New documentary seeks to find New York Jewish gangster's buried treasure

Infamous bootlegger Dutch Schultz reportedly hid around $8 million somewhere in upstate New York, but it has continued to elude treasure hunters for 85 years.

Gold (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Is the long-hidden fortune of an infamous gangster hidden in upstate New York? A new documentary seeks to find out, 85 years later.

Titled Secrets of the Dead: Gangsters Gold, the PBS documentary follows professional treasure hunters as they attempt to find the estimated $50 million-$150 million buried treasure of Dutch Schultz.
Born in 1902 as Arthur Flegenheimer to German-Jewish parents in Manhattan's Lower East Side, the man grew up poor before joining a gang. He soon set up a business selling alcohol, and made a profit by forcing bars to buy his beer, or else suffer the consequences. Consequently, this earned him the notorious moniker of the "Beer Baron of the Bronx." 
Schultz's business soon expanded into a thriving bootlegging operation after Prohibition hit the US, and he kept his product safe by basing himself deep in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. Partnering with Bronx mobster Joey Noe, the now named Noe-Schultz operation soon became much larger, and was one of the few gangs able to stand toe-to-toe with the infamous Italian mafia syndicates, which would later be known as the Five Families.
His reign wouldn't last, however, and Schultz soon found himself at odds with rival crime lords, with a series of events soon resulting in his murder in 1935 at the hands of mob hitmen sent by The Commission.
But like many people in the Great Depression, Schultz reportedly did not put trust in banks, and preferred keeping his money in safes. Shortly before his death, believing he could be sent to prison, Schultz is known to have ordered the construction of a special airtight, waterproof safe, and to have stored at least $7 million in cash. Adjusted for inflation, the sum total is likely worth over $130 million in 2020. The safe was buried somewhere in upstate New York, but the exact location of where it was buried remains a mystery, sparking numerous efforts to find the treasure.
However, the teams of treasure hunters for the PBS documentary may have found a clue. Speaking to The New York Post, treasure hunter Steve Zazulyuk explained that they met private investigator Bruce Alterman, a resident of the area whose family members often spoke about Schultz. These family anecdotes led to an important discovery: A secret tunnel hidden in a home in Bronxville, which Schultz may have used.
But rather than just about finding buried treasure, the documentary also has a personal stake: It's director, Elizabeth Trojian, is the granddaughter of one of the underlings of the Beer Baron of the Bronx.
“My grandfather was muscle for Dutch Schultz,” she told The New York Post. “He kept a journal, and there were references to gold coins.” 
Together with Alterman's family anecdotes and Trojian's grandfather's notes, a major clue was discovered: a photograph of what seems to be a wooded area near Stoney Clove Creek in Phoenicia, in upstate New York. It is likely that the photograph was taken to remember where the loot was buried, as treasure hunter Ryan Fazekas told The New York Post: “People [in the 1930s] didn’t take scenery photos and waste their film. And this is not scenic; it had to mean something.”
In preliminary investigations of the creek, the treasure hunters found two rare gold coins dated to 1903. According to The New York Post, an appraiser valued them at $950 apiece.
But while coronavirus slowed down the search, it's far from over, with the documentary set to see the treasure hunters continue their search.
“We not only need to search this area, but we need to do it fast, before other people find out,” Zazulyk declared in the doc, according to the Post. “The hunt is on!”
The documentary hits PBS on November 18, and also features an interview with Stanley Grauso, who at the age of 104 is the last surviving member of Schultz's gang, according to the documentary's website.