Live Science - When the notorious bootlegger and gangster Dutch Schultz was gunned down in 1935, rumors flew about the fortune that he supposedly left behind. Legend had it Schultz had hidden valuables now worth more than $50 million (and possibly as much as $150 million), including gold coins, thousand-dollar bills, diamonds and uncashed World War I Liberty Bonds, all stuffed into a strongbox and buried somewhere in the wilds of upstate New York.
But the existence of this treasure was never proven, and its location — if it ever existed — is a long-standing mystery.
Almost a century later, Schultz's mythical cache of riches has yet to be discovered. But determined treasure seekers are certain that it's out there — and they're still looking. In the PBS show "Secrets of the Dead: Gangster's Gold," which premiered Nov. 18, three teams set out to solve the 85-year-old puzzle, tracking down long-hidden tunnels and hideouts and hoping that satellite maps and ground-penetrating radar will lead them to the buried loot.
(First off, thousand dollar bills are really a thing?)
"The Dutchman" (not to be confused with The Dunking Dutchman Rik Smits) was a bad, baaaaad, man.
One of the most violent, sadistic gangsters in the 1920s and 30's. He ran shit all over New York and New Jersey and began his life of crime at the young age of 12. He quickly earned his reputation as a vicious psychopath who was exceptionally smart and cunning. In 1920 when Prohibition went into effect he realized the unique opportunity it presented to make a killing finanacially.
He seized control of the Bronx's beer supply, earning the nickname "The brazen beer baron of the Bronx".
Schultz's plan was simple: threaten and intimidate every speakeasy owner in the borough into buying only from him — or they would suffer the consequences
One gruesome story described Schultz and his partner kidnapping a saloonkeeper who was reluctant to do business with them. They hung the man by his thumbs, tortured him, then covered his face with fabric that had been dipped in gonorrhea sores, Hendley told Live Science.
"After he was ransomed and released, he went blind from the infection," Hendley said. "That sent a strong message to saloonkeepers to buy from Dutch."
From there Schultz moved into extortion of restaurants and small businesses and took over the numbers racket. Historians estimate he was taking in $12-14 Million a year from JUST the lottery racket alone.
"Factor in inflation and it's worth over 10 times that today," Hendley said. "He was making a lot of money, even by illicit gangster standards. By all estimates, he was one of the wealthiest gangsters in New York at the time."
He had illegal underground breweries scattered throughout upstate New York and spent a lot of time up there expanding his reach.
After Schultz tried to kill a federal prosecutor — disregarding other powerful mobsters' warnings to back off — gangster rivals arranged for Schultz's murder, and a hit man shot him in a restaurant in Newark, New Jersey, on Oct. 23, 1935. Rumors of Schultz's missing treasure began circulating almost immediately after his death, because neither Schultz's common-law wife nor anyone in his family stepped forward to claim ownership of the vast fortune he must have amassed from his criminal activities.
Schultz would likely have avoided banks and stashed his ill-gotten loot in places where it couldn't be traced or taxed, and Schultz's lawyer Dixie Davis claimed to have seen "a big lockbox full of money, bonds and coins," adding that Schultz spoke about burying the loot so that the government would never get it, Hendley said. But Davis' claims about the lockbox were never verified.
"It's a mystery as to where his money went," Hendley said.
So there's a crew of treasure hunters that are now hot on the trail for this money and PBS is following them around.
They have reason to believe the money is in Phoenicia, NY
Still more rumors about the allegedly buried treasure arose from Schultz's deathbed ravings, delivered to Newark police while he was manacled to a hospital bed, delirious with a fever of 106 degrees Fahrenheit and dosed with morphine. A stenographer carefully recorded Schultz's "statements" from the gangster's bedside in the hours before his death; Schultz mentioned "my collection of papers" and said that he had been shot "over a million, five million dollars," according to a transcript published on Oct. 26, 1935, by The New York Times.
A really interesting story that hopefully yields a discovery.
The PBS doc is available on demand.