the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Saddle River NJ, Well, it was twenty years ago today…when a bunch of FBI guys got hit in the head with a million bucks, falling from the New Jersey sky.
Until that moment, April 2002 had been going okay for NJ con master, Thomas Giacomaro, author of the 2018 memoir The King of Con: How a Smooth-Talking Jersey Boy Made and Lost Billions, Baffled the FBI, Eluded the Mob, and Lived to Tell the Crooked Tale.
True, he was doing 18 months for embezzlement at Fort Dix prison, just south of Trenton. But it was easy time in a low-security prison. And he was such a clean, neat inmate…he was a shoo-in to get out by Christmas.
“The sleeping quarters were like military barracks,” he recalls today, “a giant room with bunk beds lined up against the walls. I had my own locker near the bed, which I kept perfectly organized.”
And when he says perfectly, he means OCD perfectly.
“I made my bed until it was coin-toss Marine tight,” says the NJ businessman. “I washed my hands on the hour in the dirty communal bathroom. Every morning, I borrowed an iron and ironing board from the COs so I could press my cheap, used, stained khaki uniform and crease the sleeves and slacks.”
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The man who used to dine on oysters, caviar, and champagne at North Jersey’s Stony Hill Inn now lived on ramen noodles (“they called it ‘crackhead’ soup because it cost only ten cents per cup.”) bought with the few dollars his mother sent in commissary money.
But he was biding his time, keeping his spirits up, keeping his head down, until he could get out and go back to his Saddle River mansion.
That is, until everything came crashing down.
That April and May 2002, the New Jersey Star-Ledger published two gigantic exposés on the King of Con with blaring headlines:
EXTRAVAGANCE GONE UNCHECKED and THE MAN WHO STOLE $80 MILLION
WHILE WORKING FOR THE FBI.
Soon after, the FBI started snooping around.
“I called my mother from the prison pay phone and she sounded frightened,” he remembers. “She said, ‘there are people here! A lot of people!’”
A bunch of FBI agents were searching through her house and taking everything.
“I asked her, ‘Ma, did they go downstairs? Did they look downstairs?!’”
They surely did.
And when they opened the air-conditioning ducts in the ceiling, they got hit in the head with his hidden cash, jewelry, Rolex watches, cuff links, antique pens…
“I’d wrapped everything in towels and stuck them in the rafters,” says Giacomaro, always so neat and organized.
That December, he didn’t get out of prison as planned.
Instead, The King of Con was charged with a few more felonies and slapped with a 14-year-sentence.
But that, my friends, is a whole other drama…