The True Story Behind the Hulu Documentary The Jewel Thief

The True Story Behind the Hulu Documentary The Jewel Thief
The True Story Behind the Hulu Documentary The Jewel Thief

The Jewel Thief, a documentary out July 13 on Hulu, particulars the lifetime of Gerald Blanchard, as soon as called the “world’s most ingenious thief.” The movie goes past the main points of Blanchard’s notable crown jewel theft, uncovering his advanced, world-spanning a long time of crimes and the story of the detectives who lastly caught him.

Filmmaker Landon Van Soest first discovered about Blanchard round 2007, when he made nationwide headlines for returning an Austrian crown jewel known as the Sisi Star that he had stolen in 1998. In making the documentary, Van Soest aspired to dig deeper than what meets the attention about Blanchard and his crimes. “Delving into it I noticed that that [the jewel] was simply the tip of the iceberg and that there was a lifetime of felony obsession and ambition for him,” he tells TIME. “He continually graduated to those bigger, extra advanced, extra concerned collection of heists.”

Blanchard, who seems within the documentary, takes pleasure in his controversial rise. “My story might be very fascinating as a result of everybody needs they might do the issues I’ve carried out,” he says within the movie. “While you’re a child, individuals dream about robbing banks. I feel it’s a fantasy that most individuals have however they really by no means executed it like I did.”

Gerald Blanchard proven in ‘The Jewel Thief’

Courtesy of Hulu

Who’s Gerald Blanchard?

Blanchard, born in 1972, grew up in Canada earlier than transferring to Omaha, Nebraska along with his mom and sister. Based on his mom Carol Phegly, Blanchard was quiet as a baby, usually all in favour of taking aside electronics. “If he advised me he’d be a mastermind worldwide thief I’d have blown it off,” she says within the movie.

The Jewel Thief covers the occasions of Blanchard’s life by interspersing his recollections with these from individuals who have recognized him, revealing him to be an unreliable narrator with an inclination to magnify. Within the movie, he claims he stole milk from his neighbors rising up, jumped down from a parachute to flee a heist, and averted a press frenzy when escaping one other. These tales are refuted by others within the documentary, together with Blanchard’s mom, who recall the identical occasions in much less fantastical element.

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Within the film, Blanchard’s former academics and shut childhood buddies share their reminiscences, noting his obsession with consideration and being in entrance of the digital camera. Blanchard documented most of his life on video cameras—together with his felony actions—which led, partly, to his eventual demise.

Van Soest says that whereas some particulars of Blanchard’s tales have been misaligned, a number of components of Blanchard’s most mind-boggling experiences rang true throughout the board from the movie’s interviewees. “We actually needed to let him inform these tales and attempt to name bullsh-t the place we may,” he says.

Blanchard developed a contentious relationship with banks in his youthful days, when one tried to foreclose the home he shared along with his household in Nebraska. “I’ve at all times had this grudge towards the banks,” he says within the documentary. He would go on to steal from banks, discovering thrill within the problem of executing subtle crimes—and turning into a recognizable determine.

A still from 'The Jewel Thief' (Courtesy of Hulu)

A nonetheless from ‘The Jewel Thief’

Courtesy of Hulu

A lifetime of pickpocketing and financial institution robberies results in a stolen Austrian jewel

Blanchard’s felony life started first with forays into shoplifting and pickpocketing jewellery and merchandise as a young person. He then moved on to stealing electronics and making faux receipts of his stolen items, however discovered he was not totally glad. “I noticed ‘Why am I doing these small returns for small cash after I can really take the money from a financial institution?’”

After embarking on extra elaborate schemes, Blanchard was arrested when he was 15-years-old and charged with grand theft. Launched after three months, Blanchard continued to steal, and began taking in a considerable sum of money—in accordance with the movie, Blanchard had $100,000 saved in rubbish baggage and had purchased a home on the age of 16.

Blanchard escaped arrest twice—as soon as crawling by means of the ceiling at a police station and one other time driving away in a police automotive—earlier than being deported to Canada in 1997.

“I may have stopped a very long time in the past however you at all times want that thrill. It’s really an habit as a result of I’ve had tens of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} all through my life and I continued doing crimes,” he says within the documentary.

In 1998, Blanchard pulled off what’s arguably his most notable heist, stealing a uncommon jewel that belonged to Empress Elisabeth of Austria from the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, and changing it with a duplicate from a present store. Blanchard says within the movie that stealing the jewel was a part of an even bigger plan—he would use it as a bargaining instrument for future crimes in negotiations with authorities. “Plus it seemed good,” he provides.

In 2004, Blanchard efficiently stole about $500,000 from the ATMs of a quickly to open Canadian Imperial Financial institution of Commerce (CIBC) in Winnipeg, Canada. At that time, it was simply considered one of his many financial institution crimes, however it might be what led to his eventual downfall. That very same night time, a Walmart worker working subsequent to the financial institution noticed the automobile Blanchard had pushed. The automotive was rented below Blanchard’s identify, which allowed detectives the entry to wiretap his cellphone and observe his each transfer.

In 2007, following a failed crime stint in Egypt and Europe and a continued investigation from Canadian detectives relating to the CIBC theft, authorities caught and arrested Blanchard. His previous associate, Angela James, cooperated with the police.

Main as much as his arrest Blanchard studied all the things he executed intently, however his crimes would in the end catch as much as him. “It’s like taking part in a chess sport. One mistake, your freedom is gone,” he mentioned.

The place is Blanchard now?

After his arrest Blanchard cooperated with authorities, admitting to his crimes and explaining in finite particulars how he achieved them. He turned over the coveted Sisi Star, which he was hiding in his grandmother’s Winnipeg house.

Based on the documentary, Blanchard was indicted on 16 counts of theft and fraud, going through a most sentence of 164 years in jail. After detailing his crimes, surrendering the Sisi Star, and paying full restitution to the CIBC, his sentence was diminished to eight years in jail. As a situation of Blanchard’s responsible plea, none of his accomplices obtained jail sentences.

Blanchard was launched on April 23, 2012, and would go on to construct a public persona, recounting his outlandish crimes, alongside numerous books and movies about his life. “I gained as a result of it was my public persona and my picture that they created that bought me the place I’m immediately. So after I was in jail I used to be an excellent star,” he says.

Blanchard’s dealings with crime continued in later years. In 2017, he was arrested together with an confederate, for stealing PlayStations from a Greatest Purchase in Ontario. Much like the CIBC heist, investigators recognized Blanchard as a suspect as a result of a automotive on the scene was rented in his identify.

A detective who investigated the case that put Blanchard behind bars says within the movie that it’s not a complete shock. “I feel the necessity to conquer might be nonetheless there,” he says.

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Write to Mariah Espada at mariah.espada@time.com.

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