Daily News from New York, New York on January 4, 1972 · 30
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Daily News from New York, New York · 30

New York, New York
Issue Date:
Tuesday, January 4, 1972
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DAILY NEWS, TUESDAY, JANUARY 4, 1972 C3 tiim " -" ' ;" ' : j'"' l'' " ' By VINCENT LEE and PAUL MESKIL The loot from the expertly executed Hotel Pierre heist has reached more than $2 million and may run to $1 million in cash, gems and oilier valuables, making it the biggest hotel robbery in American crime history, de tectives disclosed yesterday. Investigators believe that the Sunday morning stick-up may have been committed by members of the same gang- that hit the Harbor Island Spa, a posh Miami Beach resort hotel, for .$2 million in cash and jewelry on March 31. 1966. NEWS photo by George Mattson Executive office of the Hotel Pierre, where bandits held guests and employees prisoner during robbery. This gang, which has made a cool fortune from hot gems, also is believed responsible for similar hotel robberies throughout the country and in Puerto Rico. According to detectives, the gang includes several associates of John (Sonny) Franzese, the reputed Long Island crime boss who is now serving time for bank robbery. Arrive in a I.imo The Pierre job was pulled off by a team of well-dressed gunmen who arrived at the 42-storv Hxury hotel, Fifth Ave. and 61st St.. in a black limousine. Two of them, carrying suitcases and posing as incoming guests, persuaded a security officer to open the locked 61st St. door. Movements of Auditor After they held up the door guard, a third bandit entered. A fourth gunman came in later. They handcuffed 1(3 hotel employes and three guests, broke open 50 safe deposit boxes and stuffed the loot into their suitcases. The robbers knew exactly where to go and when to go there. The hotel's day cashier, George Triana, said yesterday that the night auditor begins work at 1 a.m. and quits at 7 a.m. At 4 a.m., the auditor goes from the outer cashier's office into a By ANTHONY BURTON Security chief John Keeney stood near his desk yesterday in the elegant lobby of the Hotel Pierre. His polished shoes were on the exact spot where 19 employes and guests had been held captive while four "funny-face" bandits looted the hotel's strong room of millions of dollars worth of cash and gems. "How much did they get? It's like the market flexible," he said, trying to summon a smile. "At the moment, it's going up." If some cynical New Yorkers rejoiced that romance had returned to crime, Keeney was not one of them. It was no fun being the security boss of a hotel that might well have suffered the biggest heist in New York history. . Seven Guards on Duty Of a 17-man squad of hotel guards, seven had been on duty at the time of the robbery, pulled off by at least four men, three of them wearing false noses. "This hotel has the best security in this city," Keeney declared. "We have more men per square foot than any other. "But if guys get the drop on "you, well, there's really nothing you can do." He tried to find consolation in the thought that the bandits would have trouble disposing of their jew dry. "You den't take this sort of stuff around to W. 47th St. (the gem center)," he said. "They'll have difficulty finding a fence." Replacing the Damaged Safe Behind the cashier's desk, a workman was installing a safe to replace one damaged by the thieves in a vain attempt to crack it. Detective Lt. Edward O'Connor, in charge of the hotel investigation, escorted one fur-coated victim to a gem store to try to identify a picture of a piece of jewelry. Some of the 40 detectives assigned to the case had already contacted stores like Gartier, Tiffany's and Harry Winston in attempts to identify other pieces of jewelry taken from the safe deposit boxes. While blue-rinsed dowagers and their (Continued on page 6, col. 3) i 1 x "5 ; , - , i' - 14 1 m John Keeney For him, it's no fan locked strong room to use an adding machine there. The s;ife deposit boxes are in the strong room. When the auditor unlocks the door to the strong room, an '.ilarm is activated. He lias about 10 seconds to turn off the alarm. If he does not do so. Wells Fargo protection ser ice is alerted and investigates. The robbers arrived at the Pierre at 4:15 a.m. After sticking up the guard, they went directly to the cashier's office and caught the auditor in the strong room, with the door open. Consequently, there was no alarm and the robbers got into the strong room without difficulty. Cops