Sunday, April 23, 2017

Canada’s craftiest robber Gerald Blanchard back in the spotlight

Gerald Blanchard most famous feat was the theft of one of the Sisi’s stars, a jewel once belonging to 19th-century Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Also known as the Koechert Diamond Pearl, the pendant mysteriously disappeared from the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna in June, 1998. He had managed to unscrew the glass display case without activating its sensors and replaced the jewel with a gift-shop replica. The switch wasn’t noticed for weeks.

Before this and after a stint in an Iowa penitentiary, he was deported to Canada in 1997. Within a few years, he was settled in Vancouver and was ostensibly a real estate mogul. He claimed to own properties in Canada and Mexico and had accounts with two Canadian banks and banks in France, Britain, Poland, Jamaica and Turks and Caicos.
In May, 2004, someone robbed a new branch of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Winnipeg, siphoning half a million dollars from its ATMs the weekend before its official opening. It was Blanchard. Court evidence showed that he had concealed a pinhole camera in a thermostat to spy on workers setting up the ATMs. He had also figured out how to unscrew and disable the ATM’s high-security Mas Hamilton locks.

But he made a critical mistake. An employee at the Wal-Mart next door noticed a suspicious van outside the bank. It was rented in Mr. Blanchard’s name. “It [provided] a starting point which, had we not obtained it, would have resulted in the file still being unsolved today,”
Through wiretaps police determined that he had been involved in a string of bank robberies in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver, in addition to running several credit card frauds.

He eventually led police to his grandmother’s basement in Winnipeg, where he had hidden the Koechert Diamond Pearl. Nine months after his arrest, Blanchard pleaded guilty to 16 charges and was sentenced to six years. In June, 2009, he was granted day parole and moved to a Vancouver halfway house.

In recent years, Gerald Blanchard built a life working as a drone operator and videographer in British Columbia.
On January 14th, two men followed a customer into a Best Buy outlet in Burlington, where one of the pair called the store and claimed that the customer was involved in a possible fraud, distracting staff while the duo stole gaming consoles. Afterward, the two also broke into the customer’s car and stole about $3,100 worth of merchandise.

Investigators identified Blanchard. Charged with theft and mischief, Blanchard has a court date in Milton, Ontario on April 26.