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Kansas City $2.5 Million Jewelry Robbery

In this episode of Gangland Wire, we are joined by former KCPD detectives Jim Harrington and Rick Smith to discuss a famous case involving mobster Angelo Porrello. The case revolves around stealing millions of dollars in diamonds and jewelry from a high-end jewelry store in Kansas City. The detectives initially suspected that a car chase involving out-of-town robbers from Los Angeles might be connected to the theft. However, further investigation revealed that the robbers were involved in credit card fraud, making it unlikely that they were responsible.   Undeterred by the lack of leads, Harrington and Smith took on the case and gathered information through tips and informants. They discovered a possible connection to a man named Clarence Burnett, who may have been involved in the robbery. The detectives observed that the theft involved suspects arriving in a Jeep Cherokee and splitting up to break into the safe and display cases. They also noted that the suspects had previously committed other robberies, indicating a progression in their skills and targets.   During their investigation, the detectives found links to a bondsman in Kansas City who bought stolen jewelry from the targeted store. Through surveillance, they identified Burnett leaving the bondsman’s location, leading to a breakthrough in the case. This information was shared with the FBI, who conducted a sting operation and purchased stolen diamonds, one of which was identified as stolen from the jewelry store.   As the investigation progressed, Burnett was arrested for cocaine possession and persuaded to cooperate with the FBI. His cooperation helped identify the rest of the crew involved in the robbery.

Additionally, connections were made to the Porrello crime family, specifically Angelo Porrello and their pawn shop. The stolen merchandise was believed to have been unloaded at the pawn shop and sold through Joe Porrello’s legitimate jewelry store. The FBI played a crucial role in uncovering these connections.   The case led to numerous sting operations and ultimately resulted in the arrests and prosecution of those involved. The detectives reflect on Clarence Burnett’s criminal associates and his progression from stealing cars as a young kid to his involvement with the mob. They discuss the possibility of inviting Burnett onto the show to share his story and explore the evolution of criminal activity.   Throughout the episode, the detectives also discuss their experiences with surveillance, collaboration with the FBI, and some personal anecdotes from their time working on the case. They highlight the importance of teamwork and cooperation in solving complex cases. The episode ends with reminders to support the podcast and messages related to mental health and addiction issues.
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[0:00] Well, welcome all you wiretappers out there and back here in the studio, Gangland Wire.
I have a really cool show for you, I think a couple of friends of mine, a couple of former KCPD guys, Jim Harrington and Rick Smith.
Jim Harrington was a robbery detective and Rick Smith was a robbery detective at one time.
Now they went on to have other things. Rick went on to be the chief of police and and Rick, you went. Were you a detective the whole time?
In robbery, just in robbery. OK. Okay. So I remained in fact, in my whole career.
Ambitious detectives discuss the challenges of higher ranks

[0:34] So one of you guys is ambitious and what I made so ambitious when it comes to management level stuff, although I understand Jim, you know, Sergeant was a high rank I ever wanted to be and I never wanted to go any higher.
There’s too much responsibility.
Everybody’s shooting for you all the time. It was bad enough being a Sergeant.
Sometimes if you had the right job, as I found out to my sure again, there at the end, I He ended up back on dog watch at Metro when I had about 23 years on.
But anyhow, I’m not bitter.

[1:03] But these guys worked a really, really cool, famous case.
And it was on a mob guy named Angelo Porrello who was pretty close to Nick Savella at one time.
I don’t know if he was a made guy or not. He’s never really showed up on the made guy list from the old days, but he was a real active member of the Civella crime family, and he had a pawn shop out here, and he was taking what we call swag.
He was taking things that fell off a truck.
But in this case that these guys work, he was taking $2 million or $2.5 million in diamonds and other jewelry from one of the highest end jewelry stores we have in Kansas City.
So Jim or Rick, you know, whoever wants to start, tell us how you got into this case. All right, so robbery work to shift, a day shift and an evening shift.
This happened at 10 o’clock in the morning and we weren’t working.
It was the other, the B team was at work.
So they responded to the scene, but it was a big enough case that it started to overlap the shift.
And I think our involvement happened when.

[2:10] A Metro dog watch officer pulled over a car, and I think there might’ve been a short car chase.
They stopped the car at 63rd Ward Parkway, and they had guns in the car.
These guys were all from out of town. As it turns out, they were robbers from Los Angeles.
And that case was big enough, the Tivol case was big enough that there was some thought that these could’ve been an out of town crew that had come in.
Rick was convinced of it, and it made a lot of sense based upon the guy’s records involved.
So we had them in, we served a couple of search warrants at some hotels on the Plaza, which made it even more suspicious they were closer to Tivol, but it turns out that the head guy or the, I don’t remember what the ringleader’s name of that group was, but he’s like, I’m not going to deny that I haven’t done crime, but I didn’t do that one.
So you told him it was about a robbery of a jewelry store on the Plaza and it was almost like, oh, well, I don’t know what all I’ve done because I’m not from this city, but I I didn’t rob a high-end jewelry store.
And we ended up working a couple days trying to establish whether it was them or not.
And as it turns out, they were committing a credit card fraud at the time within 45 minutes of the robbery.
And it didn’t seem likely that they’d just done a $2.5 million jewelry store robbery and they were trying to score a $2,500 laptop computer 45 minutes later up the street.

[3:34] So ultimately, that initial part didn’t lead anywhere.
But Rick was adamant that this is a one-time in a career case and we should try to work it.
So we ended up working it and working it and working it.
And eventually, it got assigned to us.
The original detective didn’t continue working it.
We were lucky enough to be making connections with people outside that it made it easier just to assign it to us.
Detectives take initiative to claim the case as their own

[4:00] Can I add to that, Jim? As long as you’re not going to talk bad about it, Yvonne.

