THE BIG STEAL by Tony with Painter E. Powell Marzano

THE BIG STEAL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An amusing but not hilarious account of the $4.2 million 1974 Chicago robbery that outdid the Boston Brinks heist and set an all-time U.S. record. Tony Marzano, 33, had been a smalltime hood doing airline-ticket and credit-card scams when he threw in with his cousin Charlie and robbed the Purolator Company, one of the largest money storehouses in the States. Charlie was a suspect in a still-unsolved $800,000 gold heist from an Evanston jewelry maker, and was an expert on burglar alarms. Planning far ahead, Charlie gets his buddy Ralph Marrera (who'd been on the gold job too) into Purolator as a night watchman for quiet weekends; then the two rifle a senior vice president's office for the combination to the vault. All clear, Tony and Charlie back their truck into the Purolator premises, and the story grows humid with greed as they strip open canvas bags and find ""the sour-sweet smell of money, of paper with a rag content so high you could wash and wear it."" Next morning an exodus from Chicago to Miami begins, with two cars, four hoods, 400 pounds of paper cash in huge bags, pistols, and walkie-talkies. The big magic trick: how to make a bale of paper currency invisible in a Grand Cayman bank. Included in the trek are Pete Gushi, a fence and brainless drunkard who fails to arrange for the boat from Florida to the island (and who later turns state's evidence), and Louie DiFonzo, an investment counselor who is to do the secret banking. Then all degenerates into a thuggish comedy of bizarre bungling. The accomplices fly from Ohio to Florida in a hired Lear jet, arrive at a hotel in the middle of the all-Chicago hoodlums' pre-Christmas convention, hotfoot into hiding with bulging bags. On Grand Cayman, a bank accepts, then refuses to handle the money: it hasn't the people to count it! The hoods' time in the sun is brief; all are soon jailed in Chicago when Gushi sings. Banking secrecy laws on Cayman keep the loot in doubt, but at last all but $1.4 million is recovered. Marzano pleaded guilty, is now on parole. . . . Funnier in outline than detail (perhaps because Marzano is himself still a big-mouth thug)--a just-okay heist caper.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1980
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin