Ex-jewel thief believed he had a license to steal

Walter T. Shaw, a once notorious jewel thief understands the values passed on by fathers. Unfortunately, he didn't follow the values given to him by his own father.

Walter T. ShawInstead, he turned to a life of crime bent on revenge against those who cheated his late father.

"I was just a thief," Shaw said during a recent interview with aroundcentralflorida.com. "There is nothing honorable about my life. It's nothing but all that crap that Hollywood embellishes."

During his life of crime, authorities estimated that Shaw Jr. and his gang, the "Dinnertime Burglars" were responsible for the theft of more than $70 million from the rich and famous from New York to Florida.

He has written A License to Steal. And he wants to give his father a belated Fathers Day gift, a motion picture chronicling his inventor father's life. The book is not a tale about the old Mafia or "wise guy" days. It's a story of redemption that is intertwined with a father and a son and what made the son become a thief.

It's not the typical Father's Day tie, wallet, power tool or greeting card.

His father was one of the most important inventors of our time, who was ripped off by corporate America and the mafia.

Shaw Jr. maintains that it should have been his father who became famous. Although Shaw Sr. died penniless, he invented and patented several telephonic breakthroughs including the speakerphone, conference calling, call-forwarding and even the "Red Phone" used by the Eisenhower administration to contact the Kremlin. However, as a systems engineer for Bell, the most powerful monopoly of that time, he was stopped from marketing his inventions.

In all, his father's name is on 39 patents.

"My dad was a very complicated man," Shaw Jr. explained. "He was a great role model. He was a class act. He had high ethics. He didn't always make the right choices. No father does. He's old school. He was very moral and man of few words."

The son's life was nothing more than revenge. Shaw Jr., enraged by ill treatment foisted on his father, embarked on a personal mission to settle the score by stealing from businessmen who could have stolen from his father.

Ironically, only the mafia rewarded Shaw Sr. Just to make ends meet, he manufactured in 1959 a black box. The device revolutionized organized illegal gambling. Instead of being famous for his inventions, Shaw Sr. is known better as a star witness for the McClellan subcommittee hearings on gambling and organized crime in 1960s.

The hearings made household names out of mafia figures Sam Giancana and the Geneovese crime family. During those hearings Joe Valachi became the first American mob informant.

Shaw Jr. isn't exactly a household name.

When thinking of jewel thieves, most of us remember Jack Roland Murphy, better known as Murph the Surf. Murphy was involved with the largest jewel heist in U.S. history. He snatched J.P. Morgan's jewel collection from the American Museum of Modern History.

Shaw Jr. has known Murphy for 30 years. He's also been involved in Murphy's prison ministry.

Shaw is estranged from his two children from his first marriage. He has two step children in his current marriage. "It's difficult to be a father," he said. "I'm not the best father. I've tried to steer them away from the kind of life I lived."

Shaw was estranged from his father for 25 years because of the life of crime. "My wife brought him to me on my 48th birthday."

The two eventually patched up their relationship. The elder Shaw died 18 months later from cancer.

A License to Steal, Omega Publishing, April '08, $24.95, hardcover


Shaw's A License To StealWalter Shaw Sr. left, and son after a reunion.Father and son growing up