There’s a certain mystique to diamond thieves. We’ve seen it in the many films that portray these criminals. They are often cunning, creative, and clever in their maneuvers. Jewel thieves find ways to execute elaborate heists despite the odds being stacked against them.
While we never want to glamorize criminals, these thieves and their exploits make for remarkable tales that are oftentimes even greater than Hollywood films. Let’s take a look at six diamond thieves who went above and beyond in achieving their not-so-respectable goals.
1. Alan Golder
Alan Golder, a 1970’s diamond thief, began his robbery career rather young. By his early 20’s, Alan had already earned the nickname of the “Dinnertime Bandit.”
To attack homes, Alan would climb walls, drain pipes and trellises, and use these home exteriors to gain access to the upper floors of houses. He would choose to strike at dinner time, because he knew that occupants would be too distracted to notice what was taking place upstairs, and they would have alarms turned off since they were home.
Alan’s strategy was rather successful. He scored over $1 million during his thefts, due in part to targeting wealthy homes. But in 1978, one of Alan’s accomplices shot and killed an occupant in a home. This led to the pair being caught, and Alan Golder spending 15 years in jail.
As you’ll see with other criminals on this list, upon release from jail, Alan returned to his life of crime. When too much attention was being brought to his crimes in the United States, Alan fled for Paris. He eventually moved to Antwerp and spent eight years on the run before being arrested and extradited back to the United States. Alan was charged with 40 counts of burglary in 2007 and given another 15 years in jail.
2. Doris Payne
Doris wasn’t a jewel thief that lurked in the shadows. Instead, Doris chose to commit her crimes right in front of her victims—mainly department and jewelry stores.
Parading through both England and the United States on her crime sprees, Doris would target stores claiming she was trying on jewelry. She would enter shops dressed in expensive clothing, try on her selected items, and once shops were distracted, she would leave the stores with her goods. Doris stole from major jewelers like Tiffany and Co. and Cartier.
One of her most notable thefts includes a 10-carat-diamond ring that was valued at $500,000 from Monte Carlo. On multiple occasions Doris was arrested. She even escaped federal custody during a hospital visit in Ohio in the 1980’s. At 83-years-old, Doris was caught stealing a diamond ring that cost $22,5000 from a jewelry store in Palm Desert, California. Once she was released, Payne went on to steal $690 earrings from a jewelry store in Atlanta that landed her right back in jail.
3. Hajime Karasuyama
Hajime Karasuyama had a burglary income of $450,000 per year. Hajime Karasuyama is actually the burglars pseudonym, and his real name is unknown. A book that detailed his exploits was released, and in the book his identity remains a mystery, but many of his accomplishments are listed.
In the book, Hajime describes himself as a Japanese “gentleman.” This gentlemen, however, had the remarkable ability of picking any lock he wanted, getting through windows with glass cutters, and he always had the sixth sense of finding jewelry inside of any home that he entered.
4. George “Taters” Chatham
George Chatham, given the nickname “Taters,” stole over £100 million. He is one of the most successful burglars on our list. His thefts targeted the largest homes in London, as well as museums and various other locations on London’s West End that focused on London’s rich and famous. Using the sides of London buildings, Chatham scaled the buildings using pea-soupers and did so without being noticed.
Some of the high-profile locations that Chatham attacked included The Victoria, Albert Museum, Lady Rothermere, and Maharajah of Jaipur. “Taters” went on to spend 35 years in jail and died in 1997 at the age of 85.
5. Borko Ilincic
This jewel thief was the leader of the famed “Pink Panthers,” the notable group that was named by Interpol in reference to the famous comedy crime films of the same title.
Alone, Ilincic stole over £250 million worth of jewels across the globe. Locations of his crimes included London, Paris, Monaco, Dubai, and Tokyo.
His Pink Panthers often worked in teams of four or five, and they had different strategies to carry out their robberies. They would either steal in disguise, hold up a store with a gun, smash and grab, or grab and escape with a getaway vehicle. Some of those targets included Graff on New Bond Street, Harry Winston, The Carlton Hotel, and Cannes. In 2007, the Pink Panthers used stolen vehicles to smash into the Wafi Mall and commit their crime.
Ilincic was arrested in Spain in 2014, and it’s believed that he will be extradited to the United Arab Emirates.
6. Pink Panthers
This group of thieves, likely the most notable in history, deserves a section dedicated to them.
They Pink Panthers were an international group of jewel thieves with members from Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia. Their crimes have been described as “artistry,” and many regard their heists as some of the most glamorous ever. The most successful robbery in Japan is on their list of accomplishments, and that’s only one of the many countries that they targeted. Other targeted countries include, Dubai, Switzerland, Japan, France, Liechtenstein, Germany, Luxenberg. Spain,and Monaco, raking in over $500 million worth of stolen items.
Interpol believes the group has several hundred thieves working for it, and many members are former soldiers with violent pasts. They speak multiple languages, and they have passports that are given to each other.
They first came on the scene when they stole a diamond worth £500,000 Euros from a jeweler in the Mayfair area of Central London. To steal the diamond, the thieves reenacted a famous scene from the film “The Return of the Pink Panther,” where a diamond is hidden in a jar of face cream.
Over six years the Panthers robbed 120 stores in twenty different countries. These countries include Japan, England, Denmark, Monaco, France, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. Their strategies in preventing eyewitnesses included covering a nearby bench in fresh paint at one crime scene, ensuring no one would sit on the bench and see the crime taking place.