[4:04] I’m not going to talk bad, but I am going to say that Jim and I were sitting in the squad room and we were talking and I said, we should work this case.
Jim and I were having the discussion, we’re like, we should work this case.
And Jim goes, it’s not our case. And I go, it should be our case because we’re the only ones putting any effort into it.
I think one of the main things that came from the other detectives working the case is they set up off-duty at the Tibbles which needed to be done, but to Jim and I was not much investigative work.
It was a necessary tangent of this case and off-duty, I think it’s still at Tibbles today, but.

[4:47] We wanted to do the investigative part and Jim and I decided at that time that we would Instead of just go behind the scenes, we go straight to that sergeant and say we wanna take this case, and that’s what we did. it.
Do you remember that, Jim? No, I don’t remember saying that to that sergeant, but we had a really good supervisor.
We did. We had a really good sergeant, but I remember walking into his office at the time and saying to him, sergeant, we would like to have this case and here’s the reasons why.
And he was not too happy about the whole conversation, but in the end said, all right, I see you guys have a point. and he said, let’s see what you could do.
And we were allowed to then go out and start working the case, not behind everyone’s back, but out in front.
And that’s how it got started. And our sergeant supported us 100%.
And the solvability of that case was pretty low.

[5:48] There weren’t a lot of leads, so there wasn’t going to be any forensic evidence to tie him to it at the scene because the way they were dressed and the forensics weren’t quite what they are today.
Um, so we started, I had somebody that was telling me, I wouldn’t call him informant because he wasn’t, he wasn’t paid by, I had somebody that I had arrested before that was telling me.
And Rick had somebody, I don’t remember the one guy who faded, but we had a couple different people saying that Clarence Burnett was behind it.

[6:22] So before we, before we go any farther, set the scene, how did this robbery go down? So they arrived in a, I want to say it was a Jeep Cherokee.
They pulled up in front, just stopped blocking the first lane of traffic and they went in the store.
They split up so somebody went to the safe.
So they, you know, somebody had the assignment of getting in the safe and then somebody had a sledgehammer in there trying to break into the cases.
Well, Tibbles has really, really, really nice cases, and you can’t get into them with a sledgehammer.
So they beat on those, I think they struck one of the cases 21 times or something like that, and it just, it broke, but it never, it was like a windshield safety glass, it wouldn’t get out of the way.
They ended up getting somebody with a key to open up, I think they only broke one case, they ended up getting a key to open up the backs of the others.

[7:19] And at the time, so there have been a series of robberies, and I should probably back up because…
Previous robberies and the progression of the criminal crew

[7:26] Meierotto’s got robbed in February of 97, which is, you know, that’s a pretty high-end jewelry store up north of the river. That was Rick’s case.
And he had that case from the get-go, he’d been working that, and that trailed off into a different series of crooks who didn’t do the robbery, but they had been doing a bunch of other stuff.
But the Meierotto’s robbery really wasn’t going anywhere.

[7:52] And they had done it, they had, so this crew, when we found out later, they had robbed a McDonald’s, they had robbed a CVS, and they’d robbed a couple other places.
And I think the idea was that they were practicing some timing. I never got that.
They were, you know, robbing a CVS is a pretty low skill, same with a McDonald’s.
I don’t know if it was practice, but there was definitely a acceleration going from like fast food, to CVS, to jewelry stores, as I remember.
They had walkie-talkies and communication and, you know, masks, gloves, guns.
I mean, they were definitely practicing their trade and getting much better and looking for bigger stores.
Now, whether that was just practice or just how they evolved, I don’t know.
But I remember Jim and I going back and looking at the earliest cases and where they were to where they had gone to, and there was definitely a progression in their amount of professionalism, so to speak, in their writing. Would you agree to that?
Yeah. And I think the first, actually, I give, I say Meierotto’s was the first. I think it was a…
A place at 75th and Wornall that was in- Pawn shop, wasn’t it?
It wasn’t a pawn shop. I think it was a secondhand jewelry store, but they sold… So they advertised that they sold Rolex watches.

[9:14] So Meierotto sold Rolex watches, and obviously, Tivol sold Rolex watches.
So there was sort of a common theme, and it’s not like we put all these things together as it was going on, because we didn’t know about the string until afterward.
But when you look back, and they nearly got caught at 75th and Warnell by the best policeman I think we’ve ever had on the department. Well, one of the best.
Gary, I think he took your position in intelligence.
He lived there. He was a St. Peter’s guy. So what happens on Christmas- Terry Finn. Terry Finn. Terry Finn.
There you go. So Terry heard the call come out at- Oh, that’s right.
At the jewelry store, and he drove to where he thought … He wasn’t working.
It was like a Saturday. Yeah.
That’s- But Terry started thinking, because he lives out there, he started thinking, where are they going to drop that car? And he drove to what turns out to be the Sutherlands.
Now it wasn’t then. It was still the AMF bowling supply place.
He, and he was within like seconds of because that’s where they dumped the car.
And Terry almost caught them there.
The MO: Switching Cars and Dumping Stolen Vehicles

[10:12] Now was that part of their MO have a car to do the robbery and like bank robbers do, and then drop that car and have their other car waiting for them somewhere else and take off and switch cars.
So they did that, so in the Tivol robbery, they left and Clarence was driving his personal truck that had a tonneau cover on the, so it was a pickup truck with a tonneau cover on it.
And they drove that stolen Cherokee up to Loose Park, dumped it, and then they got in the truck, but they all laid down in the back.
So it’s a single guy driving a Dodge pickup truck, it’s not three guys in a Jeep.
And then he just drove back over to his house. Yeah, now you mentioned the name Clarence.
Now, Clarence is Clarence Burnett, or a guy they called Papa, who was the ringleader of this crew, and also a drug kingpin, a cocaine kingpin at the city at the time.
Is that right? Yeah, so I’ve heard him called Pawpaw, not Papa, but I think it depends on who’s talking.
Okay. Yes, Clarence was the driver. He set it up, and he drove his personal truck to pick up the guys when they dumped the car.
So now you’ve got the robberies happen, it went down like this, they’ve gotten away, as you start your investigation, you start pulling similar, try to find similar crimes and see if there’s a pattern here.

