Tuesday, September 12, 2006

No Egg McMuffin Results in Arrest of Mob Associates

Friends of ours: Bobby "the Beak" Siegel, Paul "Peanuts" Panczko
Friends of mine: Theodore Victor Ristich, Walter Frank Zischke

Bad luck and a couple of slices of toast.

That's what stopped two mob-connected burglars from adding a Creve Coeur jewelry store to a cross-country series of crimes that netted more than $40 million in loot - $350,000 of it in seven months.

So bad was their luck that Theodore Victor Ristich, 60, and Walter Frank Zischke, 62, didn't even take a chance with a jury. The crooks pleaded guilty Monday in St. Louis to federal charges that may add up to five years in prison to their already-bulging rap sheets.

In a sense, it was all because the office manager of a law firm in the same building as the Michael Genovese jewelry store on Olive Boulevard decided not to stop for an Egg McMuffin and went straight to work early one Saturday in June."The diet side of me said, 'Just go into work and have some toast,'" said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous out of concern for her safety. "Timing is everything."

She arrived about 7 a.m. to spot two suspicious-looking men in hooded sweatshirts. They spotted her too, and left.

Based on her call, Creve Coeur police stopped a van just before it might have disappeared onto Interstate 270. Officers found the lock to Genovese's door, along with tools and guides to antique malls, according to court records and Detective Tom Rich.

A search of the men's hotel rooms revealed more burglar tools and ads for antique malls and jewelry stores from magazines all over the U.S. An investigation revealed that police had snared men who spent decades robbing and burglarizing jewelry stores and banks, sometimes beside some of the most notorious members of the Chicago mob - men with names like Bobby "the Beak" Siegel and Paul "Peanuts" Panczko.

After an arrest in 1994, Zischke told the FBI that the men had stolen about $40 million from 40 jewelry stores, according to documents. "If there ever was a professional criminal, it's Ristich and Zischke," said retired FBI agent Jack O'Rourke, once part of the bureau's "top thief" team. He said both were well-known to law enforcement. He likened their crimes to those in the 1995 Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro movie "Heat."

O'Rourke said Ristich was "primarily an armed robber and a burglar," who once confessed to robbing a restaurant with one of the top mob hit men. "Zischke was more of an old time, tough-armed robber," he said.

Federal court documents show that Ristich, 60, of Bloomingdale, Ill., has been convicted of burglary three times, possession of burglary tools six times, transportation of stolen property, racketeering conspiracy and armed robbery. He is now on parole for robbing a bank in Wisconsin.

Zischke, 62, recently of Maine, has been convicted of auto theft, armed robbery, two counts of attempted murder, escape, numerous burglary-related charges, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, concealed weapon charges, robbery, false imprisonment and racketeering conspiracy, documents show.

Each pleaded guilty Monday to one count of transport of stolen goods, with sentencing set for Dec. 1. They still face charges in St. Louis County of burglary and possession of burglary tools.

Rich said fingerprints taken after their arrest identified Ristich and Walter Wonish - Zischke's new name in witness protection. Rich and FBI Special Agent Mark Wood then dug through "lots" of crimes and recognized Zischke and Ristich on some surveillance videos. Rich and Wood linked one or both to 10 burglaries in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

In front of U.S. District Judge Carol E. Jackson, Ristich and Zischke admitted they planned to drill the lock at Genovese's, which prosecutors said kept about $2 million in jewelry in showcases.

Zischke admitted taking about $350,000 in jewelry and coins from 10 antique malls, a goldsmith and jewelry stores in Illinois and four other states. In court, Zischke said Ristich did not participate in all 10.

Zischke told authorities he is a self-employed carpenter with two college degrees. Ristich, a high school graduate, has the looks of a businessman but said he is a member of a machinery movers' union.

Rich suggested the aging men may have lost the stamina for armed robbery and switched to burglary. Zischke has asthma and Ristich high blood pressure and cholesterol problems.

Zischke's lawyer did not return a message Monday but turned down a request to interview Zischke last month.

Attorney Scott Rosenblum declined to allow an interview with Ristich but said he was satisfied with the plea agreement. Prosecutors could have sought life terms under racketeering laws. Rosenblum said, "They're a couple characters. Nice guys. You can't help but like them."

Rich and Wood said that Zischke and Ristich would spend as little as two minutes in a store, sweeping the loot that they wanted - the untraceable stuff - into one of the large plastic Rubbermaid containers they carried.

That's a little less time than an early-morning stop at McDonald's.

Thanks to Robert Patrick


  1. where is walter zischke now is he still alive

    contact me if still alive

  2. walter zischke is he still alive and if so where r u...leave an address or phone number...always northbrook but moved....

  3. this is his daughter did u find him?

  4. To Jan,
    Walter is fine-will be out & about in approx 6 months.
    To Anonymous-if this is your Dad why do you not know where he is?

  5. To Anonymous, Is your mother name Josephine? To Jan, can you tell Walter to contact me or Virginia. Let him now we are still in Cicero at the same address

  6. To Anonymous, Is your mother name Josephine? To Jan, can you tell Walter to contact me or Virginia.

  7. to his daughter is your mother name Josephine. If anyone knows where Walter is leave a phone number. Tell him Virgina like to talk with him

  8. Looking for you Wally but I'm living in New Jersey never did get married couldn't do it. I've been searching for you but I've had no luck. I'm in Ramsey where are you ❤️😀

    1. Anonymous, are you Walter daughter from his first marriage.


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