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The Snatching of Sinatra's Son: How Kidnappers Got $240K Ransom — And Five Years In Prison (FPD CASE VAULT)

the snatching of sinatras son how kidnappers got k ransom and five years in prison
Source: Don Cravens/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Oct. 9 2023, Published 8:04 a.m. ET

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Being Frank Sinatra's son certainly came with its perks, but it had dangers too.

Frank Sinatra Jr. found that out when he was kidnapped in Nevada on Dec. 8, 1963.

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Kidnappers Got $240K Ransom in Snatching of Sinatra's Son

FRANK SINATRA with his son Frank Sinatra Jr. and NANCY SINATRA when Frank Jr made his singing debut at the famed Coconut Grove supper club in Hollywood.

Then a 19-year-old attempting to follow in his famous father's footsteps, he was grabbed by gunmen while dining in his hotel room at Harrah's Lake Tahoe, where he was scheduled to perform later that night.

Bound and blindfolded, he was whisked to a waiting car and driven through a raging blizzard to a hideout in Canoga Park, around eight hours from the kidnapping location.

At first, there was speculation Junior was snatched as part of an organized crime payback against his mob-connected dad.

Kidnappers Got $240K Ransom in Snatching of Sinatra's Son
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Kidnappers Barry Keenan, Joe Amsler and Johnny Irwin (left to right) leave court

But the bizarre plot was concocted by three down-at-the-heels amateurs, Barry Keenan, Johnny Irwin and Joe Amsler, looking for a big score.

In fact, the trio decided against kidnapping the sons of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby because they believed Sinatra Jr. could better handle the stress of the ordeal.

Amazingly, the scoundrels almost pulled it off.

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Kidnappers Got $240K Ransom in Snatching of Sinatra's Son
Source: AP Photo

FBI agents inspect the cash Ol' Blue Eyes coughed up to ransom his boy


After two days, the kidnappers released Frank Jr. on Los Angeles' Mulholland Drive after his pop paid $240,000 ransom. Cops picked up the teen and brought him home in the trunk of their car to avoid a public spectacle.

But the kidnappers couldn't handle the pressure. Within days, one turned himself in to the FBI and confessed to the crime. By Dec. 14, all the culprits were behind bars.

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Kidnappers Got $240K Ransom in Snatching of Sinatra's Son
Source: Mediapunch/Shutterstock

Frank Sinatra Jr in concert at the Seminole Coconut Creek Casino, Florida, America - 12 Jul 2012

During their trial, the defense team tried to claim the kidnapping had been a hoax masterminded by Frank Jr. to generate publicity for his budding career.

"This family needs publicity like it needs peritonitis," the senior Sinatra famously said at the time.

The kidnappers were convicted and given long prison sentences, though all were released within five years.

Today, Frank Jr. continues to perform with a band that pays tribute to his father's legacy.


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