[11:34] And so then you start running down different tips and you’ve got informants that are talking about different people. So how did it work from there?
What was your kind of your next avenue? You say you had somebody that mentioned this Clarence Burnett? We did, but that was, so the FBI was pursuing some leads and we were pursuing leads separately.
It was not a cohesive investigation at the time.

[11:57] But we got invited along because they had information that they had a bondsman in Kansas City was buying, he had some of the stolen jewelry from the Tivol store.
Here’s a funny thing about the Rolex watches though. So they didn’t take any brand new watches from Tivol.
The only Rolex watch they got was out of the safe. It was in for repair.
And it was a Kansas City criminal defense attorneys whose watch was in the, that’s the only Rolex that they got.
I think it became probably apparent to them and it’d become apparent to me and Ricky over that year that that wasn’t a really good thing to steal.
Those are, they have a serial number on them and you could go back and get records from 1973 to now on who that watch, so where that watch had moved.
If it had ever been for repair, it was logged. It was a pretty intricate system.
And I think it must have become apparent to them that that was a bad thing to steal because it was easy to, I think it would be easy to get caught selling.
Sting Operation at the Bail Bondsman

[13:03] But so we, we have, so the FBI got somebody assigned to it and we’re, we’re talking to them, but we’re really working two different ways.
So we get invited on a surveillance because they’re going to buy some of this purported stolen jewelry from Tivols and we help with the surveillance.

[13:23] And it’s a bondsman downtown on, was it on 10th street?
Tennessee Bond, he was on 10th street. So we’re helping with the surveillance, but we’re sort of extra, we’re sort of moving around.
And somebody, there’s lots of cars pulling up in front of the bail bond company.
And one of them leads, and then right after that, they say, the bondsman’s ready to deliver the jewelry to us.
So if anybody saw a car and we said, well, yeah, we can still see the car.
So we go catch up to the car and we pass by it. And I recognize Clarence Burnett from previous encounters with him when I was in a uniformed officer and attack unit.
So we’re like, holy shit, that must be the guy who’s, you know, so we already had the name.
And then here he is in the car that just left the bondsman when supposedly the bondsman’s gotten a delivery of some of the Tivol jewelry.
So, they took that jewelry to… When they bought that jewelry, they checked that in-house.

[14:24] And then, remember, then we set up, I think we leveraged somebody, and we set up the sting at the Embassy Suites on the Plaza, whereas that F.B.I.
Came in with a team, and that’s when we bought some loose diamonds, and they ran him down the freight elevator and I was waiting at the base freight elevator I took those loose diamonds went to a jewelry store Brian Skorkin and in he had a store in a Plaza at the time and ran up there and he looked at him underneath the microscope and found one that had a serial number I guess the certain brand of diamond had serial numbers embedded in the diamonds and it was one of the stolen diamonds from Tivol. And that’s how we made the connection.
Tracing the Serial Numbers and Making the Connection

[15:15] Because otherwise they’re going to have to, so each diamonds, especially expensive diamonds are mapped by probably not the right term, but they know, so somebody’s drawn a map of what the diamond, the shape is and the clarity and all the other stuff that they tell you when you’re buying your wife’s wedding ring.

[15:34] But that’s a little harder. Some of them are, or some of the jewels at Tivol had a serial number etched on the crown, the side of the crown, and you could see it. So they said, well, yeah, this seems to be a pretty easy call.
There’s the serial number and there’s the list of not every diamond had it, but some of there’s a specific brand of diamond that does that.
If you’ve got one that you can identify that came out of the table for sure, by that number, all the others with it, you just pretty much assume that’s part of that swag.
So let’s go back to that first sting at the bail bondsman downtown and you identify Clarence Burnett.
Yes. Then what’s your next step right after identifying Clarence Burnett?
Well, then we we have a you know Meeting after that that operation was over and we said hey, you know our we have sources saying that it’s Clarence Burnett is the person who did the robbery and You know you guys called out that car Ricky and I followed it and I can tell you that was Clarence Burnett in that car, So that sort of started the you know, that’s a big break, you know, at least you know You know where you’re going.
I mean, so then we started working it from that angle, but the FBI continued So I was, I forgot about the embassy suite, but they did the second takedown and then they.

[16:47] The bondsman flew to Dallas and this, this FBI agent was, I mean, that was his undercover role was a jeweler.
And they, I don’t know what else they bought from him. So they had, the Bureau had an undercover who was saying he was a jeweler, kind of like John, what’s his name?
Pistone, Donnie Brasco. His cover was that he knew a lot about jewelry. So they had somebody.
Is that who set up the original bondsman in Kansas City, that guy there, that agent?

[17:22] So he’s just a guy, he’s just an actor that they, that the local office brings in because he is a jeweler. I mean, I think he’s legitimately knows everything you, he could go sell jewels, is what I’m saying.
So they brought him in specifically participate in that part of the operation.
The FBI’s Undercover Jeweler and the Bondsman’s Role

[17:42] And again, we weren’t, so we weren’t really, we got invited to help with the surveillance.
So all the pre-planning that was going on, we weren’t really a part of, we didn’t get invited.
So they had, they had somebody next to this bondsman downtown, and then they bring in this jeweler to identify, help identify those diamonds and that kind of thing, but they don’t really take him down at the time.
They- Oh, there was some time and- Are they the ones that bought the diamonds in that day after Clarence left, he delivered them?
Yeah. The bondsman had it, and then the Bureau bought them from Clarence?
No, we bought them from the bondsman. I mean, from the bondsman, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, man. Okay, all right, all right, I’m with you now.
So then they start pursuing, they start pursuing the bondsman. Right.
But as it turns out, he’s only got, so I think they eventually bring him in and he says, so he’s done, he’s on videotape, he’s done.

