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Talking with Jack Teich about 'Operation Jacknap'

Jack Teich, who had been held captive by

Jack Teich, who had been held captive by kidnappers for a week in 1974, leaves FBI headquarters with wife, Janet, after being rescued. Credit: New York Daily News/Charles Ruppmann

Jack Teich will never forget that Tuesday night in November 1974 when he pulled into the driveway of his Kings Point home. He had just turned off his headlights, but sensed something was wrong when he still saw beams of light on the garage door.

He soon discovered there was another car behind him. Within minutes, Teich, who ran a construction material business with his brother, was dragged into the car in what was the beginning of a harrowing seven-day nightmare in which he was left handcuffed and chained in a closet in the Bronx with his eyes covered by medical bandages. He was eventually released after his family paid a $750,000 ransom — money that ultimately went missing.

Teich, 80, who now lives in Rye,  recounts those horrors in his book "Operation Jacknap" (Bombardier Books, $26), which refers to the FBI's name for his case. During a recent phone interview, Teich added that he's already heard from Netflix about a possible film version.

This occurred more than 40 years ago. What made you decide that you needed to finally tell your story?

It was a number of reasons. There was the trauma that we [his wife, Janet, and I] both went through, something that we really didn't talk to each other about over these years. We have three children. Two of them were very young at the time. The third one wasn’t even born yet when this happened. I said to myself I need to document everything that happened so I could discern it. … And to be honest, I wanted to pay tribute to my wife, who was the unsung hero, and to the Nassau County police. They were professional, very passionate, extremely tenacious and hardworking.

How difficult was it reliving those horrible days when you were held hostage?

Once I made the decision to write the book, I made up my mind that I just needed to overcome the trauma. I also thought possibly I could help other people. … Fortunately, I had saved not only the newspaper clippings, but the legal documents, the court documents. I had everything.

Was your wife instrumental in helping you write the sections about what was going on at home while you were being held for ransom?

She was. I wasn’t there obviously and I didn’t even know there was a ransom and I didn’t know the amount. When I was released, my brother, who has since passed away, told me.

What was going through your head when you were being held captive? Were you thinking I'm never going to come out of this alive?

Absolutely. The one thing that saved my life is the fact that the newspapers had the story minutes after I was abducted. The county went to the newspapers and said do not publish anything until we have the facts. From the next room, I could hear the radio was on 24 hours a day and they [the kidnappers] were listening. At the end of the day, I thought they'd just throw a match in the room and leave and I'd be burned up alive.

The kidnappers asked for $750,000 and amazingly your family was able to come up with the money. How did that happen?

My brother asked one of the policemen, "What should I do? If this was your brother, what would you do?" The policeman said "Our mission is to get the victim back. They're not willing to negotiate. Everything we know so far tells us if pay them, you'll get your brother back." … My brother and I ran a business. It was a family-owned company. It was profitable and we had no debt. There was probably $250,000 that was, available in working capital in liquid form. The other $500,000 was borrowed from a company account. … And, of course, it was paid back.

Did you have a different perspective on life after being kidnapped?

The term post traumatic stress syndrome was not in the vocabulary then. People went through wars and sickness. … I was able to get back to a normal work routine, but to this day I look at my rearview mirror out of habit when I pull into my driveway.

If they do make a movie of your book, what actor would you like to portray you?

It's actually a question that I've thought about. … Ben Affleck. They can dress him down. 

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