Thursday December 14, 2017

New outreach program educates kids about the perils of jewel thieving

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Listen 6:51

While incarcerated, Canada's most infamous jewel thief made a promise that he would give back to society. After serving his ten-year sentence, Perry Cecil is making good on that promise by launching a new outreach program that educates kids about the perils of jewel thieving.

When arrested, Cecil was in possession of a tiara worth around $2 million. But that was a small take for him. From 1975 – 2005, authorities estimate that Cecil stole more than $500 million in precious stones from the rich and powerful and the world's top museums.

Now, Cecil is speaking at high schools across Canada, trying to dissuade young people from following his example by convincing them that the life of a jewel thief isn't all fun and games.

"Once I had secured the sapphire," Cecil tells an audience of grade 11 students. "I tucked it into the satchel that I'd sewn into the belt loop of my tuxedo pants. I had only seconds to lose before I got on that Concord jet to make it to Bali in time for Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall's wedding. I had to be there—I was the MC."

Some critics are concerned that the sensational nature of Cecil's exploits might have the opposite effect of dissuading kids from becoming jewel thieves. After the show, one student confirmed that Cecil had helped make up their mind.

"I was thinking about dropping out," said the student. "But after hearing him, I definitely am."

But Cecil passionately disagrees that his stories could be having the wrong effect.  

"Absolutely not," he told This is That's Pat Kelly. "I can promise you these kids don't want to lead the life that I've led. Not when they hear my stories, not when they've heard about me escaping Indo-China on the Orient Express with a piece of obsidian in my pocket."

To hear more about Cecil's exciting exploits, like how he base-jumped off a thousand-foot bridge into the Rhine River, landed on a jet ski, and made it to Berlin in time for dinner, listen to the full story.