[18:41] But he says, I didn’t set this up and I didn’t buy that many pieces of, I know Clarence from bailing him out type thing, but I didn’t buy that much jewelry from Clarence.
It certainly wasn’t what was reported to have been taken in the in the robbery.
And I think that was an important part, too, Jim. The relationship between Clarence and Guy Bessin is that guy had bonded Clarence out for his other criminal stuff on other charges.
And I think that’s how he made that connection into them.
And that’s how the that’s how the connection was made from The people were taking in the proceeds from the robbery to how do we get the people who are actually going to do the robbery?
That connection was through that bonding company that initial I think like introduction. Would you agree Jim?
Yeah Yeah, so then it was gonna it was gonna it was gonna take a big fence for two and a half million dollars With the jury.
Yeah. Yeah, then the beer and the Meierotto jewelry was it was valued at last but it was the true value that Meierotto’s had paid for it.
It wasn’t the MSRP.
What Tibbles was, I think, was the MSRP. Oh, really? Meierotto’s was the money because Meierotto’s was out that money. Yeah, that was their.
[19:56] That was their hit you’ve got the bail bondsman.
They leave him out there, continue to operate, and they’re continuing to find other people that can buy some of this jewelry from is that. Was that the kind of the.
Well, you know how slow the Feds move. So, you know, it’s a slow, methodical investigation.
Yeah. And then and I don’t remember the exact amount of time that he was out.
But then when we when they do get him in, it seems his story makes sense to me that he didn’t get all the jewelry.
He didn’t set up the robbery.
His part in it was he got a few pieces and he was trying to make some money on the side.
I got you. Does he set up other people, then they go on to other people to buy some more of this jewelry back? No.

[20:45] I think he tells them that it’s Clarence Burnett. He confirms it was Clarence that’s doing it, but that’s sort of a dead end. And so that’s, that’s junior Bradley’s illegitimate son.
Junior Bradley, the Mob Fixer, and Mob Connection

[20:57] So I don’t know anything about the guy, but it’s the bail bondsman, the bail bondsman and junior Bradley’s. Yes.
Okay. And, and guys, for those of you who don’t know, I’ve talked about him for junior Bradley was a mob connected fence in Kansas city.
He was the, he had a whole store filled with boosted goods down the city market.
Some people claim he’s a made guy.
He was half Italian, but he was the guy for the mob in Kansas City.
There’s no doubt about it. He was Willie Cammisano’s guy, and he kicked up to him all the time, and he was a fixture.
He ran information in and out of the penitentiary system.
I know a guy that was given the job of taking care of another internationally known mob guy in another penitentiary, and I said, well, who told you to do that?
He says, Junior Bradley got hold of me while I was in the joint and said, expect this guy.
So Junior Bradley was the mob fix it guy for the Kansas City mob and the main mob fence.
So he got into it. So how do you, is that how we get to Angelo Porrello?
Is that how do we get Angelo Porrello then?
Completely disconnected at the time. Well, continue on then.
So, and it, you know, this took a long time. I’m telling this story like it’s really happening fast, it’s really not happening fast.

[22:15] So we started looking at Clarence, Ricky and I started looking at Clarence for this, and the FBI starts to look at Clarence.
And then I think probably the next step was we got to, that Porrellos had fenced some of this stuff.
And Porrellos owned a pawn shop at Brush Creek or Paseo.
And then while we’re working all this, Clarence gets arrested in Oklahoma, Texas, somewhere in a Winnebago with like 30 kilos or 30 pounds, whatever.
I didn’t work drugs, of cocaine. They have a speedy trial at the defense’s request and they get a speedy conviction.
So now before we’ve ever even indicted him for the robberies, he’s got a conviction, conviction, a sizable conviction for cocaine and by the way, at this time, it’s that case is moved from the case agent who originally had it to some other detectives or some other FBI agents in squad five that are the typical case is yes, I’ll move to this other squad.
Well, so squad five always had it, but some other detective or agents start getting added because it’s getting it needs more agents.
It’s it’s and we all know there’s a difference in agents just like there’s a difference in cops and there’s a difference in detectives.
There’s, it can be a huge difference in agents. So you got a good, aggressive guy on it.
It sounds to me like Clarence is now, he’s got this big sentence pending down in Texas.

[23:42] And you probably don’t know any more about that, but obviously somebody set him up.
You just usually don’t just snatch somebody off the highway with a, in a Winnebago and get that kind of seizure.
Somebody set him up down there. And so now he’s, somebody’s going to go down and start working him, I have to assume, you know, we know you know about this.
Maybe we can help on your cocaine thing. Is that how that went down next?
Yeah, so we weren’t really involved at all at that point.
But yeah, somebody from the FBI then starts, you know, working that angle of, you know, we know you did this robbery, you can help us out.
We can help you out with your current legal woes. So then he starts cooperating fully.

[24:25] And that’s when we start getting the names of the rest of the crew, right?
Because before, we had some ideas, but we didn’t know who was in the crew, correct? We didn’t know the whole crew, correct. Yeah.

[24:38] I mean, we knew who his best friends were, the ones he was getting stopped with, but We didn’t have anybody that said, because the crew didn’t stay the same.
The crew changed from robbery to robbery based upon, I’m guessing, who was getting along, who was in jail, that type of thing.
And then, so then we started getting the different people in the crew.
And so the Meierotto’s robbery is sort of a key event because that crew changes from a bunch of pretty hardened career criminals to the guys that Clarence hung out with.
So his friends, people his age that he knew.
And then that’s when I think, I’m guessing, that’s when they had to start practicing because the crew that hit Meierotto’s was a seasoned crew.

[25:31] In fact, they did a robbery up on Vivian and North Oak at a bank that a Kansas City police officer off-duty interrupted and killed one of them.
They got convicted for the, so his death, they got convicted for the, his death that happened in the commission of crime.
So they were in, I don’t know if they were all of that crew that robbed that bank, but they were at least two of them.
Because the only conviction that, the only person we didn’t convict in the Tivols conspiracy was one of those guys that didn’t matter, he’s doing life in prison for that robbery where his cohort got shot.

