A Byte Out of History - Brinks Robbery
A Byte Out of History
The Great Brinks Robbery
|Thieves stole more than $1.2 million in cash and another $1.5 million in checks and
other securities in the 1950 Brinks heist. The robbers were eventually captured and
more than half the money, some shown above, was recovered.
It was billed as "the perfect crime." And it nearly was.
On January 17, 1950, employees of the security firm Brinks, Inc., in Boston, were closing for the day, returning sacks of undelivered cash, checks, and other material to the company safe on the second floor.
Shortly before 7:30 p.m., they were surprised by five men—heavily disguised, quiet as mice, wearing gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints and soft shoes to muffle noise. The thieves quickly bound the employees and began hauling away the loot. Within minutes, they'd stolen more than $1.2 million in cash and another $1.5 million in checks and other securities, making it the largest robbery in the U.S. at the time.
The evidence left behind? Paltry. Just some tape and rope used to gag and bind the Brink's employees.
Let the investigation begin. Boston police and Bureau agents got to work within minutes of the bank's call—scouring the crime scene, identifying missing items, questioning the employees (and checking for possible disgruntled ones), and blanketing the wider community of criminals and their supporters.
Slowly key clues began to emerge. In February, a police officer found a gun stolen in the heist. The next month, Bureau agents located the getaway truck that was used—at least part of it, as the criminals had cut it to pieces and dumped it at a scrap yard.
Also taking shape was a group of key suspects:
Anthony Pino, a local hood whose M.O. fit the crime;
Joe McGinnis, a Boston underworld figure who'd been with Pino that night; and
Joseph O'Keefe and Staley Gusciora, both local ex-cons who knew Pino, had a reputation for being able to handle guns (the "strong arms" needed for such a heist), had weak alibis, and had family near the getaway truck discovery.
They might have gotten away with it, but… The criminals had all agreed to sit on the money for a few years and slowly launder it to avoid detection. But with so much free time on their hands, they got into trouble. O'Keefe and Gusciora landed in jail for various crimes. The others also had problems keeping low.
Eventually, the oft-imprisoned O'Keefe grew bitter and began complaining that he didn't get his fair share of the money. After several unsuccessful attempts on his life by his confederates, he decided to tell the full story of the 11-man job to our agents.
In the end, the painstaking work of the Bureau, the Boston police, and others led to the arrest of six gang members in January 1956. Two others were already in prison, one was dead, and two were placed on our Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list and later caught. Soon more than half of the money was recovered, and the suspects went to trial—except Gusciora, who had just died. On October 5, 1956, a Boston jury found each of them guilty.
The "perfect crime" had a perfect ending—for everyone but the robbers.
To read the entire, complicated story, see our Brinks Robbery webpage.