- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2003

CHICAGO, Jan. 21 (UPI) — Newly unsealed court documents show how a jewelry theft ring led by former police Deputy Superintendent William Hanhardt cased an Ohio hotel in advance of a $2 million theft during a jewelry show in 1994.

The 158-page filing was made when it appeared Hanhardt would fight racketeering, interstate theft and other charges but was kept under seal. Hanhardt, 74, who retired from the Chicago Police Department in 1986, is serving a 16-year prison term, at the federal prison medical facility in Rochester, Minn. Hanhardt's top thief, Joseph Basinski, and several others also have been convicted.

The documents describe how Basinski cased the safe deposit box operation at a Hyatt hotel in advance of a 1994 jewelry show in Columbus, Ohio. Basinski would check in under various names and ask to put valuables in the safe deposit boxes. He then would make copies of the keys.

During the jewelry show, a woman posing as Basinski's wife, was allowed into the safe-deposit box area, presumably to retrieve her property. Instead, the next morning, eight jewelry salesman reported their boxes had been cleaned out.

FBI surveillance indicated the crew targeted more than 100 salesman during the final year of the theft ring, using friends in the Chicago Police Department to run license plates and often pounced as the salesmen briefly left their cars unattended.

Authorities estimated Hanhardt and his cohorts stole $5 million in precious gems in the eight crimes linked to their guilty pleas.

Much of the evidence in the case came from briefcases and boxes belonging to two insiders. The ring carefully collected information about their victims, including credit reports, and surveilled their homes, offices and travels.

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