Marlborough Diamond Thieves Arrested Outside Mob Boss’s Home

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Two aging jewelry thieves who were once convicted of a multi-million dollar heist, and who have connections to the Chicago mob, have again been arrested on charges related to a bank robbery plot.

Joseph “Jerry” Scalise, 73 and Arthur Rachel, 71, were convicted of a 1980 robbery of the elite Graff Jewelers in London, in which they made off with over $3 million worth of jewelry—including the Marlborough diamond, a 45-carat gem that has never been recovered—after threatening employees with a hand grenade. Each served nine years of a 15-year prison term at the U.K.’s Isle of White prison and were released in 1993..

Now the pair, along with Robert Pullia, 69, have been arrested again after months of FBI surveillance that showed the men staking out several Chicago-area banks, including the First National Bank of LaGrange. According to a federal complaint, they were plotting to hold up an armored car delivering cash to that institution by spraying mace at the guards. Although this robbery never panned out, the trio is suspected to have been involved in several other unsolved bank heists since 2007, including one holdup of the Harris bank in LaGrange in which three men fled with over $100,000. No charges have been filed in that case.

The men were arrested outside the former home of reputed mob boss Angelo “the Hook” LaPietra—so called because of his penchant for hanging enemies on meat hooks—but their intention there is unclear, especially since LaPietra died in 1999. The three men carried with them numerous burglary tools, and the FBI conducted wiretaps of cell phone conversations between the men, some of which indicated that they might attempt to abduct and take hostage other LaPietra relatives who still live in the Bridgeport neighborhood home.

In another conversation, according to the affadavit, Pullia states, “while we are there we will grab it,” leading to speculation that he was referencing the Marlborough diamond, which was once one of the Crown jewels and which has never been located since being stolen by Rachel and Scalise.

The three men, dressed in black, were drilling holes in the wall of LaPietra’s house and removing windows when they were arrested. A criminal complaint, filed on Friday, charges Scalise, Rachel and Pullia with conspiring to obstruct, delay and affect commerce through robbery of the First National Bank of LaGrange.

The FBI began following and wiretapping the men in December 2009, after obtaining approval from a federal judge. All three are being held without bond pending a detention hearing next week, and are expected to enter pleas of not guilty.

 

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