Literature Guides Literature Guides Criticism/Essays Criticism/Essays Biographies Biographies My Bibliography Periodic Table U.S. Presidents Shakespeare Sonnet Shake-Up
Research Anything:        
History | Encyclopedias | Films | News | Create a Bibliography | More... Login | Register | Help

Search "Stanley Rifkin"

Contents Navigation

Stanley Rifkin

Print-Friendly  Order the PDF version  Order the RTF version
About 5 pages (1,389 words)
Stanley Mark Rifkin Summary

Bookmark and Share

Stanley Rifkin

Born: 1946

Click here to find out more!

Stanley Mark Rifkin, a mild-mannered computer wizard, used his skills to pull off the largest bank robbery in the history of the United States. Adding insult to injury, the bank was unaware that it had been victimized until federal officials informed them of Rifkin’s scam.

Stanley Rifkin

An artful schmoozer

In 1978, Rifkin operated a computer consulting firm out of his apartment in the San Fernando Valley in southern California. The balding thirty-two-year-old had numerous clients, including a company that serviced the computers of the Security Pacific National Bank, headquartered in Los Angeles, California. Located in a room on the bank’s D-level was Operations Unit One—a wire transfer room. A nationwide electronic wire network allows banks—including Security Pacific—to transfer money from one bank to another. Operated by the Federal Reserve Board, a government agency, the network allows banks to transfer funds throughout the United States and abroad. Like other banks, Security Pacific guarded against wire theft by using a numerical code to authorize transactions. The code changed on a daily basis.

Rifkin used his position as a consultant at the bank—and his knowledge of computers and bank practices—to rob the institution. In October 1978, he visited Security Pacific, where bank employees easily recognized him as a computer worker. He took an elevator to the D-level, where the bank’s wire transfer room was located. A pleasant and friendly young man, he managed to talk his way into the room where the bank’s secret code-of-the-day was posted on the wall. Rifkin memorized the code and left without arousing suspicion.

Soon, bank employees in the transfer room received a phone call from a man who identified himself as Mike Hansen, an employee of the bank’s international division. The man ordered a routine transfer of funds into an account at the Irving Trust Company in New York—and he provided the secret code numbers to authorize the transaction. Nothing about the transfer appeared to be out of the ordinary, and Security Pacific transferred the money to the New York bank. What bank officials did not know was that the man who called himself Mike Hansen was in fact Stanley Rifkin, and he had used the bank’s security code to rob the bank of $10.2 million.

Diamonds: an untraceable commodity

Officials at Security Pacific were not aware of the theft until Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents informed them of the robbery. The heist went through without a problem—until the second part of Rifkin’s plan came into play. Rifkin had actually begun preparations for the robbery in the summer of 1978, when he asked attorney Gary Goodgame for advice in finding an untraceable commodity. Goodgame suggested that Rifkin should speak to Lon Stein, a well-respected diamond dealer in Los Angeles.

In early October, Rifkin laid the groundwork to convert stolen funds into diamonds. Claiming to be a representative of a reputable firm—Coast Diamond Distributors—he contacted Stein. He claimed to be interested in placing a multi-million dollar order for diamonds. Suspecting nothing, Stein ordered diamonds through a Soviet government trading firm called Russalmaz.

On October 14, the Russalmaz office in Geneva, Switzerland, received a phone call from a man who claimed to be an employee of the Security Pacific National Bank. The man, who called himself Mr. Nelson, informed the Russalmaz firm that Stein was acting as a representative of Coast Diamond Distributors. Further, he confirmed that Security Pacific had the funds to finance the multi-million dollar transaction. The man who called himself Mr. Nelson called again, to say that Stein would stop by Russalmaz’s Geneva office on October 26 in order to look over the diamonds.

FBI agent Roger Young displays $12,000 and some of the diamonds seized in Rifkin’s arrest.

On the rocks

On October 26, Stein arrived at the Geneva office of Russalmaz. He spent that day inspecting diamonds and returned the following day with another man. (The identity of the second man is unknown. According to physical descriptions of the man, he did not resemble Rifkin.) Stein agreed to pay the Soviet firm $8.145 million in exchange for 43,200 carats of diamonds. (Diamonds are weighed by a basic unit called a carat, which is two hundred milligrams. A well-cut round diamond of one carat measures almost exactly one-quarter inch in diameter.)

