November 4: The Pierre Hotel Affair: The Inside Story of the Biggest Unsolved Jewel Heist in American history
Snug in their beds, still sleeping off their New Year’s celebratory hangovers, the wealthy guests of New York City’s posh Pierre Hotel rested easy in the belief that their jewels and valuables were safe and sound, locked in the hotel’s safety deposit boxes downstairs. But at 4 a.m. on January 2, 1972, a gang of eight tuxedo-clad men arrived in a limousine, forced their way past the night doorman, and systematically took control of the hotel in what was to become the biggest unsolved jewel heist in American history.
Come spend an afternoon with Daniel Simone, narrative nonfiction author of the book The Pierre Hotel Affair, and Nick “The Cat” Sacco, who was involved in the Pierre Hotel heist. Sacco will participate via phone as he is currently in the Federal Witness Protection Program. The two men will discuss this epic historical event and the questions that still remain about the unique set of circumstances surrounding the Pierre Hotel heist.
- Exactly how eight armed “gentleman” robbers pulled off this well-timed and incessantly rehearsed jewel caper.
- Why the actual worth of the jewels and other valuables stolen was grossly underreported.
- Why Mafia sponsorship by the Lucchese crime family was necessary to the success of the heist.
- Who were the masterminds behind the operation and what Bobby Comfort and Sammy “The Arab” Nalo were really like.
This robbery case was never resolved, and though some members of the gang were caught, they were never convicted.
Simone and Sacco will conduct a Q & A session with the audience, and Daniel Simone will be available for a book signing for The Pierre Hotel Affair after the presentation.
Nick ‘the Cat’ Sacco was born in 1940 on 18th Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. His career as a thief bloomed at the age of eight. After World War II, certain metals were in high demand, and young Sacco, instinctively witty and enterprising, saw that as an opportunity to financially help his mother, whose husband had abandoned the family. Sacco began stealing items made of brass or copper and sold it to scrap yards. He soon graduated to plundering rolls of copper cables that the telephone company used to run new lines.
In Sacco’s late teens he attached himself to Earnie ‘the Hawk’ Rupolo, a fence, loanshark, and bookmaker. At this stage of his life, Sacco fine tuned his focus on jewel thefts and joined the Bypass Gang, a band of burglars under the wing of Lucchese Consigliere Christie ‘the Tick’ Furnari. As Sacco burrowed deep into the underworld of robbers he formed associations with other prominent jewel thieves, who drafted him into the 1972 Pierre Hotel heist. His involvement in this robbery never came to the attention of the authorities, and he moved on to other “scores,” acquiring several vices in the process such as gambling and philandering.
Years later, an informant implicated Sacco in a home burglary. By this time Sacco had risen to a position of distinction in his circles; according to retired FBI Agent John Simmons, he was the most wanted jewel burglar in the nation. But as a point of fact, throughout Sacco’s tenure as a thief he took the utmost care not to hurt or cause injuries to his victims. Nonetheless, he was indicted for the home burglary, and facing thirty years in prison he became state’s evidence and received immunity. He then vanished into the refuge of the Federal Witness Protection Program. Eight years thereafter, while in the folds of the Witness Program Sacco robbed a bank, and was re-arrested. Again, he bartered for his freedom by tendering information to the FBI about a corrupt federal judge. He was reinstated into the Witness Program, where he remains to date.
Daniel Simone has co-written autobiographies and published numerous shorter pieces on prominent figures in film, theater and fiction. In September of 2012, he appeared in the one-hour Biography Channel documentary on the life and career of Jimmy “the Gent” Burke.
A graduate of Long Island University, he also has written for the Long Island University weekly chronicle, the Long Island Pulse magazine, Village Voice, The Boulevard magazine and Dan’s Papers.
Besides The Pierre Hotel Affair, he is the author of The Lufthansa Heist, written in collaboration with the late mobster Henry Hill. Current projects include The Retrial of Charles Manson. In 1969 while employed at Grumman Aerospace Industries as a technician, he had a role in the assembly of the Apollo 11 lunar module, the first spacecraft to successfully land on the moon.