How this thief swiped a million-dollar bucket of gold off an NYC truck
Of the many accidental video stars from the last few years, Julio Nivelo surely ranks near the top.
On Sept. 29, 2016 in broad daylight, surveillance cameras caught him cautiously dipping into the back of a parked truck on West 48th Street. Nivelo was next seen limping off, overburdened by a literal pot of gold. It was a bucket weighing 86 pounds and said to be filled with gold flake, some $1 million worth of precious shavings, presumably from a jeweler on the block.
More than two years later, Julio “The Golden Boy” Nivelo, now 55, spoke with NBC New York News and unspooled a story even stranger than the initial one sounded.
The news report described the diminutive, seemingly amiable Nivelo as “a career criminal” who lived in New Jersey and “routinely stole from trucks in midtown.”
He frequented the Diamond District, hoping to find an unattended container of jewels or precious metal. That 2016 day, he stumbled on just that: a bucket of gold. But with the grab came a challenge.
“It was too heavy,” he told NBC. “So heavy.” Nivelo managed seven or eight steps before hoisting the booty onto his shoulder.
At Park Avenue, he called a friend to pick him up, claiming that he had a bucket of paint to transport. In reality, Nivelo figured that the gold would be worth about $600,000. “It was a good day,” he said. “It was my retirement.”
In fact, he had $1.6 million in gold, and it wasn’t gold shavings, but bars — bars he had to saw down into portions small enough to be manageable to sell. It took two trips to Home Depot before he found the tools needed for the job.
In time, Nivelo’s black market sales netted him $1.23 million. He says he planned to share his haul with his girlfriend, living the good life but lying low, like big-time thieves on the lam.
However, the clock was ticking. Nivelo’s brazen heist, captured on video, went viral, and his face seemed to be everywhere. So he mounted a daring escape from the United States, one that involved a car, a fake driver’s license and a boat. Before leaving, he stashed his fortune in a storage locker to which his girlfriend had access. The plan was that she’d meet him overseas with their cash.
He surfaced in his homeland of Ecuador and planned on heading to Spain, but never made it: The police swooped in and arrested him on the street. Convicted of the theft, Nivelo spent nine months behind bars. The spot-and-grab artist took his incarceration in stride, sure that the proceeds from the pot of gold he’d stolen would be waiting for him upon his release. “I was very sure it was in safe hands,” he said. “She loves me. I love her.”
Things, however, were not quite as they seemed: The girlfriend was married, and she and her husband fled with Nivelo’s ill-gotten proceeds. “She denied to tell me where the money is,” he said. “At that point I felt the cold ice water.”
While he was being interviewed, Nivelo got a call from that would-be girlfriend. She said she was in Ecuador and would meet him and his interviewer for a sit-down, but kept changing the location and never showed. Law enforcement told NBC New York News that the woman is back in New Jersey. The money has yet to be found, and the investigation is still open.
And Nivelo? He’s sharing a small apartment with his mother in Ecuador, his once flashy wardrobe down to a single Versace shirt. “You know the advertising slogan, ‘Where’s the beef?’ ” he said. “I like to say, ‘Where is the money?’ ”