The Sunshine Boys

By Daly, Michael | Newsweek, February 13, 2012 | Go to article overview

The Sunshine Boys


Daly, Michael, Newsweek


Byline: Michael Daly

A spectacular heist. A foiled burglary. Two thieves in their 70s. Where's the diamond?

At a time when even Mafia bosses turn informant, two slippery-fingered septuagenarians from Chicago are proving as rare as the famed diamond they stole more than three decades ago.

Back when Joseph "Jerry" Scalise and Arthur "the Genius" Rachel were nabbed for heisting the Marlborough diamond from ritzy Graff jewelers in London, they refused to give up the 45-carat stone. They shunned all offers of leniency during 13 hard years in a British prison, and the owners never recovered the $980,000 jewel.

"If Lloyd's [of London] wanted to pay enough money, maybe they could," Scalise joked.

In 1993, Scalise and Rachel returned to a life of crime in Chicago, unchanged save for a slight Irish brogue from their years with IRA prisoners. But the underworld had become a place where everybody was turning rat--including the son and brother of mob capo Frank Calabrese Sr., resulting in the 2005 "Family Secrets" trial, which largely finished the Outfit in the city once ruled by Al Capone.

Scalise capitalized on the public fascination with the mob by becoming a consultant to director Michael Mann on the movie Public Enemies and the HBO series Luck. Mann would have been wrong to assume that Scalise had retired from a life of crime. Scalise remained a dedicated criminal , and took great interest when the feds found $780,000 in a hidden compartment behind a family portrait in the imprisoned Calabrese's home last year. Scalise and Rachel reasoned there might be a similar trove in the home of the recently deceased Angelo "the Hook" LaPietra, once the boss of Chicago's Chinatown and known for putting people on meat hooks.

Now both 73, Scalise and Rachel invited a younger hoodlum, 69-year-old Robert Pullia, to join them in casing LaPietra's walled compound. What they didn't know was that the FBI had planted a bug in their van, in an effort to nab some of Chicago's last traditional wiseguys. …

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