One of the most famous hotel heists ever was the January 2, 1972 holdup of The Pierre.
On this day, eight armed men invaded the upscale New York City hotel early one morning and made off with $28 million in cash and jewels in today’s market value.
The Pierre, at Fifth Avenue and 61st Street, is one of the city’s most elegant hotels.
Before the robbery, the suspects carefully researched the hotel’s rules and the staff’s habits and learned it locked its doors overnight.
The only way in was a reservation. So, the robbers booked a room under the name Dr. Foster.
One robber, dressed in a chauffeur uniform, drove up to the 61st Street entrance in a Cadillac limo just before 4 a.m. and announced Dr. Foster’s arrival.
A security man called the front desk, which confirmed the reservation. He opened the door.
The robbers put a gun to the guard’s head. They made their way through the lobby to the front desk, where they abducted the night clerk.
Except for the driver, the robbers wore tuxedos and disguised their faces with glasses, fake beards and wigs.
Weeks before the robbery, the criminals researched old newspapers at the New York Public Library for information about The Pierre’s guests.
They used the names they found in the newspaper columns to sort through index cards kept at the front desk that identified the owners of the vault’s safe-deposit boxes.
The information helped them find boxes belonging to the wealthiest guests and residents.
One box had $500,000, in bundles marked “$10,000,” “$20,000” and “$30,000.” Another had $3 million in cash in it.
In addition, the robbers found boxes of jewelry. The most valuable item was a $750,000 Harry Winston diamond necklace.
After a little more than two hours, the robbers had four suitcases filled with loot.
The hostages were told to wait before they called police.
The robbers gave a $20 bill to each hostage who was a hotel employee as hush money.
The transcripts of investigators’ interviews with witnesses show they all misidentified the robbers.
After the crime, the robbers had little trouble getting rid of the loot.
They found experts who ground away any identifying marks on the gems they had swiped.
The stones were set into new rings, necklaces and other settings, and sold to jewelers across the country.
The heist made headlines for weeks. Roughly a week after the heist, the ringleaders were arrested.
The took a plea deal to a burglary charge, much less serious than the armed robbery charge they could have faced.
Supposedly, the plea deal was arraigned after a $500,000 bribe to Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Andrew Tyler.
The two captured criminals each served 19 months in prison.
Several people were charged with possessing property stolen from The Pierre, but the two men were the only ones charged in the robbery itself.
These days, specific statistics on hotel robberies or room invasions are hard to come by because hotel crimes aren’t tracked well and a hotel doesn’t want to admit it’s been robbed.
With that being said, there is no doubt hotel burglaries and hotel room invasions are on the rise, mostly due to easy access to valuables and having a simple escape route.
Considering this, I want to share with you some tips if you ever find yourself in a hotel room invasion situation.
Self defense vs. stuff defense. Let’s say you wake up in your hotel room and see someone going through your suitcase.
Of course, you should jump out of bed and grab your firearm.
However, if the bad guy takes off, you need to think twice before shooting.
What I mean is, most hotel room invasions are going to be for the purpose of stealing since they probably don’t know you on a personal level.
So, think before shooting if they are running away and process whether you are are defending yourself or your property.
Obviously, if they try to attack you or a loved one, you defend yourself and shoot if you have a gun.
But, don’t run out in the hallway and chase them down because you don’t know if there are more criminals waiting around the corner.
The Knock. Recently, a family member of mine was staying at an upscale hotel in Las Vegas when they received a strange knock at their room about 30 minutes after checking in.
Now, my family member did not open the door, but looked out though the peephole.
When he looked he saw a female, who appeared to be looking at both sides of his room door, almost like she was looking at other people with her.
They ended up leaving but perhaps they were waiting for the door to open so they could rush in.
Guest room robbers will sometimes use a ruse or impersonation to get you to open the door.
They have been known to pretend to be room service, housekeeping, security or delivering flowers.
Clever criminals might hold a room service tray or flowers in view of the peephole to further the impersonation.
Once the door is opened for them, the hotel room invaders will use force and threats to gain control of the room and the victims.
If you get a strange knock at the door and it is someone representing the hotel, immediately call down to the front desk to confirm.
The elevator ride. When my family member checked into his room, he thinks someone followed him to see which room he went into.
Now, the criminals may have been thinking that my family member was traveling alone and that he would simply open the door to his room when he saw an attractive female knocking on his door.
Another common tactic by hotel robbers is to select a victim in the lobby and ride up in the elevator with them.
They will get off on the same floor and pretend to walk behind you as if going to their room.
Once the guest opens their door, the robber will force his way in behind them and make his demands.
My point is, if someone is right behind you wait until they are gone to open the hotel room door.
Also, if you see someone watching you in the lobby and then see them on the same floor a few minutes later, take your time going to your room so they don’t know exactly where you went.
(Hang out at the ice machine for a bit if you need to.)
Ideally, when traveling, you want to stay between the 3rd-6th floor of the hotel.
The higher up you are the less likely a criminal will break in since it will take longer to escape.
However, you don’t want to be on the top floor in case you need to evacuate.