[26:10] So I wish I had a better idea of how quickly, I mean, how it all meshed together, but it was it was really slow and stuff just rolled in. So it just clipped building.
Clarence is talking to y’all now and naming his crews.
And you’ve got these disparate names. You’ve got these hardened criminals were part of it.
And you’ve got these guys who were his friends who are less hardened criminals that have been practicing.
And you’ve got him. He’s telling about it. And I assume you get those guys in now.
Is that when they start talking about the Porrellos? Because I’m really curious how they made that connection with the Porrellos.
Porrellos pawn shop was in the African-American area of the city, shall we say, Brush Creek and Paseo.
And Clarence Burnett was African-American. So had he been doing some business with Porrellos and got to know them?
I mean, Angelo Porrellos is not going to just do business with the next guy that comes along. And I, you know how that went down now.
So that’s again, Ricky stepped out.
So that’s part of the FBI stuff that we weren’t part of.

[27:15] And maybe Ricky has more information on that when he comes back in.
But and so I talked to Clarence, but I didn’t debrief him as much as somebody from the FBI did. So we had information.

[27:27] And then Becker always had the case.
So Becker had the robbery and the stuff from get go.
It just played into his hand that Angelo was part of it.
And so guys that he’s talking about Paul Becker, Paul Becker is probably the single most aggressive US attorney that we’ve ever had in this city when it comes to prosecuting the mob.
Paul Becker, the relentless prosecutor

[27:52] And he is like a dog with a bone when he gets on something.
If you get in trouble, you do not want Paul Becker prosecuting you.
Just trust me on that one.
He’s a good guy if you’re on his side, but if you’re on the other side, he is a dog with a bone, man.
And so we’re talking about Paul Becker and, and then turn in Clarence Burnett and pulling in the Porrello father and son crew.
How did you know, remember how that happened?
I don’t remember how we got to Porrellos. I thought that we had done, someone had gone to that pawn shop or said, that’s where they unloaded the Porrelo’s crew.
Is that that’s where they started unloading some of the merchandise.
I think that’s how we got the pros, but I can’t remember Specifically who said it or when we got there.
We didn’t have so we had the innuendo that Clarence dealt with Jays Jay’s Pawn Jay’s Pawn.
Yeah, so we but it was nothing that was sticking It was you know, you couldn’t take it to court.
You couldn’t you couldn’t get a sir You couldn’t get anything based upon the information. We had it.
What just wasn’t strong enough so the FBI was getting the information about.

[29:02] Angelo Porello at the time that Joe was running Jay’s Pawn, he also had a jewelry store at 75th in Baltimore, Porello and Sandridge’s Jewelry Store.
If you’re looking for a way that, because that’s a lot of merchandise, as I said earlier, how do you get rid of that?
Well, having a legitimate, quote, jewelry store would be a good way to get rid of some of that merchandise.

[29:28] Well, not only that, But the pawn shop was taking in street level stuff and this is all high-end.
I mean quality stuff So to get the most money out of it by transferring it to your high-end quality jewelry store Gave him the mess, you know the best bang for their buck.
So to speak of Getting the proceeds from the the items from the stones Right, and I think Joe at the Joe had studied diamonds.
He could do legitimate business as a diamond seller. He was knowledgeable enough to know.
What was good and what wasn’t. And that’s the son Joe Porrello, who was not really a criminal, particularly like his dad was.
Joe Porrello, a non-criminal son in a criminal family

[30:12] His dad was a longtime mafia associate career criminal.
The son was not really a criminal. I think it was even his adopted son, I’m not sure.
Porrello and Sandridge or whatever, they had the name Sandridge connected to that store on 75th and Baltimore.
And guys, 75th and Baltimore is more in the Waldo, what we call the Waldo area, in the Brookside area, And it’s real close to a lot of high-end neighborhoods.
And Sandridge’s, Eddie Sandridge was a long time jewelry thief and fence and his brothers, and they’ve been Mob connected for a long time.
So the Sandridge’s even had a place on the Plaza at one time.

[30:52] They had a lot of connections, and they had a lot of people that knew that name to have higher-end stuff. So it makes sense that you would then fence it out through the one at 75th and Baltimore.
It’s also a half a block from the original. So the first I said, you know, they did it.
Yeah, don’t go robbery. It’s a half a block from that store. Very interesting.
So there, the Bureau’s bought some of this stuff. You mentioned some other sting operations where they just like unrelated to this, or was he fencing it to more than one person?
And then they made some connections to get it back. What about these other stings?
So the only other sting I’m aware of is the agent, the FBI agent who was a jewelry dealer, Tony Gillihan, the pawn shop guy, went to travel out of town and met with them, which was all videotaped and stuff.
So that’s the only other sting that happened. But that’s already happened.
So that’s before Clarence gets arrested and is telling his story.
Yeah, but that was some of the Tivol jewelry, the Tivol pieces? Yes.
How did that… I can’t understand how that connected exactly.
So, they actually have, I’ve seen the video and I just don’t remember it all, but Gillihan.

[32:07] So the guy that’s, he’s talking on the video about, well, you know, this came from the Tivol Jewelry Store and you can see Gillihan’s like, shut up, but he’s not. So Gillihan says yes.
So he reluctantly agrees to some of this stuff, but they have it on, they have it on video that this came from a Tivol Jewelry Store in Kansas City.

[32:27] Whole separate operation, sounds like. Yeah. Okay, moving right along, so Clarence Burnett buries Angelo Porrello and his son, it seems to me like.
Clarence Burnett’s testimony and sweet deal

[32:35] He testified and he worked a pretty sweet deal.
He did sometime, but he probably was looking at 30 years for that much of a cocaine.
The cocaine was 30 years, but he never got charged with any of the robberies.

