Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Great Brinks Robbery
The robbery resulted in the theft of $1,218,211.19 in cash, and over $1.5-million in checks, money orders and other securities. At the time, it was largest robbery in the history of United States. Skillfully executed with only a bare minimum of clues left at the crime scene, the robbery was billed as "the crime of the century". The robbery was the work of nine-member gang, all of whom were later arrested.
According to information later gleaned from Joseph "Specs" O'Keefe, Anthony "Fats" Pino was the originator of the heist. He brought in O'Keefe, Joseph "Big Joe" McGinnis and Stanley "Gus" Gusciora.
Secretly O'Keefe and Gusciora entered the Brinks depot; they picked the outside lock with an ice pick and inner door with a piece of plastic. Later they temporarily removed the cylinders from the five locks, one at a time, so a locksmith could make duplicate keys for them. Once this was done Pino recruited six other men, including Pino's brother-in-law Vincent Costa, Michael Vincent Geagan, Thomas Francis Richardson, Adolph "Jazz" Maffie and Henry Baker.
The gang decided to wait for the optimal time for their heist. They studied schedules and were eventually able to determine what the staff was doing based on the lights in the building windows. O'Keefe and Gusciora even stole the plans for the site alarms. The gang members entered the building on practice runs after the staff had left for the day. Costa monitored the depot from a room of a neighboring tenement building. By the time they acted, the gang had been planning and training for two years.
In January 17, 1950, after six aborted attempts, the robbers decided that the situation was favorable. They donned clothing outwardly similar to that of Brink's uniform with navy P-suits , chauffeur's caps, rubber Halloween masks, gloves and rubber-soled shoes. When Pino and driver Banfield remained in the car, seven other men entered the building 6:55 PM.
With their copied keys they came to the second floor through the locked doors and surprised, bound and gagged five Brinks employees who were storing and counting money. They failed to open a box of the payroll of the General Electric Company but scooped up everything else.
Robbers walked out 7:30 PM. In addition to money, they had taken four revolvers from the employees. Afterwards the gang rapidly counted the loot, gave some of the members their cut and agreed not to touch the loot for six years, after which the statute of limitations would have ran out. The robbers scattered to establish their alibis.
Investigation and falling out
Brinks Incorporated offered $100,000 reward for information. The only clues police could initially find were the rope robbers had used to tie the employees and a chauffeur's cap. At first, any information police could get from their informers proved useless. The truck the robbers had used was found cut to pieces in Stoughton, Massachusetts, near O'Keefe's home.
In June 1950, O’Keefe and Gusciora were arrested in Pennsylvania for a burglary. O’Keefe was sentenced to three years in Bradford County Jail and Gusciora to 5 to 20 years in the Western State Penitentiary at Pittsburgh. Through their informers police heard that O'Keefe and Gusciora demanded money from Pino and MacGinnis in Boston to fight their convictions. Maffie later claimed that most of O'Keefe's share went to his legal defense.
FBI agents tried to talk to O'Keefe and Gusciora in prison but they professed ignorance of the Brinks robbery. Gang members came under suspicions but there was not enough evidence for sentencing. So law enforcement kept pressure on the suspects. Adolph Maffie was convicted to nine months for income tax evasion.
After O'Keefe was released, he was taken to stand in another trial for burglary and parole violations and was released on bail of $17,000. O'Keefe later claimed that he had never seen his portion of the loot after he had given it to Maffie for safekeeping. Apparently in need of money, he kidnapped Vincent Costa and demanded his part of the loot for ransom.
Pino paid a small ransom but then decided to try to kill O'Keefe. After couple of unsuccessful attempts he hired underworld hitman Elmer "Trigger" Burke to kill O'Keefe. Burke traveled to Boston and shot O'Keefe with a submachine gun but just managed to seriously wound him. FBI approached O'Keefe in the hospital and on January 6, 1956 he eventually decided to talk.
In January 12, 1956 the FBI arrested Baker, Costa, Geagan, Maffie, McGinnis, and Pino. They apprehended Faherty and Richardson on May 16 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. O'Keefe pleaded guilty January 18. Gusciora died July 9 due to cerebral edema before he could stand trial. Banfield was already dead. Trial began August 6, 1956.
Eight of the gang received maximum sentences for life; O'Keefe received only 4 years and was released in 1960. Most of the loot was never recovered. It is fabled to be hidden in the hills just north of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
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