Crime Time: Our Top Five Scandalous Stories From The Watch World
To paraphrase Scarface, first you get the money, then you get the watches.
This week, Wilson’s Auctions in London will be selling off the assets of a London-based drug dealer and a drug-trafficking gang with links to the island of Malta. Amongst lots of designer goods from Christian Louboutin, Louis Vuitton, and Balenciaga, Ferraris, and homes in Spain, is a rose gold Rolex Daytona worth $35,000 and a rare Wimbledon Dial Rolex Date-just that originally retailed for over $10,000.
Why do criminals love watches so much? As luxury items, watches are small, portable, and attractive. Which is why they are one of the most popular commodities be stolen, bought with the profits of ill-gotten gains, and used as currency to do rotten things. Here are five true crime stories which remind us, don’t do the crime if you can’t hide the time(piece).
Scooter Gang Scooter Gang Scooter Gang
Roving packs of robbers using stolen mopeds and scooters to sack upscale boutiques has been a big problem in London.
Both The Hour House and other prestigious London boutiques have been targeted in daring daylight heists. Unfortunately for the thieves, some high profile people were in also in the shops during these robberies.
Socialite Spencer Matthews (and brother-in-law of Pippa Middleton’s aka the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister) was picking up his 1980s vintage Rolex Daytona Zenith during one such smash and grab.
"I just had to hide in a safe,” said Matthews on his Instagram account. “More like a vault downstairs while this watch shop The Hour House on Duke Street got smashed to pieces by armed robbers.”
In the end, Matthews’ watch was the only one not stolen in the raid. But these highly publicized thefts like these made the coppers turn up the heat on the crooks.
In May, the police apprehended 32-year-old Terry Marsh, the head of one of the most notorious band of desperados. He was given a combined sentence of sixty-seven years in prison. Since his arrest, London police have reported that scooter-related crime has dropped by half.
While portable and easy to hide (more on that later), watches aren’t the most practical things to steal. Serial numbers and a close community of collectors make them hard to resell. And even if you find a fence for a $50,000 Patek, it’s unlikely that they will give you more than a grand for it.
In short, you’d have to be a bit of an idiot to become a watch thief.
Which brings us to the Bling Ring (also known as Hollywood Hills Burglar Bunch, The Burglar Bunch, and the Hollywood Hills Burglars) a group of seven teenagers and young adults in Kardashian country — Calabasas, California.
These kids stole from celebrities they admired — stars like Lindsay Logan, Paris Hilton, and Megan Fox.
While they weren’t exactly criminal masterminds, they did have a good run until they broke into watch collector Orlando Bloom’s house. The thieves boosted $500,000 in Rolex watches, Louis Vuitton luggage, clothing and artwork from the British actor.
They also took selfies of themselves wearing the stolen goods. Because what’s the point of a millennial having a Rolex if you can’t wear it and share on Instagram?
Pros and Cons
Here are two cautionary tales about why you maybe shouldn’t wear your best watch when engaging in hanky panky.
Yomna Fouad, aka the “Rolex Robber”, made her way from Miami to Manhattan relieving lovestruck men for their expensive watches. She allegedly stole more than $100,000 in valuables from men she met at Miami area nightclubs between 2015 and 2017. And this year, Fouad was charged with four counts of grand larceny in New York City, her modus operandi was to pick up a guy at the club, go home with them, and when the victim woke up, would find their watch and Fouad vanished without a trace.
After Fouad was found, Justice Maxwell Wiley set $50,000 bond, which was arranged by celebrity bail bondsman Ira Judelson (we mention this only because we were delighted to learn that there was such a thing as a celebrity bail bondsman).
And in 2014, an Australian tourist visiting New York City was relieved of his $25,000 Rolex Yacht-Master II when a sex worker took it off the nightstand. According to the NYPD, he noticed the Rolex was missing about 10 minutes later. She suggested that it might have fallen behind the nightstand, and while the tourist searched, she tried to take off.
The Aussie followed suit and caught her in the lobby. The two got into a tussle. The police were called. A female police officer told prosecutors that she saw the woman take the Rolex "out of her vaginal cavity." Wow.
Thanks to Netflix, we all know the terrifying story of drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. One of the reasons that Guzmán, the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel was able to evade capture for so long is that he kept a relatively low profile (well until the late 1980s anyway). Yes, he was the stuff of legend (like Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects “El Chapo was a myth, a spook story that criminals tell their kids at night. 'Rat on your pop and Keyser Soze will get you.’") but he also built an empire that surpassed that of the legendary Pablo Escobar based on keeping his dealings under the radar by constructing tunnels, moving small amounts and generally avoiding flashy moves.
If only his kids were as discreet.
If you follow the Instagram accounts of Alfredo and Ivan Guzman (aka El Chapitos), you would know that they like to document themselves living their best life — which includes plenty of wrist shots of their Richard Milles, APs, Hublots, and Rolexes (and guns, lots of guns).
Why draw attention to themselves? The drug cartels are so powerful they do fear not Mexican security forces. So we’re pretty sure they’re not worried about scooter gangs, thieving prostitutes or aspirational burglars.
But now that they’ve nabbed their dad, US authorities have trained their sights on the duo. In February the Feds charged then with conspiring to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine, 500 grams of methamphetamine, and one ton of marijuana from Mexico and elsewhere into the United States between April 2008 and 2018. They are also calling for the forfeiture of any proceeds El Chapo’s sons directly or indirectly received as part of their drug trafficking, including all of their fancy watches.
Killing Time, When A Watch Can Give Murder Evidence
It’s hard to get away with murder when there’s so much technology surrounding us. Take the case of Australian grandma Myrna Nilsson.
In September of 2016, neighbors called the police when they found her daughter-in-law Caroline Nilsson in front of her house gagged and distressed. Caroline told the cops that attackers had tied her up and that she had made her way out of the house as soon as they had left. Myrna’s lifeless body was discovered in the laundry room of her Adelaide home.
Caroline claimed that her mother-in-law had argued with the men outside the house for about 20 minutes, but she did not hear the fatal attack because she was in the kitchen with the door closed.
But Myrna was wearing an Apple Watch, which recorded her movements and her heart rate — including data consistent with a person going into shock and losing consciousness. That evidence, according to investigators, contradicted Caroline's version of the events leading to Myrna's death.
"Her emergence from the house was well after 10:00 pm," said prosecutors. "And if the Apple Watch evidence is accepted, that is over three hours after the attack on the deceased."
Caroline Nilsson was accused of staging a home invasion to conceal her involvement in her mother-in-law's murder. She is still awaiting trial as Australian courts debate the admissibility of the smartwatch statistics, but potential murderers take note: the technology has only gotten better since 2016.