[32:50] So when he got the customary cooperation, it was off that 30 years.
And then he got more and more and more, and I don’t know any of the details, but I know enough.
So he testified for the Feds in a stolen auto ring that involved some chiefs at the time.
He participated in that, or he cooperated in that.
So when they brought him in, he not only gave up Borello’s and the Tivol Jewelry Store and the guys that did it, he also gave up a stolen auto ring that he was involved in.
And I remember that Derek Vandover, I think was the chief’s name, and he was involved in that and they were stealing these high-end cars.
And I don’t remember if they’re re-tagging them or what they were doing with them, but he gave all that up too. He was pretty valuable informant.
Of course, he had 30 years to work off.
And he worked, so he got half and then I think he got half again and his sentencing, I don’t think Mrs.
Meierotto was very happy. In fact, she was pretty voiced her.
Because when Meierotto’s got robbed, they got guns stuck in their face.

[34:00] They were in the business when it happened, and their guard was disarmed.

[34:05] It was a, you know, it’s something that family’s never going to forget that, because they were, they thought they were going to die, I suspect.
So how, were you in the courtroom? How did he testify? I’ve seen him on the internet.
He’s got this little hour and some long documentary that he has made, it looks to me like.
I think he’s back in penitentiary now for a probation violation, I couldn’t seem to find him anywhere.
But so what was that like? How did he testify?
He’s pretty glib and pretty articulate.

[34:35] Well, he’s, he’s very smooth. And he’s very believing, you know, believable. He’s very good at testifying, in my opinion.
So he just looked right at Angelo Porrrello and said, he’s the man and looked at his son said he’s the man. Yeah.
And you know, there was a lot of other stuff. And do you who the attorneys were for the Porrellos?
Well, I understand David Helfry, who was the strawman attorney for the skim cases for the prosecution, who is now doing white collar crime operation.
I understand he was one of them was Joe. He was the one from St.
Louis that came in, but he’s pretty high dollar. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

[35:10] So Porrello had a lot of money. I mean, he, they, they had a lot of money.
The Porrellos’ wealth, legal representation, and prison fate

[35:14] I don’t know if they made him forfeit anything or, or how that went down, I know Angelo died in prison at about 99 years old down in Springfield.
And Joe and Joe, did he die in prison?
I knew it. And I think early age. Yeah.
Didn’t he have a cancer right when he was getting sentenced, Joe?

[35:31] He might. Uh, the Angelo tells the story that he was, he was trying to set up Joe in a business so that Joe could have, you know, a business that was his after Angelo was.
Gone. I don’t think he’s that good of a he was that good of a father.
He would have let his kid cooperate because how much you know, Angelo was going to die in prison one way or the other.
I think he I don’t think he was that he wanted to make himself look like a good father and I didn’t really buy it because Joe should have been allowed to cooperate and get out of jail at a reasonable time. Right.
I’ve heard this from somebody else that when they got ready to go, of course, the Bureau comes to them and, you know, would do a deal here.
And they always offer some kind of a deal. And Angelo, they were not going to really give him much of a deal, but they would have given his son a deal, a really sweet deal, if he’d testify against his father and about this whole operation.

[36:24] And his father, I understand, told him, you cannot testify, you cannot take a plea. We’ve got to to have a trial on this which is goes right back to Nick Civella.
Nick Civella never allowed anybody To plead out when he was alive So that’s that was a mafia discipline coming down to that level is what that was if you ask me Yeah, cuz me and the FBI agent who took over the case We went to the pawn shop and we talked to Joe Prior to him getting arrested and I think he was really close to he was he was afraid He was not a criminal.
He was not a hardened criminal. He was I think toughest thing was him was he wasn’t going to turn on his dad, but I think he would have.
I think he would have, and I still to this day think he should have cooperated and got a better deal.

[37:10] Interesting. I think, sorry Gary, one of the things, you know, we talk about it, that was fascinating about this case is how, you know, Fish and I both work Center Zone.
We chased Clarence Burnett when he was 15 years old, stealing cars.
He lived at 33rd and Tracy, and I mean, he was just a young kid in the neighborhood who, you know, was looking for an opportunity when, you know, back then you’d pop the steering column on the old Chevy and you’d steal it and drive around.
We would chase around the blocks there between Linwood and Armour in his car, between Paseo and Shrewish, running in there, because I’d run home.

[37:54] 30 30 trades, because he didn’t know anywhere else to go.
And so, I mean, it is fascinating to see and then how that three-level crime evolves and turns all the way into a mob connect.
Evolution of Crime and Mob Connections

[38:08] Yeah. I mean, I just, through my years, I’ve never seen that portray out, you know, to evolve or evolve to that kind of criminal activity.
Yeah. And it was really fascinating to see that.

[38:22] I never have either. And this guy, this Clarence Burnett, he’s one of these guys that if he just hadn’t gone down that criminal path, if he hadn’t had that twist in his brain, he would have been successful.
Because I think if you followed him after he got out of prison, he got into buying and selling houses and real estate.
And then he cheats somebody out of $20,000 in a real estate deal and they file charges against him and they violate his probation or his parole.
And so he just keeps bouncing in and out, but he’s real bright.
And and he can and he’s could put things together and he’s smooth.
You know, I don’t know. He put this documentary together, guys.
I’ll put a link to that documentary where he tells his side of the story and about that and a whole lot of other crimes.
And he talked to some people that are in witness protection on the phone.
And this guy is something else. I got to try to get ahold of him and get him on the show. But tried. I can’t seem to find him right now.
So he’d be way better than Fish and Rick.
TV Show and the Tivol Robbery

[39:25] So there was a TV show, it was a Canadian production that came in town and wanted to do a story about the Tivol robbery. Yeah.
And it was called Masterminds. In fact, he has a link to it on his website.
So he’s a criminal and he’s not my favorite person.
He’s victimized a lot of people. Yeah, he is. He is. But I could see which way this show was going and it wasn’t to my liking, but I participated.
So So they asked me, they said, well, you know, what do you think will happen with Clarence when he gets out?
I don’t appear on the, my clip doesn’t make the cut. I said, well, he’s a criminal. He’s been a criminal his whole life.
He may not, when he gets out, he will commit crime again and he will go to jail again, but he’s probably going to do something more of a white collar crime because he’s a smart enough guy not to, you know, you get a lot more time if you pull a gun on somebody than if you convince them to give him your money.
So I didn’t make the edit, but his attorney said, well, I’d like to think, you know, in a, you know, with different circumstances, he’d be managing a store on the Plaza.
And that made the clip. I didn’t make it.
But I, he’s a criminal. He can’t, he can’t do anything but criminal activity.

