A fifth of whiskey


Oct. 8, 1957

Los Angeles

How can such smart crooks be so dumb? The short answer is: They just were.

In the last few months, half a dozen seasoned pros had been involved in
systematically burglarizing the homes of wealthy individuals on the
Westside and in the Hollywood Hills. The thieves usually took jewels,
furs and bonds.

At many of the crime scenes, police found a half-empty fifth of whiskey
left by the burglars. Detectives recalled that this was the trademark
of Gerald B. Santley, who was supposedly serving a Florida jail term
for a $20,000 jewel theft. Further investigation with Florida
authorities revealed that Santley had been paroled to Jacque Robert
May, an accountant living at 688 S. Mariposa Ave. Upon arriving in Los Angeles, Santley moved to 473 E. 55th St., Long Beach, and registered as an ex-convict.

Police placed the two men under surveillance and on Sept. 20, followed
them into the Hollywood Hills. Officers arrested the men and found
their car full of jewelry and furs. The men quickly confessed. May said
he selected wealthy victims through his work as an accountant. He drove
Santley to the victims’ homes after calling to make sure no one was
there. When Santley was through, he called May to come pick him up.

Unfortunately, The Times never followed up on the trial, so we don’t
know what happened. California death records show that Santley died
Dec. 3, 1971, in Orange County at the age of 49  and May died Nov. 11,
1995, in Los Angeles County at the age of 80.

But that is only part of the story, for the ring included a couple
of colorful characters. One of them was  career card player William
Zevon and the other was a man with a long list of aliases named Vahan
Rejebian, who was being sought in the burglaries. (Above, Rejebian with one of his aliases).

Rejebian was part of another sophisticated burglary ring of half a
dozen people that operated in the 1930s on the Westside and in San
Marino. Like Santley and May, his ring compiled a list of wealthy
residents, including film stars Jean Harlow, Mae West and Eddie Cantor.



The Rejebian ring of the 1930s included a woman with almost as many
aliases, Frances/Francis Krug. If you aren’t familiar with her, you
will probably recognize the name of her onetime boyfriend: underworld
figure Paul "Paulie" Gibbons, who was shot to death on a Beverly Hills
street in 1946.

By 1949, Krug and Rejebian had moved their burglary operation to Miami
Beach, where Rejebian, nicknamed "the California Phantom," was shot by
police while burglarizing the home of newspaper executive Charles

As I noted earlier, The Times never pursued the Santley story, so we
don’t know what became of Rejebian, nor can I find anything on Krug.
The Social Security Death Index lists 14 women with that name.

Email me

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in #courts, LAPD and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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