Are Checking Detectives believe the holdup gang either had detailed information from an inside source or else had members case the hotel well in advance to determine how the security -system worked. Police are checking all guests who registered at the Pierre over the last three or lour months. The FBI entered the case yesterday in belief that the bandits may have taken their loot across state lines. The police probe is being conducted by :'.fl detectives of the major crime squad, headed by Deterthe Capt. Richard Nicastro. As FBI agents and city cops swarmed over the 700-room hotel yesterday in an unsuccessful hunt for clues, hotel officials reported they had contacted about half of the permanent residents and transient guests whose boxes were robbed. They Claim Losses They said about 2f, victims claimed total losses of more than $2 million, "and the final total could easily be double that amount." Largest single loss reported so far, police said, was $500,000 in jewelry belonging to Mrs. Gabrielle Lagerwall, a brunette socialite. Draped in mink, she accompanied detectives to the Harry Winston gem store at (Continued on page 6, col. 2) By WILLIAM FEDEKICf The Justice Department, through FBI Director J. Edg-ar Hoover, has ordered a massive crackdown on the gambling entrepreneur? of organized crime in all major cities across the nation. The raids will be made simul- federal and local police. Arrests tnnennslv in mid-Februarv by in- I in Manhattan are expected to dictment-armed agents for maxi- j number nearly 200, a similar mum public exposure and effect, j number in Brooklyn and nearly with specific quotas set for New 2-50 in New Jersey. York, New Jersey, Miami, Chi-i The local raids W1il be coordi- cago and New urleans. ine arrest total is expected to number in the thousands. All of those arrested will have bee indicted by special federal grand juries, marking a first for federal prosecution on such a mass basis. Evidence-Gathering Prelude Acting under the federal Safe Streets Act of 1970, FBI agents have conducted raids in the last eight weeks on major gambling operations, gathering evidence but making only a few arrests. Quotas have been , set by Hoover in-all f mjajor ptie reportedly-, based o f the known gambling operations files of both nated by strike force leaders Dennis Dillon in the eastern District, Daniel Hollman in the southern district, and Gerard McGuire. Tbe raids will be carried out by New York and Jersey-based FBI agents. Frustrated because of the light punishment meted out by state courts with most known gamblers being released in quick time, paying fines ranging only from S50 to $200 local police and five district attorneys are working hand in hand with the federal agents. i'JLfoder federal law; each -convict tion couldi result inn "$20,UM.fie and five years in jail as opposed to the minor penalties imposed under state laws. Federal authorities are proceeding under the n e w method - gathering evidence and making few arrests to make their cases as airtight as possible. The FBI, sometimes assisted by local cops, have been operating strictly on a "search warrant" level. The federal agents have been concentrating on those gambling operations linked to organized crime, steering away from "mama-and-papa bookmaking operations," a source said. The new attack on organized crime's most lucrative enterprise is being directed by a special section of the Justice Department which will seek a pattern of cases tp- . set up a standard fjorriiul jtdp prosCHttaJV '' i w Federal -sources Tef used-'COTrt-ment on the plan of attack, but organized crime figures here and in New Jersey openly concede they have been thoroughly rattled by the government's game plan. Many of the gambling figures were involved in raids conducted several weeks ago and nothing morn than the day's play and records were seized. But two weeks ago, those same crime figures received subpenas to appear before the special grand juries sitting in federal districts across the nation. In the past, lawmen made arrests first and then presented evidence for possible indictments. But for weeks they have gathered the evidence and have not felt the pressure of having to make a presentation within 20 days, as required under state laws. The new federal statutes also include severe penalties if the illegal operations include the corrup-tioh'oT poficeofTfceiVor"o"lher law j onforcmet. authorities, inciadius ' judges. -v. V i' -7 '4 "'If On Deanir Dillon . . of the coordinators

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