Stealing Manhattan

By Burl Barer

My name is Burl Barer.  I write books and tell stories. You read books and enjoy stories. We will get along just fine,  First of all, let me share some wonderful news  I am, at this very moment, living every true crime author's dream.  What is that dream? Well,  I'm not referring to erotic encounters with beautiful twin twenty year old true crime groupies. Nice dream, but I'm not wired for 220.

The real dream, the great longing is for professional success immune from petty criticisms of, for example,my intentional overwriting and penchant for prolixity and verbosity.  What I am talking about, Willis, is that we all dream of having an exclusive – an exclusive interview or perhaps an exclusive “first look” at rare photographs of someone famous in a compromising position, such as the recently discovered pre-Disney Polaroids of Minnie Mouse  being inventive with Gyro Gearloose as Horace Horsecollar meditates on which came first – his name or his apparel?

Okay, here's the deal.  I have an exclusive on the greatest untold true crime story in the history of American crime :  over one billion dollars in diamonds, gold, precious gems and negotiable currency stolen from New York’s diamond district under the cover of darkness by sophisticated safe crackers, alarm specialists, and security experts. No weapons, no violence.

Yes, they got away with it -- a retail value haul of over one billion dollars. I have personally` verified the truth of every unbelievable and mind-boggling aspect of this story and interviewed at length every central character and numerous background players.

For your ease of comprehension and to keep me from getting shot, I have modified the names and identities of certain criminals who may be prone to vindictive violence against your new favorite author

I couldn’t tell this story or write the forthcoming book, STEALING MANHATTAN  until the statute of limitations was up. In exchange for my patience, I was rewarded with unlimited personal access to the world’s greatest gem thief masterminds including the personal memoirs of the remarkable genius, “Mr. Stan,” the ultimate gentleman thief.

Mr. Stan was a respected member of New York high society from the 1970’s until 2015 when he retired to parts unknown. He was a trusted and admired example of charm, grace, courtesy and integrity in all aspects of his life and career. He was well known as an historic artifact collector, real estate investor, champion of the underdog, gracious entertainer, and President of Gem Stones Trading International with five offices in New York’s diamond district.

His lovely younger wife, Branka, was a brilliant artist and friend of Phillip Pearlstein, Walter Chrysler and Joan Crawford. Together, Stan and she were a power couple beloved and admired for their sophistication, generosity, honesty and ethics.

What Mr. Stan’s friends and associates didn’t know was that Stan and Branka oversaw six or more teams of highly trained and disciplined specialists who, in the midnight hour, looted the vaults of the jewelry manufacturing firms insured for one-hundred-million dollars or more.

Their only son, “Punch,” was sent at age ten to the world’s most expensive and elite Swiss boarding school. He returned educated, erudite, multi-lingual and a world-class athlete who pulled his first multi-million-dollar heist at age sixteen.

Punch then recruited the security firms to work with him instead of against him. With teams of acrobats, strongmen, safe crackers, locksmiths and alarm experts, the final added co-conspirator was the addition of the Lacka safe manufacturing company. They trained Punch in how to open all of their top-of-the line safes. With the insurance companies long intertwined with the New York mafia families, the firms hit by Mr. Stan and Son were promptly paid in full.

I'm sure that you are happy for me having snagged this true crime exclusive --

the astonishing story of America’s first family of altruistic outlaws whose creative antics in the redistribution of wealth spanned two generations and three decades of outrageous adventures, and whose talent and techniques were studied and adopted by the notorious Pink Panthers.

Every movie heist you’ve ever enjoyed was inspired by the actual heists accomplished by our charming, well-mannered and actually lovable central characters including the beautiful and charming Branka DiGangi who graciously favors us with the following statement.

“My son dreamed of being the world’s greatest thief. That was his goal, his one desire.             No matter how hard he tried, he could never achieve it because his father, to whom I was once married, is the world’s greatest gentleman thief. Not only did he mastermind the most astonishing series of diamond heists in history– over one billion dollars – but he was never caught, never prosecuted, never spent a day in prison, never hurt anyone in the process, and only robbed firms that were fully insured or over-insured. No one ever lost a dime being robbed by Mr. Stan. In fact, the insurance payments increased their cash flow more than any retail sales. That’s why diamond heists are termed the ultimate victimless crimes.

“Our son followed his father’s path and, in the process, created and refined methods and techniques used worldwide by the Pink Panthers who, despite reports to the contrary, originated not in Serbia but in New York’s diamond district when my former husband, Mr. Stan, and our only son, Paul, were stealing Manhattan.”

Her son, Paul (aka Punch) can't resist tossing in his 2 cents about stealing several  million.

“I became a diamond thief to make my father proud of me.  I am my father’s son. I am Son of Stan, the youngest and highest-ranking member of what the FBI called the YACS and what the media now calls the Pink Panthers.

For a glorious period of time in the 1990’s I was King of the New York streets until a brilliant and admired cop, Joseph Keenen, caught up with me.  He haunted me and hunted me and finally nabbed me – but that didn’t stop me.

