Cat burglars are creative. They’re cunning. They’re criminals that go to great lengths to get the job done. Some of them may be glamorized in Hollywood films, while others are relatively unknown. We take a look at five cat burglars who’s remarkable exploits you should know about.
Spilotro was a gangster who worked in 1970’s and 1908’s Las Vegas. He oversaw a scam known as “The Skim,” where Mafia crime families would avoid taxes by stealing money from counting rooms that they owned.
But Spilotro wanted extra money. And he didn’t have the patience to slowly accumulate his goods. The gangster decided to team up with his brother and eight mafia associates to create a gang for their own crime sprees. A number of high-profile heists were committed and the group made quite the money.
The gang’s method for entry was to drill through the outer walls of businesses to gain access, and once inside, crack safes. All of the money that was stolen was laundered through Spilotros businesses.
After a successful run of burglaries, a botched burglary resulted in a number of gang members being arrested, and the group’s subsequent capture by police. Spilotro avoided conviction, but he was murdered by his Mafia associates who were not pleased with him.
In 1832 in Sheffield, England, Robert Peace was born. This man would go on to be one of the most renowned cat-burglars in history, who burgled throughout most of his adult life.
Peace broke into thousands of houses, and even gained a reputation for attempting to kill police officers who tried to take him into custody.
The majority of his crimes occurred in London. He would spend his days playing the violin at local concerts, but by night he would flip and begin to burglar local homes. Peace was caught at an attempted mansion burglary where he got into a shootout with police. After being caught, he was executed at the young age of 47.
Ignacio Del Rio
Del Rio left his home of Barcelona to live in the United States. He moved for the sole reasons of aiming to become a martial arts champion. His dreams never panned out, but he did find an opportunity with thieves to build his career as a burglar.
Del Rio did have some moral compass. He didn’t want to steal from older or working class citizens, so he decided to target mansions and wealthy properties.
Del Rio learned how to climb, pick locks, and how to crack safes. Using his ability to scale homes, he would gain access by climbing the second floor and picking a lock. He would steal anything he found that provided value, including jewelry, watches, ornaments, and paintings.
In 2005 Del Rio was arrested. He had stolen over $16 million worth of property. This included 74 Rolex watches, 546 necklaces, and $250,000 in cash. Del Rio did cooperate with police, and he even showed them many of the places where he had buried a substantial amount of his earnings.
Not only is Bill Mason a world-renowned burglar, but also an author. He is known for writing the book “Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief,” which chronicles many of his heists.
Mason burglarized celebrity apartments in Florida during the 1970’s and the 1980’s, before stumbling on jewelry that was worth $35,000,000.
Most of the money Mason had stolen was confiscated after jail sentences, but it’s assumed that he still got away with large sums of money from burglaries that were never attributed to him.
Mason never shied away from danger. His heist method was to climb high-rise buildings, and according to one tale, he was said to have climbed a 15-story apartment during a storm. In his tell-all burglary book, he says that many times he got away with his crimes simply because people made mistakes, like leaving doors unlocked.
Leonardo Notarbartolo is an Italian burglar who began his life of crime in his teens. He eventually turned towards jewels and other valuables in his twenties. Over the course of his career, Notarbartolo summassed over $100 million dollars, which is a modest estimate.
Notarbartolo operated throughout Italy and Belgium in the 1970’s to 2000’s. He became connected with an expert group of thieves. He led a team known as the “School of Turin” who were experts at a number of areas of burglary, including picking locks, cracking safes, and scaling buildings. The group together completed over a dozen major robberies.
Notarbartolo and his group of jewel thieves are known for committing some of the most successful jewelry heists in history. Their most notable was the vault burglary at the Antwerp Diamond Centre in 2003. Here, the team stole nearly $100 million.
Unfortunately for Notarbartolo, he left a half-eaten sandwich at the scene of the Diamond Centre, which had traces of his DNA and led to his arrest.
Notarbartolo spent 10 years in prison before he was paroled in 2009. He was arrested again after police found uncut jewels that were hidden in his vehicle. Police were never able to prove that these jewels were from the Antwerp Diamond heist of past, and they were forced to return the jewels to Notarbartolo. Since 2011, Notarbartolo has been a free man who resides in Italy.