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SECRETS OF THE DEAD: Gangster's Gold

Graphic rendering of Dutch Schultz’s steel box and its contents.
Courtesy of Yap Films Inc.
Graphic rendering of Dutch Schultz’s steel box and its contents.

Encore Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV / On Demand
Watch now with KPBS Passport!

It is widely believed that notorious Bronx-based gangster and bootlegger Dutch Schultz buried a fortune estimated to be worth more than $50 million somewhere in New York’s Catskill Mountains prior to his death in 1935. Schultz was gunned down and died without revealing where the treasure was buried, spawning a mystery that has endured for nearly a century.

Now, 85 years later, three groups of treasure hunters, armed with modern technology and decades worth of intensive research, race to uncover new leads in hopes of finding Schultz’s missing treasure. On SECRETS OF THE DEAD “Gangster's Gold,” join these three groups of treasure hunters as they follow the trail of this unsolved mystery toward the discovery of a lifetime.

The film features a new interview with Stanley Grauso, the 104-year-old, last living member of Dutch Schultz’s gang who worked as an enforcer in the 1930s.

Professional treasure hunters Ryan Fazekas and Steve Zazulyk, along with Concordia College archivist Travis Basso and geo-tech specialist Frank Lopergolo, uncover the remains of a rumored bootlegger tunnel built by Dutch Schultz and his gang in Bronxville, New York.

Travis Basso, Ryan Fazekas and Steve Zazulyk find the bricked up doorway to a hidden tunnel.
Courtesy of Yap Films Inc.
Travis Basso, Ryan Fazekas and Steve Zazulyk find the bricked up doorway to a hidden tunnel.

Noteworthy Facts:

  • Prohibition-era gangster Dutch Schultz was born Arthur Flegenheimer in 1902 to German-Jewish parents in the Lower East Side of New York City. Like many immigrant families at the time, he grew up in absolute poverty. Schultz’s life in crime began by joining a youth gang. Forcing bar owners to choose between buying the beer he sold or violence, he became known as the “Beer Baron of the Bronx.”
  • Prohibition went into effect in the United States on January 17, 1920, and organized crime began taking over New York City. Finding bootlegging profitable, Schultz set up commercial bootlegging operations deep in the Catskill Mountains, far from New York City’s droves of Prohibition officers.
  • Like many during the Great Depression, Schultz didn’t trust banks to keep his wealth safe. Instead, he kept it hidden in a strong box that he is believed to have buried somewhere in upstate New York. Items believed to be in the strong box include diamonds, gold coins, gold-backed $1,000-dollar bills and uncashed World War I Liberty Bonds, collectively estimated to be worth anywhere between $50 and $150 million dollars today.
  • On Oct. 23, 1935, Schultz was gunned down at the Palace Chop House in Newark, New Jersey by hitmen Charles “The Bug” Workman and Emmanuel “Mendy” Weiss.
  • In today’s tech-powered world, Schultz’s fortune lives on as a “holy grail” for treasure hunters around the globe. In “Gangster’s Gold,” three separate teams set off on unique paths in pursuit of the buried prize: professional treasure hunters Steve Zazulyk and Ryan Fazekas, weekend sleuths Rob Macedonio and Erika Borkenhagen, and father-daughter duo Ross and Grace Getman.
  • With the help of Ground Penetrating Radar, satellite mapping and newly uncovered photographs, these treasure hunters track down secret passages and the treasure’s possible location.

Film Interviewees:

Bruce Alterman and Tim Trojian look through family photos of NAME, one of Dutch’s enforcers.
Courtesy of Yap Films Inc.
Bruce Alterman and Tim Trojian look through family photos of NAME, one of Dutch’s enforcers.

  • Bruce Alterman - Private Detective
  • Travis Basso - Concordia College Archivist
  • Erika Borkenhagen - Amateur Treasure Hunter
  • Mitchell Egenberg - Jeweler
  • Ryan Fazekas - Professional Treasure Hunter
  • Ross Getman - Amateur Treasure Hunter
  • Grace Getman - Amateur Treasure Hunter
  • Stanley Grauso - Former Mobster
  • Alex Grauso - Stanley Grauso’s Son
  • Nate Hendley - True Crime Author
  • Frank Lopergolo - Geo-Tech Specialist
  • Rob Macedonio - Amateur Treasure Hunter
  • Jacob Morris - Director of the Harlem Historical Society
  • Tim Trojian - Inn Owner
  • Steve Zazulyk - Professional Treasure Hunter
Father-daughter treasure hunters, Ross and Grace Getman, look at their board of clues outlining all of Dutch Schultz’s history.
Courtesy of Yap Films Inc.
Father-daughter treasure hunters, Ross and Grace Getman, look at their board of clues outlining all of Dutch Schultz’s history.

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Join The Conversation:

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Credits:

A yap films inc. production for Bell Media in association with THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET. Produced and directed by Elizabeth Trojian. Written by Robin C. Waite. Narrated by Jay O. Sanders. Elliott Haplern and Elizabeth Trojian are executive producers for yap films inc. For SECRETS OF THE DEAD: Stephanie Carter is executive producer. Stephen Segaller is executive in charge.