To Catch a Thief: 5 Audacious Hotel Heists

by  Karen Gardiner | Aug 5, 2013
The Pierre
The Pierre / Photo courtesy of the property

Cannes, the glittery French resort city, has been attracting some unwelcome guests over the past few months: thieves.

Back in May, during the Cannes Film Festival, thieves ripped a safe from the wall of the Novotel hotel and made off with around $1 million worth of jewelry – less than a week later, a de Grisogono necklace worth over $1 million was stolen during a festival party at a hotel in nearby Cap d'Antibes.

The biggest heist came in late July when a brazen, baseball-cap-clad thief, thought to be part of the infamous Pink Panther jewel thief ring, walked into the Carlton Hotel in broad daylight (where, ironically, scenes from Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief were filmed). He brandished a gun at staff and swiped $136 million worth of jewelry. The heist was one of the biggest in history.

And that's not even mentioning the Kronometry watch store, which was robbed twice in the last five months.

If your traveler's curiosity has you wondering about other hotel heists, here are a few others that made news -- and some that made history.

The Pierre, New York 1972

The robbery of New York City's Pierre Hotel on January 2, 1972 occurred early in the morning when a small band of sharply dressed thieves, associated with an infamous New York crime family, arrived in a black Cadillac pretending to be friends of guests. They then took 19 staff members and security guards hostage while opening safety deposit boxes, making off with nearly $11 million in cash and jewels.

Carlton Hotel, Cannes 1994

Sound familiar? Yes, this is the same Cannes hotel that was held up last month. The unlucky Carlton was targeted by three men firing machine guns who then escaped with close to $43 million worth of jewelry. It later turned out that the guns had been firing blanks.

Circus Circus, Las Vegas 1993

Roberto Solis was still serving time in Folsom Prison for murdering a security guard when he began plotting this heist. He is said to have seduced a young woman named Heather Tallchief and enlisted her in the plan. Tallchief got a job at a security company that delivered and picked up money to and from the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino. While driving the security van, she took advantage of a two-minute period to make off with $2.5 million. The couple remained on the run for years, until Solis up and left one day, abandoning Tallchief with their child and only $1,000. She turned herself in in 2005, but Solis is still on the lam.

Peninsula, Hong Kong 2013

While it wasn't nearly the biggest hotel robbery, (the thief got a 'mere' $6,445) what was notable, and alarming, about this crime was its sheer ease of execution. This thief managed to get the staff to give him a spare room key while the guests were sleeping in the room, and then, when they later left, telephoned the front desk from the room, saying that he'd forgotten the password to the safe and needed help opening it.

Paragon Hotel, London 2003

Belfast-born George Best was one of the greatest soccer players of all time – and a notorious womanizer. Toward the end of his life, his self-described "destructive streak" had caught up with him, notably in the event that occurred at this mid-range West London hotel in 2003. After a night out in London, Best invited two women to his hotel room. While busy with one, the other took off with over $3,000 in cash from his coat pocket.

Know of any other notorious hotel heists? Let us know in the comments.

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