Last Friday night, zero people came to Barnes & Noble in Henderson to hear authors Scott Selby and Greg Campbell speak about their new book, Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History. I guess there were two, if you count me and the Las Vegas Weekly photographer, but otherwise the place was empty.
- From the Archives
- Diamond stories are forever (03/24/10)
Too bad. Flawless is a fun book, and it says something important about man's ingenuity and capacity for stealth. The plus side of nobody showing up was that it gave me considerable time to interview Selby, a Harvard Law grad who wrote a thesis on Leonardo Notarbartolo's 2003 diamond heist, and Campbell, the guy who wrote Blood Diamonds. We talked about the theft and the subsequent interview that Notarbartolo granted Wired, in which he dramatized the heist.
Why is it that Notarbartolo's crew was able to rob 100 million dollars of diamonds from the Antwerp Diamond Center, but nobody's been able to rob a major Vegas casino?
Selby: Casinos deal with petty crime all the time, so they prepare. They expect people to steal from them, so they buy the best security in the world. The security system at the Diamond Center had never really been challenged, so the people who guarded the vault grew complacent.
So the fault was in the people, not the technology?
Campbell: Right. The technology worked fine. The CCTV cameras worked, but there were never any humans watching them. The vault's magnetic alarm worked, but they installed it on the outside of the door, as opposed to inside. They were lazy about protocols and lazy about policy, and that's why Notarbartolo was able to do what he did.
Did you get all of your facts from the detectives and police officers, or did you speak with Notarbartolo himself?
Campbell: I met with Notarbartolo in prison, and I attempted to negotiate cooperation. And he said he was happy to cooperate ... if we could pay him. He never specified an exact amount, but he claimed there was a film company that was offering him six figures. He said that he'd work with us if we could match that or beat it. Now, even if we had that kind of money—which we obviously don't—I wasn't going to pay a crook to participate. You just can't do that, for reasons that are now apparent.
You're referring to Notarbartolo's 2009 Wired interview in which he dramatized his story ...
Selby: Right. We know he lied, and we know this for a lot of reasons, but here's one: Notarbartolo said his team worked in the dark. But we know that they covered up the light detector with tape so they could work in the light. And we know that when the police came to the vault the next day, the lights were turned on. That's just one example; he said all kinds of things in the Wired interview that we know aren't true.
Why did he do that?
Campbell: My working theory is that he's trying to protect those that haven't been identified. The police never ruled out inside help. We know that his team entered through the garage, and Notarbartolo says that they didn't, and maybe that's because the garage entry implicates other people.
Do you think a heist this big will happen again during our lifetime?
Scott and Greg: Yes.