[40:40] There’s a couple of things, Jerry, when we had Clarence’s car, his car towed at some time during the operation.
We were watching some things and we had his, wasn’t it his truck we towed, Jim? As the tow got- Yeah, and we had the helicopter up. He he went and got his car He pulled it a hundred feet down the drive and the helicopter goes he’s out of the car.
He’s going around the car He’s checking the whole car.
He’s on his back underneath the car. I mean he he’s looking for a tracking device Yeah, yeah, he he was on it You know He was constantly thinking about how the police and several times we tried to follow some of him and his associates and I mean, it was a nightmare.
I mean, they were taking evasive action. They drive a hundred.
They would, you know, go down streets and blow stop signs and all kinds of stuff.
I mean, they were that part of the streetwise crew.
They were very streetwise, in my opinion, some of the players.
Now, some of, like Jim said, some of the friends, maybe not so much, but the people who were in it constantly, they were very streetwise to the police.
Yeah, they were calling out the surveillance.
Yeah. Yeah. All right. I think we’ve covered it. I think we’ve covered the whole nine yards here. Unless you got something else you want to say. Why?
Hey, what was the complaint number? 97 11 75 10.
Jim’s Obsession with a Guy

[42:08] That’s going to make it you’re obsessed. Jim, you’re obsessed with this guy.
I wrote that complaint number on a lot of pieces of paper.
Hey, Gary, I know Jim’s got to go, but can I tell you the story about how Jim kept a surveillance car for a year out of the garage?
I’ve told this story a thousand times. I know how it goes. I’ll see you.
Thank you. All right. See you, Jim. Thank you. So go ahead, Rick.
We were in robbery and we had to get a surveillance car.
And our captain was real skittish about letting us have our own surveillance car. Oh, my God. Yes.
I remember those days. Oh, yeah. Back in the day, that was just horrible.
Yeah, so so Jim and I go down and we get a surveillance time now We went to three of them in a year and a half, but we get our first one, And we’re driving it and and we you know, you’re supposed to sign it out for 30 days or whatever Well, we kept it.
We’re driving to and from home. Well the car breaks down one night.
I said Jim He goes I’m bringing it to the garage tomorrow morning.
I go. No, you’re not and he goes.
Yeah, I got to get it fixed I go you’re gonna bring it to the garage Sunday night and he goes what and I go.
Yeah Jim when the car broke down for me I went on Sunday night too because guess what they give you another car and they don’t check.
A Risky Move with a Hidden Car

[43:32] Just a lone guy, Just like hey go get that car, We had this we had this thing no matter what happens to belts party go back till Sunday night And then the captain found out we had kept the surveillance car on a 30-day thing for a year and a half, and we’ve been driving it the whole time.
We got called in the office, holy smokes, did we get it on that one?
But it was worth it because we had the car anytime we needed it, and we were running around all the time. You know how the PD and Gary, you know, they were so tight about those things, because they didn’t want anyone…
Coordinating the case with the FBI

[44:24] Oh, that was good. That was pretty slick.
It was good. We put our heads together to keep that.
And you know, about after I got promoted out of robbery, I think I was 32nd on the sergeant’s list.
So I leave before all this is unfolding, and that was really hard because I couldn’t stay with the case.
Yeah, I had to go out south and and Jim really did a fantastic job of coordinating and keeping that going with the FBI and making the rest of the indictments and the rest of the players.
Yeah, he did an outstanding job. Yeah, that one agent, Doug Fencl, was involved on the periphery of it.
And he told me, yeah, I said that and Harrington, that detective, I think he couldn’t remember his name. He said that detective boy, he he stuck right in there. He said he was good.
And he was talking about Herrington as he described him.

[45:22] Well, and Jim goes on, you know, to work Stevie Wright, who was another, you know, street level guy in Kansas City who had committed numerous murders and gotten away with all of them. No one, no one would testify.
No one would say anything. And Jim again, partnered up with the FBI and, had another partner and he was on special assignment because of his success, I believe, on the Tivol case, they gave him the latitude again in the police department, which was unheard of, to pull him aside and give him carte blanche to work on Phoebe for a better part of a year, I think, year and a half maybe, and to get him federally indicted and put away and Jim did that too.
So I mean, Jim Harrington has got to be one of the better detectives that have ever come through KCPD.
Yeah, I believe it. I think I did that story with him. I did a story with him a long time ago.
When I first started doing this, there was an article in the pitch or something, about this blood or this crib and this and this guy that got in the way with all these murders.

[46:27] And yeah, I did that. A lot of people really liked it.
That show at the hashtag back. We’ll dig that out, maybe recut it and put some of the good parts back out. Whenever I release this one.
Humorous anecdotes and podcast popularity

[46:38] Well, and then Jim goes on to, you know, when current criminals form, then Jim is one of the original detectives that goes into career criminal, again, based on, I think, all of his previous, you know.

[46:54] Expert, you know, detective work in these federal cases that he’s done a great job on. So then Jim is recruited.
Actually, Jim, at the time, we were working together.
I was a sergeant in homicide, he was a detective in homicide, side and that’s where he gets recruited out of there to be one of the founding members of the crew of criminal unit under Sergeant Eric Greenwell.
Oh yeah, I remember that squad. That was a pretty good squad that yeah.

