Before he magically appeared as Ms. West’s ever-eager helper, he was an ex-con, a habitual thief and, according to Mr. Kovacsezics and others, a confidential informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Mike Kovacsezics moved to New York City from Budapest in 1973 “for political reasons,” according to a sworn statement he gave to Manhattan prosecutors in August.
“I studied political science in Hungary,” he said. “I was against communism.”
In his first prison interview at the Manhattan Detention Complex in September, he said that he first settled in Queens, where he worked odd jobs as a maintenance man in buildings throughout Manhattan.
In the late 1970s Mr. Kovacsezics was facing two charges of car theft in Florida when he was first approached by the FBI to work as a “cooperating witness,” according to a former law enforcement official who dealt with him. Seeing that Mr. Kovacsezics spoke six languages fluently, including Russian and Polish, the FBI conscripted him to infiltrate a Brooklyn-based Polish car ring, which was stealing new model cars, putting them into shipping containers and then sending them to Gdansk, Poland.
“We would put him into these areas to work that we couldn’t penetrate,” said the source, who refused to give his name. “Within a matter of months, he broke the entire ring.”
The source added, however, “You have to keep eyes on him at all times, otherwise he’ll steal your fucking watch and your shirt.”
There were other alleged crimes. In the early-’80s, he was accused of stealing jewelry and silverware from the home of Carl “Spider” Lockhart, a former defensive back for the Giants. Mahwah police asked the Lockharts not to press charges, Erma Lockhart remembered. “The said they used him as a kind of a go-between them and the KGB,” she recalled. “They didn’t want us to press charges because if he went to jail, he might be put in harm’s way.”
In the late 1980s, Mr. Kovacsezics was working as a superintendent and elevator operator at 200 East 16th Street, where jewelry estate dealer Hazel Hyman had lived. Mr. Kovacsezics did occasional handywork for Ms. Hyman and developed a friendship with her, according to Jean Curatola, her surviving daughter.
In February 1990, Ms. Hyman hired Mr. Kovacsezics to act as her “carry boy”—helping transport $500,000 worth of jewelry for the then-68-year-old Hyman—for a show in Boca Raton, Fla. After the event, Mr. Kovacsezics met with Ms. Hyman at her home in Hollywood, Fla., and volunteered to vacuum her carpet. She allowed him to do so and excused herself to the bathroom. Mr. Kovacsezics took a bag containing half-a-million dollar’s worth of jewelry and escaped in a rental car, according to court records.
Mr. Kovacsezics was arrested on charges of grand larceny shortly afterward, and eventually spent seven years in Florida state prison.
Once released from jail, he said he was deported back to Hungary. But he still managed to make his way back to New York City in 2000.