I was on the run for four years with numerous aliases: Reginald Mathews, Brian Bentley , Paul Lombardozzi , Paul Panarella , Paulie Hermes , Peter Terry , Pasha Strah , Mali Paja , Paulie Zaza, and Paul Montana. Even my capture was remarkably cinematic: SWAT teams, helicopters and hundreds of cops with tactical weapons, M-16’s and a dog named Billion who got a big fat Fillet Mignon as a reward.

Prior to the inevitable intervention of fate wearing a badge, I took more than 100 pounds of marijuana from the Mob and sold it back to them the next day. I cleaned out the high fashion houses such as Esscada ,Versace , Hermés and Bijian, because I like high fashion. Escada fashion wasn’t my style. I hit them as a gift for my mother. The police had no experience with that sort of crime. They didn’t get it. We called these White Glove jobs, and the cops mostly ignored them, despite the famous names involved.

Famous people surrounded me from the day I was born. I didn’t know they were famous, because they were not famous to me.  If I drop the names of every show-business celebrity who visited our home, partied in my nightclub or went skiing with me in the Swiss Alps, the combined weight of the names would tear right through this page, or knock the screen off your Kindle, Nook or Kobe.

Imagine there’s John Lennon, it isn’t hard to do. What Lennon saw had him screaming. If you saw it, you would be screaming too.  It was 1975, I was three years old.  Lennon and I were sitting across from each other outside the first upscale Mexican restaurant in Manhattan, Anita’s Chile, an eatery so popular the line of customers went all the way around the block, Yes, it was owned by my father who also did all the restoration work on the Dakota Apartments where John and Yoko were living, sometime in New York City.

The reason Lennon screamed louder than he did on the hit record, Cold Turkey, is because he saw me shoot myself. No, I wasn’t a suicidal toddler. I was sitting on the lap of one of my father’s friends. On his keychain, he had what appeared to be a tiny toy gun. It wasn’t a toy.  I’m sure he knew it was real. I didn’t know and didn’t care.

I cocked the hammer, pointed it at my thumb, and pulled the trigger. Luckily, I didn’t sever my thumb completely, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to use it to balance the scales of economic justice in New York City.

There are days when I only remember the thrill of the heist, the pulse pounding excitement of slithering down the back of 47th street in Manhattan as a black attired heist-ninja backed up by my hand-picked crew of professionals dedicated to my father’s precision planning. I’m sure you’re curious about my dad, the man I regard as a true genius.  The night after every big heist, my father prepared a special meal to be enjoyed while watching the evening news – a perfectly marbled steak, mashed potatoes and a signature salad – the first bite taken when the newscaster intoned something akin to, “A spectacular heist in the heart of the diamond district =-- gems and gold valued at over $12 million...”

Had my father been caught doing a heist, he would already be famous. beyond the limited world of fellow gem heist masterminds. Now, he will be acknowledged if not celebrated.

Who else pulled off mega-heists totaling over one billion dollars and got away with all of them? Nobody.

My mother? Oh, she is beautiful and fabulous. I want you to really get to know my parents, charming and sophisticated outlaws who honestly got away with everything knowing full well that they couldn’t take it with them.  For my parents, the motive was never greed – and their number one rule was always “No one gets hurt.” Successful in all their enterprises and investments, my parents had no need to do incredible diamond heists.   For mom and dad, the pleasure was in the process, the planning, the precision and “pulling it off” without a hitch.

They taught me that life itself is art manifesting the qualities and attributes of the Creator.  We also are endowed with our version of those same attributes. Hence, whatever we do, whatever we undertake, whatever the craft to which we apply ourselves, our intention, dedication and devotion , not to perfection, but to excellence, can elevate our work and our lives to the level of art.”.

Copyright 2019 by Burl Barer. All Rights Reserved

Burl Barer is an Edgar-award winning and Anthony-award nominated true crime writer. His website is

1 thought on “Stealing Manhattan

  1. Hey guys!
    You know who it is ?
    Of course the one and only
    Kid from NYC
    Yes , Born & Raised
    Your most elusive beloved No#1 American
    Y.A.C.S. NYC Crime Boss,
    The First Pink Panther,
    Diamond Mastermind
    today just a retired
    Former Convict /Criminal
    artist that loves to paint and if you ask nicely I can certainly be your best friend to chill
    or maybe even
    to solve unsolvable crimes .
    Trust me you’ll feel alive again like never before and it will be fun
    Yeah ,
    Of course using all my old talents from good
    Not my fault
    being born in a life of crime
    we can certainly look at other crimes and dismantle them from start to finish . Who would be better ?
    Like a puzzle 🧩 just I see every missing piece.

    This is important
    Because I highly respect my time that was given to me on Earth
    I value every second
    So ,
    I’ll help where help is really required
    But please rest assured

    I’m an artist by night & day painting and daily creating is my main focus.
    Thank you for understanding,
    Come to my studio and check me out in Anytime by appointment. @punchapproved IG only.

    As long as I’m comfortable and compensated for my time I’ll work with you.

    Respectfully I’m honored to have this opportunity making Movies and Documentaries from my past life
    which could be fun
    and there are times that it reminds me of all my faults and errors
    Could be a horror show For my PTSD
    reliving my life
    as it wasn’t all AS smooth as it seems.
    Stealing Manhattan
    TRUST ME ITS coming to you real soon!

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