Vivien Miller


In March 1933 the Miami, Florida, police department considered that it had achieved a major coup with the arrest of 38-year-old jewel thief Harry Sitamore at his rented Miami Beach bungalow where he lived with his wife Mildred, 5-year-old son, and several other relatives. The dawn raid on the bungalow was a joint. New York-Miami operation involving two New York City police detectives, four Miami detectives, uniformed offices, and representatives of the Noel Scaffa and Pinkerton Detective Agencies. At 4 a.m. they rapped on the door and were greeted by Sitamore's wife and son who attempted to prevent their entry. When officers broke down the door, they found Sitamore hastily destroying papers and other evidence in the bathroom. No immediate police search of the premises took place but after seven hours of questioning. Sitamore told Miami Beach Detective Eugene E. "Gene" Bryant "you have got the right man." He offered to recover the proceeds of his many jobs if the detectives allowed him to return home to change into his "smart sports attire." Back at the bungalow he told Mayor A. Frank Katzentine he would fill a "tin box" full of jewels, and proceeded to recover various "glittering gems" under shoes, clothes and furnishings, and from closets, trunks and furniture. When the tin box was full, Sitamore declared, "It's the best collection in the country."1 Over 110 pieces of jewelry with an estimated worth between $250,000 and $500,000 were found; this comprised only part of Sitamore's entire Spring 1933 haul.2 Among the items recovered was a $60,000 necklace stolen from opera singer, movie star, and "Tennessee Nightingale" Grace Moore. Like most of the other burglary victims, she had been staying at an exclusive beach hotel, and had been at a local nightclub when the burglary took place?3