Somehow Rifkin managed to smuggle the diamonds into the United States. Five days after he robbed Security Pacific, he began to sell the Soviet diamonds. First, he sold twelve diamonds to a jeweler in Beverly Hills—an exclusive suburb of Los Angeles, California—for $12,000. Next, he traveled to Rochester, New York, where he attempted to sell more of the diamonds. There Rifkin’s plot hit a snag.

On November 1, he visited Paul O’Brien, a former business associate. He informed O’Brien that he had received diamonds as payment for a West German real estate deal—and that he wanted to exchange the diamonds for cash. Before he had a chance to act on Rifkin’s request, O’Brien saw a news item on television describing a multimillion-dollar bank heist in Los Angeles. The story named Rifkin as the thief. O’Brien wasted no time in contacting the FBI.

Convicted of wire fraud

Rifkin flew to San Diego, California, to spend a weekend with Daniel Wolfson, an old friend. He informed Wolfson that he planned to surrender. But he never had the opportunity to give himself up. O’Brien had given the FBI permission to record calls from Rifkin. On November 5, Rifkin called O’Brien. The conversation contained information that allowed FBI agents to track Rifkin to Wolfson’s Carslbad, California, address.

Around midnight on Sunday, November 5, FBI agents Robin Brown and Norman Wight appeared at Wolfson’s apartment. At first, Wolfson barred their entry with outstretched arms. When the agents informed him that they would force their way inside if necessary, he allowed them to enter. Rifkin surrendered without a struggle. He also turned over evidence to the federal agents: a suitcase containing the $12,000 from the Beverly Hills diamond sale and several dozen packets of diamonds that had been hidden in a plastic shirt cover.

Rifkin was taken to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego. Soon after he was released on bail, he got into more trouble with the FBI. He had begun to target the Union Bank of Los Angeles—using the same scheme that had worked at the Security Pacific National Bank. What he did not know was that someone involved in the scheme was a government informant who had set him up. Rifkin was arrested again on February 13, 1979. Federal agents also arrested Patricia Ferguson, who was helping Rifkin set-up the bank. Tried on two counts of wire fraud, Rifkin faced the possibility of ten years imprisonment. He pleaded guilty, and on March 26, 1979, was sentenced to eight years in federal prison. In June 1979, Ferguson was convicted of three counts of conspiracy.

Supplementary Material

Recovered funds

Officials at the Security Pacific National Bank in Los Angeles had no idea that Rifkin had stolen $10.2 million from the bank—until FBI agents informed them of the theft. After Rifkin’s capture, federal agents recovered about $2 million of the stolen money—and a large cache (supply) of diamonds. The bank later sold the diamonds.

An incredible problem

People who knew Rifkin found it hard to believe that the pleasant computer whiz was the mastermind of a multi-million dollar bank robbery. Gerald Smith, a professor of management science at California State University at Northridge told reporters, “The guy is not a bank robber, he’s a problem solver. I have a feeling Stan viewed the thing as an incredible problem. He’s always five years ahead of anything else going on.”

A picture worth a thousand words

Rifkin was picked up by FBI agents at the home of Daniel Wolfson. Wolfson, a photographer, shot pictures of his old school pal as federal agents escorted him into custody. He sold the photographs the following day for $250. One of the photographs was purchased by UPI (United Press International). The picture included the caption: “Stanley Mark Rifkin, 32, smiles in this picture, taken minutes after his arrest, by Dan Wolfson, who rented the apartment where Rifkin was arrested. Rifkin, a computer wizard, is charged with defrauding a Los Angeles bank of $10.2 million. Wolfson was also arrested … during the telephone interview with UPI.” Wolfson was later charged with harboring a criminal.

Sources for Further Reading

Nash, Jay Robert. The Encyclopedia of World Crime. Wilmette, IL: Crime Books, 1990, pp. 2582–2583.

“The Ultimate Heist.” Time (November 20, 1978), p. 48.

This is the complete article, containing 1,389 words (approx. 5 pages at 300 words per page).

More Information
  • View Stanley Rifkin Study Pack
  • Search Results for "Stanley Rifkin"
  • Add This to Your Bibliography
  • More Products on This Subject
    Stanley Mark Rifkin
    Stanley Mark Rifkin (born in 1946) is a convicted criminal in the United States responsible for stea... more

    Stanley Rifkin from Outlaws, Mobsters and Crooks. ©2005-2006 by U•X•L. U•X•L is an imprint of Thomson Gale, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc. All rights reserved.

    Join BookRagslearn moreJoin BookRags

    Click here to find out more!

    About BookRags | Customer Service | Report an Error | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy