The relapsed criminal who pulled “one last score” when he swiped the famous ruby slippers from the Judy Garland Museum in 2005 claims he had no idea he was stealing a priceless piece of American culture.
Ahead of his Jan. 29 sentencing, Terry Martin’s lawyer revealed the ex-mobster’s motivation for stealing one of the four pairs of ruby slippers Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz. According to the court memo, Martin was offered the job by an old mob associate who told him that the adorning red gemstones, not the shoes themselves, were the true target of the heist. Martin says he intended to remove the gems from the shoes and sell them on the black market, believing they must be real in order to command a $1 million insurance policy the museum had on them.
“He had no idea the cultural significance of the slippers or their theft. In fact, he had never even seen the movie,” Martin’s lawyer wrote.
Martin admitted to breaking into the museum, smashing the plexiglass display case, and stealing the slippers. Once he contacted a jewel fence—a broker for stolen goods—however, he was informed the rubies on the shoes were actually made of glass, and therefore worthless. Martin then ditched the shoes with the mob contact who gave him the job and ostensibly left the criminal life for good.
The FBI recovered the shoes in 2018, more than a decade after the heist, when someone else attempted to cash in the insurance money. Martin was charged with theft of a major artwork last year and pled guilty to stealing the shoes, though he would not name any of the criminal associates he conspired with. In the years since the heist, Martin has lived quietly on a lake in Minnesota. His lawyer cited his advanced age at 76, his disabled status, and his relative absence from criminal enterprises in the last three decades as reasons to reduce the severity his sentencing.
“Terry Martin never meant to be a criminal celebrity,” the lawyer wrote. “Ultimately, the point is this: while Terry’s crime is serious, it is not as serious as it could have been.”
The slippers, recovered with fake red gems still attached, are now valued by federal prosecutors at $3.5 million dollars.