Way back in 2016, a guy in New York reached viral fame after pulling a pretty simple heist. He walked up to an armored vehicle parked on a busy Manhattan street corner, snatched a 90-pound bucket from the back of the truck, and waddled away with it, only to discover later that the thing had two massive gold bars inside that were worth about $1.6 million.
Now, after a months-long international manhunt, NBC New York finally caught up with the master thief who revealed how the crime went down, how he was eventually caught, and where his treasure is now.
NBC spoke with Julio Nivelo in his home country of Ecuador, where he's been living after hiding out with some of his loot. Nivelo explained that he was a seasoned thief, and that the pot of gold he stole in New York was just one of many heists he's pulled throughout the years.
"If you were a football player, you always try to play the Super Bowl," he told NBC. "A lot of people knew that gold only came in pails. I knew which companies carry that stuff. Always I was, 'OK. My lucky day will be one day. I’m ready for it.'"
Soon after he made it home with the stolen gold bars—stopping every couple of blocks for a break—Nivelo traded it in for cash, taking home about $1.2 million and dividing it up into shoeboxes. After stashing some of the cash and handing off $200,000 to his financée, Nivelo high-tailed it Florida and then drove to LA with about $40,000. He then snuck into Mexico and hopscotched through Latin and South America until he finally made it home to Ecuador.
Once in Ecuador, Nivelo figured he was in the clear, but local authorities caught up with him about a month after he got back. They refused to extradite him to the States, and instead sent him to an Ecuadorian prison for a nine-month stint behind bars.
Now a free man living at home with his mother, Nivelo hasn't been able to get his hands on the money that landed him there. He told NBC his fiancée sent him $50,000 and then made off with his small fortune. But she allegedly told him the cops raided their house in New Jersey and confiscated the remaining cash. Meanwhile, everyone in his hometown in Ecuador still thinks Nivelo—known as the "Golden Boy"—is totally stacked.
"They know I am the son, the son that went to New York and stole the pail. That I have a million and a half," Nivelo told NBC. "But I have nothing."
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