(NEWSER) – It's a criminal tale that reads like "Catch Me If You Can". At its center: a thief of antique silver alleged to have burgled 500 homes over 30 years (including that of Ivanka Trump) and the retired detective who spent his career trailing him.
Blane Nordahl was arrested yesterday in a small town in north Florida, thanks in part to the dogged efforts of Lonnie Mason, a former NJ detective who twice captured Nordahl and who tipped Atlanta police off to the 51-year-old after noticing a pattern of Southern burglaries via Internet reports—as many as 70 this year, reports the Athens Banner-Herald. Among them: A 1734 silver mug once sipped by George II, slipped out of an Atlanta home via a removed windowpane; and silver spoons made by Paul Revere that disappeared from a NC plantation home whose alarm system was deactivated.
The descriptions of Nordahl, per the New York Times, are fascinating: At 5-feet-4, he's able to squeeze in through windowpanes or door panels, breaking in so neatly that homeowners often don't realize they've been robbed until an occasion arises that demands the good silver (in the case of the Atlanta robbery, neither the homeowner's cameras nor those of neighbor Tyler Perry spotted the thief). He is so schooled in silver, reportedly thanks to his painter father, that he'll decline to take things that might fool others—a utensil with a hollow silver handle, for instance. (The Florida Times-Union notes that during one burglary, Nordahl allegedly taunted Mason by leaving $1,000 arranged on the table.)
He's been arrested more than a dozen times, first in 1983, and was last paroled in 2010. He headed to his sister's home in Florida, leading Mason to keep an eye on theft reports there. It wasn't until Mason thought to search neighboring states for reported thefts that he realized Nordahl was allegedly back at it. Mason went on to advise a team of two dozen police in six states, ultimately leading to yesterday's arrest. (Click for another wild burglary story.)