The Jewel Thief is a hilarious documentary brought to us by Hulu, directed by Landon Van Soest. The film dives into the life of the criminal mastermind, Gerald Blanchard, who embarked on a series of audacious heists, each more daring than the last. Even the investigating officers couldn’t help but marvel at Blanchard’s ingenious techniques. With a touch of humor, the documentary takes us on a journey through Blanchard’s notorious heists, which he takes great pride in because he believes ordinary people couldn’t accomplish what he had done. This conviction fuels his belief that he has triumphed in life.
Throughout the documentary, Gerald Blanchard, his mother, and accomplices give interviews alongside the investigators. Unapologetic for his past crimes, Blanchard boastfully details his ingenious thefts, showcasing his lack of remorse. However, it becomes clear that his world is often clouded with more fantasy than actual truth. At times, his stories ignore reality, and he embellishes his thefts with cinematic details, such as parachuting landings, dramatic car chases, or even him being presented at a press conference. These embellishments are later refuted by other investigators, an even his own mother, shedding doubt on the accuracy of Blanchard’s claims.
Who Was Gerald Blanchard? Who Stole Sisi’s Star?
Gerald Blanchard, originally from Canada, was adopted by Carol Phelgy after being abandoned by his biological mother. Carol loved Gerald wholeheartedly, recognizing that despite his criminal persona, he had a softer side. The mother and son relocated to Omaha, Nebraska, where Gerald began his criminal career at a young age. He started with minor offenses like pickpocketing and shoplifting, but his first major theft occurred at a RadioShack outlet.
Despite being arrested multiple times, Gerald managed to escape the interrogation room twice, leaving investigators baffled by this young boy who seemed to outsmart the police. However, his luck eventually ran out, and he was apprehended. Though he spent three months in jail, his criminal activities did not come to a halt. Instead, he shifted his focus to more elaborate crimes.
One of the most notorious heists in Gerald’s career was the theft of Empress Elisabeth’s or Sisi’s ring from an Austrian museum. In 1998, he carefully planned and executed the heist, replacing the precious ring with a replica from the gift shop. It took several days for the museum workers to realize that the ring had been stolen.
From a young age, before vlogging became cool, Blanchard had a habit of filming everything, including his interactions with friends and his plans and execution of thefts. These recordings later proved to be instrumental in the police’s efforts to arrest him. However, Gerald remained indifferent to the consequences, as his stolen goods provided him with substantial wealth. By earning significant sums from his criminal activities, he was able to purchase a house at the age of just 16, leading such a luxurious life that his mother had no inkling of how he had acquired so much money.
Following his successful theft of Sisi’s ring, Blanchard turned his attention to the CIBC bank in Winnipeg, Canada, in 2004. He managed to steal approximately $500,000 from the bank’s ATMs. This elaborate bank crime was one among many that Blanchard had carried out, but it would ultimately be the one he couldn’t escape from. The entire heist was carried out with brilliance, but certain mistakes, or perhaps intentional ones, ultimately led to his arrest.
During the heist, Blanchard drew the attention of a Walmart security officer, who noticed his vehicle and subsequently alerted the police. It was discovered that the vehicle was rented under Gerald Blanchard’s name, leading to an investigation. The authorities began wiretapping Gerald’s phone and intercepting conversations detailing his plans for future heists.
Meanwhile, Blanchard went through a divorce with his ex-wife, Ramona, who couldn’t bear the truth that Gerald had concealed from her. After their separation, Gerald refrained from entering into any serious relationships until he met Angela James, who stood by his side. However, their relationship was short-lived, as Angela eventually collaborated with the police, providing them with crucial information.
Why Was Blanchard Released From Prison? Where Is He Now?
Through wiretapping, the police discovered that Gerald Blanchard was in contact with a ganglord, whom he called “Boss,” based in London, indicating that he was planning something more significant. In 2007, Blanchard went on another heist, but it ended in failure. While hiding under a duct, he engaged in conversations with his accomplices, unaware that the police were listening in on their discussions.
Eventually, the investigators caught Blanchard red-handed in 2007, leading to his arrest. However, Blanchard always seemed to be one step ahead of the police. He decided to cooperate with them to avoid a lengthy prison sentence. Surprisingly, his motivation wasn’t solely to gain wealth through theft. His true goal was to achieve notoriety through his criminal exploits. A persistent ego drove him, and he constantly sought to satisfy it. Blanchard’s ultimate success lay in gaining recognition for his unique techniques, and he proudly boasted of his thieving prowess. It becomes evident that he was far from redeemed and had many hidden secrets concealed beneath the surface.
However, after getting arrested, Blanchard cooperated with the police, revealing intricate details about his crimes, including the whereabouts of Sisi’s star and other elaborate schemes. As a result, his originally sentenced life imprisonment of 168 years was drastically reduced to only eight years. Blanchard served his time in jail and was released in 2012, emerging as a real-life celebrity and often being likened to the legendary spy James Bond, further inflating his ego and pride.
Blanchard’s mother expressed the pain she endured seeing her son behind bars, but also justified his crimes, citing a deep-rooted grudge against the banks that their family harbored. Even during their time in Omaha, when faced with a foreclosure notice on their house, it fueled Blanchard’s anger, leading him to commit his first bank heist. However, after his release, Blanchard’s criminal activities did not cease. In 2017, he was arrested once again, this time for stealing a PlayStation. The police arrested him by utilizing the evidence found in his vehicle, reminiscent of their prior arrest during the CIBC bank heist. Subsequently, Gerlad was released from prison.
Gerlad remains a free man during the making of the documentary, The Jewel Thief. As of now, he is giving numerous interviews to the filmmakers and trying to tell (or you can say “sell”) his life story to the world. He remains a formidable thief who captivated not only the police but also the public’s intrigue. It is even suggested that Blanchard may have intentionally desired to be caught, as it became an addiction for him. With fame, notoriety, and wealth at his disposal, Blanchard had seemingly attained everything he desired.