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Superthief - A Master Burglar, the Mafia and the Biggest Bank Burglary in U.S. History

PDF For employees at the United California Bank in Laguna Niguel, one of Orange County’s tony bedroom communities, the morning of Monday, March 27th, 1972 begins like any other—until they find they are unable to open the vault. After several hours of futile efforts, a locksmith climbs on the roof to cut an access hole, but it appears that someone has already done the job for him.

That someone was Phil Christopher. While Laguna Niguel slept, Phil disabled the security system and led a crew of mobbed-up burglars to pull off the biggest bank burglary in U.S. history. Their notorious withdrawal from the safe-deposit boxes of hundreds of wealthy Orange County, California residents grossed $30 million. The daring and magnitude of the United California Bank heist instantly captured the attention of the media, which dubbed Phil “Superthief.” Decades later, that fascination hasn’t wavered, with recent documentaries featuring Phil’s infamous burglary on Court TV and Discovery Channel.

Things could have turned out differently for Phil, who was raised by hard-working, law-abiding parents and dreamed of a future in sports. But surviving a boyhood bout with deadly rheumatic fever changed all that. Forbidden by his father to play sports, Phil used his born-to-succeed attitude to rise up the ranks of the criminal element of his community. From petty thief to one-time hit man, labor-union strongman and skilled thief, Phil became an alarm bypass expert and safe cracker, eventually making his mark as a master thief with Mafia connections.

For awhile Phil managed to stay one step ahead of the law, despite being shot at by police, kicked out of Canada, and nearly sabotaged by a reckless partner. But Phil would give his friends the shirt off his back, and abandoning his partner was not an option.

Eventually, the law did catch up with Phil, who was convicted for the infamous Laguna Niguel break-in and served six years. When he was paroled, he continued life as a professional burglar. Ironically, his goal was to get out of crime and settle down with a wife and a legitimate business. But the fast, big, and easy profits of burglary, and later drugs, were too enticing. “Money is king,” Phil would say.

Legal battles, attorneys fees, prison time, and failed marriages ate up many of his years. Through it all, he remained optimistic, even upbeat, living life to the fullest despite the cards he held. In this book, he tells his story openly and doesn’t leave out the botched scores and personal failures.

In the style of Nicholas Pileggi’s Wiseguy and its blockbuster movie adaptation Goodfellas, Superthief is the compelling story of a master thief and mob associate’s roller coaster ride through a life of crime and imprisonment, and the inside account of a daring burglary that made history.


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