What happened to Andy Economou?

What happened to Andy Economou?
By
John William Tuohy

Former Hartford cop Andrew Economou, age 47, vanished from the earth on August 16th, 1981.

The last person to see him alive was his mistress. It was on a Saturday.  He was draped in jewelry, a gold necklace with a Greek symbol and two gold rings, one with a large diamond, and the other with a Greek design.

Separated from his wife, he started the day by dropping by her house in Rocky Hill Connecticut to have Chile hot dogs with her and kids. He told his daughter that he had placed a few hundred dollars in an envelope in the basement office in the house. It was something he did regularly.

Afterwards he drove to Hartford to meet his girlfriend in Hartford. They saw a movie and then he drove her back to her car that was parked near a steak house just off the highway. 
He walked her to her car, kissed her goodbye and said her was late for a meeting. He told her he had somewhere between $50,000 to $100,000 (About the equivalent of $265,514 today) in a paper bag in the car (No one is sure of the actual amount) and was going to New York City to work on a “secret deal”. He didn’t wait for her to start her car as he normally did, but climbed into his blue 1974 Scout pickup and drove off, heading south on I-91.

Neither he nor the car was never seen again. By all the hints in the case it appears that Andy Economou is dead and that he died during a deal gone wrong….maybe.

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There are theories about what happened to Andy. One says that a former army buddy and close friend named Charlie Germano, was somehow involved. Police say Economou may have gone to New York to buy guns, probably for Germano. In New York one of two things happened, either the deal went bad and things got tough or someone told the gun sellers or someone else in New York that Economou was coming into the city with a bag of cash.
Germano, 68, refused repeated requests by state police for an interview, but he was interviewed by FBI agents and told them he was home in Southington the entire weekend when Economou disappeared. Germano, who had once owned a restaurant with Andy, denied knowing anything about secret deals Economou supposedly was doing for him or the contents of the notes the former cop left behind. He said he didn’t know anything about Economou disappearance “Even if I did know, I wouldn't say”

The word was that Andy was supposed to buy stolen gun in the state of Connecticut and resell them down in New York City. A friend of Andy’s named Charlie was involved in a February 23 of 1981 burglary of a sporting goods store in Hartford.

William Schimansky, who had a long criminal record worked at the sporting goods store. Schimansky was known to frequent Andy’s clubs and it isn’t certain he and Andy knew each other.  Schimansky left a crate of guns near a door and then broke into the building at night and made off with the guns. He was arrested and pled guilty along with six others.
Five months later, four of the stolen gun were found in Queens, NY, which led the police to Andy’s friend Charlie. The theory was that Charlie was supposed to buy the other stolen guns from the store robbers, or finance the buy, and then sell the guns in New York. Enter Andy and a bag a money and a trip to New York.

By why would a millionaire get involved with the sale of stolen guns. It would have generated chump changed compared to the type of money he was used to and the risk was high.  

Other say that the mob took Andy Economou out because he owned them money from a gambling debt or because he had been having an affair with a hoods wife, although both of those reasons seem highly unlikely. Perhaps he had made a bad loan to mob guy who refused to pay it back. Some say that one of the people he arrested and severely beat with a nightstick came for revenge. Or maybe one of his girlfriend’s got him involved with drug dealers. Law enforcement believes that through his sports gambling, which  went on for at least a decade, Economou made contacts in the Connecticut Mafia.

However, off the record, law enforcement says that the two most likely reasons he disappeared are related to an illegal gun sales operation he may have been involved in or that he had somehow moved in on lucrative mob run operations. According to the source, Economou tried to pay off the mob to keep them from harming him. The hoods agreed, directed him to a drive down to Brooklyn New York where they took the money and then killed him, although that seems like a trap the former cop would have avoided.  Others say that Economou is alive and well and living with a much younger girlfriend in either Greece, France or Brazil.

