Frank Sinatra’s Only Son Was Kidnapped at Just 19 – One of the Criminals Considered That an Act of Goodwill

Frank Sinatra is hugely considered to be one of the greatest singers of the 20th century, but not many fans know that the singer’s only son was once kidnapped. Here is what happened.

1963 is remarkable in American history for being the year President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Just a few days after that incident, Barry Keenan prepared himself to lead another historic moment in Hollywood.

Keenan kidnapped iconic singer Frank Sinatra’s son, 19-year-old Frank Sinatra Jr., out of his hotel room in Lake Tahoe at gunpoint and drove him to an apartment where he locked him up for days demanding $240,000 in ransom from his famous father.

Frank Sinatra, his wife and children, Nancy and Frankie, Jr, having dinner in the Cub room at Sherman Billingsley's Stork Club, dispelling any rumors of a breakup with his wife. October 17, 1947 | Photo: Getty Images

Frank Sinatra, his wife and children, Nancy and Frankie, Jr, having dinner in the Cub room at Sherman Billingsley's Stork Club, dispelling any rumors of a breakup with his wife. October 17, 1947 | Photo: Getty Images

At the time of the incident, Keenan was a 23-year-old UCLA student who had just recovered from an accident that led him to drug use. But, surprisingly, he was also a grad classmate of Frank Jr.’s sister, Nancy. 

After his arrest and later conviction, Keenan explained that his drug problems bankrupted him and led him into masterminding the plot in hopes of gaining financial stability.

On why he chose Frank Jr., Keenan later explained that picking the son of a powerful man like Frank, who he described as tough, seemed like an act of goodwill as it would bring the Sinatra’s together and put money in his pocket.

His first target was to kidnap Tony, the son of America’s biggest name, Bob Hope, but after a brief thought, he realized that it would be an unpatriotic step to make.

To this day, there are rumors that Frank Jr. plotted his kidnapping.

Keenan then assembled an amateur team to carry out his plot. He recruited his high school friend Joe Amsler and his mother’s former boyfriend John Irwin as his gang members for his big-money move.

After trailing the young Sinatra, the group learned of his concert in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, and decided that it would be their final chance to land their target or kiss their dream goodbye.

Keenan and Amsler entered Junior’s room in the disguise of delivering a package and met the 19-year-old singer eating with a band member. 23-year-old Keenan pulled out a gun and had Frank Jr.’s friend tied up.

The gang reportedly made their way to their hideout with ease before putting a call to the famous Sinatra Sr., who offered to pay them a million dollars for his son’s release.

A few days after the ransom was paid, all three men were arrested. The gang claimed the entire kidnap was a hoax and some members of the Sinatra family had a hand in it.

Later on, Keenan and Amsler were both sentenced to life in prison, while their colleague Irwin was sentenced to 75 years.

In the end, Amsler and Irwin both served only three and a half years, while Keenan served four and a half. To this day, there are rumors that Frank Jr. plotted his kidnapping.

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