vehicles, hotel rooms and safe deposit boxes used by traveling jewelry salesmen, the indictment alleges.

Among the documents that the defendants allegedly obtained, created and maintained as part of the conspiracy were specific, detailed and accurate personal information on salesmen, their family members and their residences; information relating to their businesses; information about vehicles they used; travel itineraries and analyses including airlines used, ticket numbers, travel dates, cities, hotels, travel agencies and rental car companies used, number of miles driven, airline baggage claim tickets and hotel bills; and credit card, bank and other account information, including credit bureau reports on victims and potential victims.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI in Chicago and Phoenix. The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John J. Scully and John F. Podliska. The Jewelers' Security Alliance in New York City assisted in the investigation.

if convicted, racketeering conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As an alternative maximum fine, the Count may order a fine totaling twice the gross loss to any victim or twice the gain to any defendant, whichever is greater. The Court will determine the appropriate sentence to be imposed under the United States Sentencing Guidelines.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the United States has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt-

 

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