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When he disappeared, Economou, the married father of three, owned a successful restaurant in Rocky Hill and was a millionaire. Friends and family recalled him as tough, a traditionally Greek masculine man who could be charming, occasionally arrogant, generous to a fault and funny, but sometimes a cheapskate with a dark, somber side. All agreed that he was prone to exaggeration, a bit of a gossip and a tireless go getter.

He had always been that way even when he was a kid growing up in the North End of Hartford where his father owned a small restaurant. He played football in high school and in 1954 he did a stint in the army, assigned to a guided missile unit in Massachusetts, where he met Charlie Germano who was also serving in the unit. It was about the same time that he met his wife Josephine Cenelli. They married in 1955 in a Greek cathedral.

He joined the Hartford Police Department in 1956 and was assigned to the very streets he had grown up on, streets that were changing fast in the 1950s and 1960s. The old Irish and Greek neighborhoods were changing over to African-Americans who were moving up from the South in search of jobs. Andy soon had a reputation as a tough beat cop who enforced the law. Coworkers described him as fearless. Others said he had a trigger temper didn’t fit in with the job.  But he complained about the pay, a $100 a week and left the forced after six years and opened a restaurant, the Edgewood Grill in Hartford, and then, in 1967, he opened Frank's Restaurant and Grill in Rocky Hill. At the same time he bought properties in East Hartford and Newington. The family suspects the money for the property purchases game from illegal gambling on national football games.

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Now comfortable in the suburbs, he sold most of his properties and in the 1970s bought a disco that started to sink after disco phase ended. To keep the place alive, he brought exotic dancers in and become involved in the network of clubs owners who owned similar places.  He invested in more strip clubs but operated the businesses as a more or less absentee owner.  

The clubs brought problems in straight laced Connecticut. State charges of permitting prostitution, second-degree promoting prostitution, and permitting an obscene performance, were filed against Andy’s partner. Another permittee was charged with permitting prostitution and one of his dancers was charged with prostitution.

The club was slapped with a civil injunction prohibiting exotic dancers at the club from performing seven acts judged obscene, forcing the Andy and the dancers to sign contracts that stated they would not perform the acts. But that didn’t take off the pressure. In 1980, law enforcement began an anti-obscenity campaign that resulted in several arrests at one of Andy’s strip clubs.

That was enough. Andy began closing down the clubs and returning to running restaurants.

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In 1981, the year he disappeared, something in the life of Andy Economou went wrong. One evening in 1981, a patrolman named Henry Dodenhoff was driving past Andy’s Rocky Hill restaurant when Andy walked out wearing bandages on both thumbs. The cop asked him what happened and Andy said that he had broken both his thumbs in a car door “I just laughed and moved on.” Dodenhoff said “Andy always had stories.''

Friends and girlfriends noted that just before he vanished, Andy was tense, edgy, lost in thought and confused. But there were no signs that he was in any sort of financial trouble, in fact he was planning on opening another restaurant.

On Friday, August 7, a week before he disappeared forever, Andy’s said she got a call wife got a phone call message from Charlie Germano’s wife about a “deal in New York.” Which she gave to her daughter to give to Andy when she drove down to his house in Old Lyme.
The next week, Friday August 14, Andy called Charlie Germano in New York where he worked for an electrical firm during the week and asked him to drop by his house when he returned to Connecticut for the weekend.

According to Charlie Germano Andy needed to withdraw a substantial amount of money from a Hartford bank to finance a deal he had pending. He intended to take a five-day loan against a $50,000 certificate of deposit he had. (He may have also taken additional cash from a safety deposit box)

Charlie said that before Andy went into the bank he said to him “When I come out of the bank, don’t let nobody come near me,” Andy told Charlie, who was waiting in the car. He told his friend “I got a gun right there under the seat”

When the family didn’t hear from him after a full week had gone by, his daughter said she went down to the basement office to retrieve the envelope with money in it and found a note allegedly written by Andy.