[47:21] It’s kind of towards the end of mine well, I just wanted to add that one piece of humor because I I think if if any KCPD members, you know We’re to watch this that they get a chuckle out of that one.
You know that we we pulled one over on the department You know, they will they will they’ll see it There’s quite a few I had one guy a couple years ago Messaged me or something.
He said yeah, I said Man, he said I I volunteered to ride the wagon last night so I could just listen to your podcast all night long.

[47:52] And I was down at the Royal Stadium once and I, I must have posted something on Facebook and some guy I didn’t know that had been a podcast fan saw that I was on my Facebook too and he was of course bored, he was looking at his Facebook and so he messaged me, he said, oh, he said, are you here at the ball game, I’m over at Gates so and so, so I go over and talk to him.
There’s a lot of guys that listen to the podcast.
Yeah, well, it’s kind of fun. This is a great great opportunity to you know, talk about some of the successes You know, yeah, I can remember Gary when we’re doing the sting with the jury We’re at the gym and I were at the local office and one of the supervisors brought up Braids of diamonds that FBI had really for stings and things like that I mean it was amazing different shape sizes They’re all they’re all these stones in there and I mean I you know I it was my first like exposure to the depth of the FBI and what FBI can really do when they put their mind to it.
I mean, the resources and and like this gemologist that they had that was the undercover.
I mean, you know, I don’t think like Jim said, if you went to a jewelry store anywhere in America and he was working the counter, you’d have no idea that that guy had more enforcement background and he was that good. Right.

[49:11] So they’ve got the resources. There’s No doubt about that.
Right. So there was some things like that, that were really fun to get out to.
Frustrations with other detectives and department politics

[49:20] Yeah, really? Geez. You know, Jim was the primary. He was the one who came up with Clarence Burnett.
You know, I was, I was the only one, my, my original thing to this was Jim, we need to get the case because we can’t, the other detectives just weren’t doing shit and it really bothers me. Oh yeah. I know I’ve been there.
Yes. Yes. and you’re like, hey, these people are, I mean, they hit the store on the Plaza.
I mean, this was, this was like, you know, back in the day when the Plaza was something, you don’t walk on the Plaza in front of a store, not in the city of Missouri, right?
Yeah, we got to get on this. And, you know, Jim and I felt like we should really jump into this.
And every time we tried, it just, it was, it was another thing about, you know, how the department, as someone gets to sign a case and it’s their case and it’s your case, and so you’ll have to transfer that case. Yeah.
Yeah, and the guy that had it, it didn’t have no, it probably had no imagination and it was going to be a lot of work.

[50:21] Right, exactly. So, you know, it just didn’t go anywhere. Yeah.
But anyway, that’s about it. I can’t, I can’t remember. I mean, I can tell you that it was some of the best police work.
And once we got in coordination with the FBI, I mean, here’s two detectives from Kansas City, Missouri, working on some things that are occurring in Dallas and this Plaza and all kinds of stuff.
I mean, once we got into it and those FBI people really started to trust us, I mean, we were in, we were good as gold with them. Yeah, cool.
Well guys, that was a heck of a story, wasn’t it? The kind of inside baseball, if you will, about running a robbery investigation on a big time robbery and having to work with the FBI.

[51:07] There’s always these different, you know, you read a lot about and you see it in the popular media, these brushes between jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies and all that.
And that’s kind of really how it works. As long as you’re working hard and they’re working hard and nobody tries to hide anything and you work together and you let some people hide some stuff if they feel like they need to, don’t try to step out of your lane, it’ll all come together.
And this all came together with Jim Harrington ended up, Rick got promoted and left, But Jim Harrington ended up really being integral with the prosecution of this all the way through, just like the other FBI agent that ended up getting assigned to it.
Praise for Rick, the former chief of police

[51:50] I really admire both these guys. They’re great policemen.
And like I said, Rick went on to be the chief of police during the worst time ever to be a chief of police around the George Floyd times and all those demonstrations, us and every city in the United States had.
He had the newspapers after him and it was, you know, but he survived all that and he did it with grace and abilities and got on through and has since retired now.
I remember Rick when he was a young patrol officer and a young Tac guy.
So, but he’s a good guy. He’s been my friend on for 20 some years, 25 years, I guess.

[52:30] See, don’t forget, I like to ride motorcycles. And when you’re in your car out there, watch out for motorcycles.
If you have a problem with PTSD and you’ve been in the service, I just saw a deal on the paper in the news this morning about PTSD and service members and different kinds of alternative therapies.

[52:47] At least get started with the VA and go to their website and get that hotline number.
And there’s other therapies out there. These guys were going down in Mexico and doing some mushrooms and it seemed to be helping. So, what do I know?
If you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, which often goes hand in hand with PTSD, whether you’re in the service or not, you can get help with that.
Go to our friend, former Gambino soldier, although I’ve had people tell me that he wasn’t a soldier.
I think he was. I think he was a made guy. But, you know, he was a legacy for sure. His dad was a made guy in the Gambino family, Anthony Ruggiano.
And he’s a drug and alcohol counselor down in Florida. And on his website and his YouTube page, he’s got a hotline number so you can go into therapy or go into treatment, rather with a real deal mob guy being your drug and alcohol counselor.
Wouldn’t that be cool? Let me know if you ever do that.
So don’t forget to like and subscribe if you’re on YouTube. Give me a review, support the podcast in any way you can, share, share it with your friends.
We need to grow and grow and grow, gotta come back at these mob guys that have their podcast, but we’ve got our own side and

1 thought on “Kansas City $2.5 Million Jewelry Robbery”

  1. Great to hear Rick Smith’s voice. We were classmates at the FBI NA, and I was on two class projects with him. What a great guy, and a hard worker. I could not have been prouder when he made Chief of Police of the KCPD. He has a ton of other stories that would be worthy of Gangland Wire. All the best to Rick, and to you Gary.

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