FBI Cracks Jewelry Theft Ring

October 20, 2000

FBI Cracks Jewelry Theft Ring

A retired Chicago police chief of detectives was indicted Thursday on charges of leading of a ring of thieves who targeted traveling jewelry sales representatives.

William A. Hanhardt, 71, who retired from the Chicago Police Department in 1986 after a 33-year career, and five other men were charged in connection with eight jewelry robberies that occurred in Arizona, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin in the 1980s and 1990s. Also charged in the indictment is Guy Altobello, 69, who worked at Altobello Jewelers, formerly located in Villa Park, IL and now in Wheaton, IL. Altobello allegedly provided information to his co-defendants about jewelry salesmen who did business with Altobello Jewelers. This information allegedly identified the sales representatives and determined opportune times to attack them. The thefts identified in the indictment are said to have had a total value of $4.85 million, one of them a $1.5 million robbery in Columbus, OH.

The defendants are charged with racketeering, conspiracy and transporting stolen property across state lines. A racketeering conviction carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and a transporting stolen property conviction means up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of almost $4.85 million from five of the defendants, along with the homes of Hanhardt and another defendant.

"The indictment effectively dismantles a prolific jewelry theft ring that operated with virtual impunity, directed by a corrupt law enforcement official," says Kathleen McChesney, special agent in charge of the Chicago field division of the FBI."The public expects aggressive enforcement of the law by its police officials, not collusion with criminals." The indictment contains details about how the gang gathered information about their victims, using airline tickets, hotel bills, rental car information and even the number of miles driven. In making the announcement, the FBI credited Jewelers Security Alliance with assisting in the investigation.

- by Jack Heeger