The envelope read “Open in the event I am missing or killed” and was dated Friday August 15th. The note inside read “On Sunday, August 16, 1981, I am going to New York City … I am taking (100,000) One hundred thousand dollars of my personal money with me.” And that he intended to loan the money to Charlie Germano and that he planned on making $15,000 in interest on the loan and that if he did not return from the trip “You will know that I am dead.” And that his estate should be divided amongst his wife, daughter, and two sons. It was signed, “I love all of you and may you all forgive my sins. Love, Andy.”

The police were called in and put out a missing person’s bulletin for Andy and eventually both local and federal investigators became involved with the case including the Chief State Attorney’s office, state police, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

Investigators went over everything twice and with a fine tooth comb. They checked his business records, interviewed dozens of people and subpoenaed his bank records. They also followed reported sightings of Andy in Florida, California, and on a boat but none of them panned out.

The Hartford Courant newspaper compared Andy’s photo to over 300 pictures of unidentified bodies that were found in New York in the year after his death and none matched.

The police had some evidence that Andy gambled from time to time, he could afford it and he wasn’t known to have a gambling problem although he told his wife he was often a big stakes winner.

“Most of the house” his wife said “was built on football winnings — our carpet, that came from football. Andy loved football, and he did bet football, which was illegal, but hundreds of people do.”

He also had a habit of loaning money to friends and occasionally to customers although the cops doubt that had anything to do with his disappearance.

Andy was living in the village Old Lyme Connecticut and kept a boat in nearby at a Saybrooke marina called the Terra Mar, a suspected front for organized crime. After he disappeared, someone had ransacked it for top to bottom. In the late 1950s, Terra Mar, with several large outdoor pools, a big yacht marina, was a celebrity hang out for stars and celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Jane Mansfield, Ted Kennedy, Tom Jones and others. It also had illegal big dollar gambling in the summer months that brought gangsters and finally the state police who closed the place down.

The police questioned Charlie Germano who said that the note was a hoax and more than one investigator in the case agrees with him. A week later, a second note emerged. It is unclear who found this note. The family turned the second note over to police days after Andy disappeared. The FBI verified that the notes were written by Andy but at least one agent was skeptical saying, “I’ve never seen anything like it” and one of his close friends thought the notes were a forgery.

Could the purpose of the notes have been to throw investigators off the track of the real killers? The killer may have picked up on the tidbits of Charlie Germano and the trip to New York that days and added them to the notes. So, if that were true, who was at the cook out that day and who had access to the basement?

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A rumor made the round that he was buried in a garage in Hamden Connecticut belonging to a man named Richard Beedle.  The garage was supposed to be a mob burial ground. Authorities dug up the garage and found bone fragments but none of them belonged to Andy Economou.

A private investigator hired by the family surmised that Economou got on a ship to Brazil on Aug. 17, the day after he disappeared. To go along with that, many of Economou's former Hartford cop friends theorize that he started a new life across the Atlantic.

They also hired a psychic, who told them Andy’s body would be found near the water, brackish water to be exact. Based on that information the family searched swamps from New Haven to Cape Cod. Another psychic said he had been shot in the head and the chest. A said that Andy was alive but was in grave danger and needed to be found immediately.

The family also said they received several anonymous calls late at night with the called saying “his bones are in a plastic bag and his body’s in the East River” or “his head is in a bag and his hands are cut off.” They claimed that other caller threated them, one said he was going to toss a bomb into their house.

And then there was nothing. The case got cold and the odd tale Andy Economou’s disappearance ended.
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Almost forty years have passed since Andy Economou fell of the face of the earth. A probate judge declared Andy legally dead in March 1991. The records show that the total value of his estate was $1,080,000. A short time later, his family, his entire family, moved to Virginia Beach Virginia for reasons unknown. Till this day, some police investigators who worked on the case swear that Andy’s family has a better idea than they do as to what became of Andy Economou.