What happens when a local crime boss grows bored with arson, promiscuity, and gambling? A headline in the Wall Street Journal caught the ambitious gangster’s eye. An entire shipment of African gold coins had been stolen in Canada. Sidney Heard didn’t have the stolen ones, but he could counterfeit them. This scheme would eventually wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court, change the U.S. counterfeit laws, and spell the downfall of gangster, Sidney J. Heard.
Sidney Heard was a misplaced Chicago gangster who found himself boss of his own crime family in the Amarillo area. By the early 1980s, Big Sid had his own organization that dealt with everything from hot cars, hot women, and drugs. He had also sucessfully torched twenty-two buildings in his insurance fraud scheme, but the Amarillo Arsonist was growing bored.
Big Sid was a schemer from childhood, and boredom was his primary enemy, whether he was in solitary confinement or out in the free world. By the fall of 1981, the Chicago-native was its clutches once more. He had grown tired of his routine illegal dealings and was eager to find the rush of adrenaline a new con brings. That’s when he stumbled across the newspaper article about stolen Krugerrands.
The African Krugerrand was unfamiliar to Sidney, but after a little research, he discovered the gold coin accounted for 90% of the gold market worldwide. Sidney was instantly struck with gold fever and set out to find a way to counterfeit the coin. He purchased a coin the next day for $700 from a reputable dealer and began to study it under a microscope.
Within a short time, Sidney and his crew had started counterfeiting the coin and using them all over Texas in various nefarious deals. Sidney even used them in Mexico to buy a couple of kilos of cocaine. Every transaction was kept under a specific price point to avoid detection. This kept the crew under law enforcement’s radar, but once this rule was broken, they’d have the FBI coming down on them hard.
Sidney Heard and his crew took out a loan from the president of Tascosa National Bank for ninety grand using 300 of the African gold coins as collateral. The process went without a hitch, so it was repeated three times. The plan was to have the bank robbed if things started getting hot.
In early October of 1980, Sidney waltzed into the Tascosa National Bank clad in a three-piece suit, looking every bit the part of a wealthy businessman. His cool blue eyes watched the bank president count the forged coins, fill out the financial paperwork, and then hand them a check for ninety grand. Although he had been duped by the fake coins, Robert Ringo’s biggest mistake was in agreeing to avoid submitting the necessary paperwork to report the currency transaction.
Federal law states all transactions involving currency totaling more than $10,000 must be reported. Of course, Sidney didn’t want the transaction reported, so he coaxed Ringo into foregoing the process. Ringo would later resign as bank president because of this scandal
This last transaction was being monitored by law enforcement, and Sidney was taken down on the sidewalk as he exited the bank. How did they catch him after 15-months of investigation? Check out Synova’s Unorganized Crime book for the full biography of Sidney Heard today.
“One of the few books written that gives the reader an insight into the criminal mind” – Retired FBI Agent Egelston
Raised in a mob-controlled suburb of Chicago, Sidney Heard grew up wanting to be a gangster. He was on probation by the age of thirteen and continued building his criminal resume over the next half a century. He was a professional arsonist for nearly twenty years; escaped from jail twice; ran a gold scandal grossing over a quarter of a million dollars, and that’s just to name a few of his illegal escapades. To top it off, he played a role in one of the most important Supreme Court Decisions of all time(Gideon vs. Wainwright).Sidney’s underworld connections ran from the Chicago-based Italians to the Mexican Mafia. He even worked undercover for the Federal Government at one point in his life. However, all of Sidney’s so-called glory would come with a price. While working undercover for the F.B.I. D.E.A., Sidney became hooked on drugs. He soon found himself staring at 125 years of jail time , a massive criminal record, and pushing his fiftieth birthday. Can a career criminal change?
Frank Abagnale’s criminal career lasted ten years and was featured in the movie Catch Me If You Can. Sidney Heard’s criminal career spanned five decades!
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