Gotcha: Brink’s Robbery Anniversary


January 16, 2020

This year marks the 70th anniversary of a case billed as the crime of the century.


Audio Transcript

Mollie Halpern: This year marks the 70th anniversary of a case billed as the "crime of the century."

I’m Mollie Halpern of the FBI, and this is Gotcha, featuring the Bureau’s closed cases.

It was the 1950s…

The January 17, 1950 armed robbery of the security firm Brink’s Inc. in Boston was the largest one in the U.S. at the time.

A group of men wearing Halloween-type masks stole $2.7 million in cash, checks, and other securities right from under the noses of employees.

FBI Historian John Fox...

John Fox: The size of the haul that the criminals took was really big for the day. And the fact that there seemed to be so few clues, at first, really sparked people's imagination. They wanted to know what happened, how did it happen? You had this supposedly impenetrable company that all of a sudden was cracked wide open, and there didn't seem to be any significant clues around.

Halpern: The FBI and the Boston Police followed thousands of clues and tips from the public, only to reach dead ends.

Fox: The nature of this investigation, because there was so few clues to go on, was one of simply grinding down every rumor, every lead, every possibility with investigative power. Sending out agents, sending out police officers, talk to this person, talk to that person, listen for the rumors. Can you check this out? What can you prove about it? Trying to discount those and simply narrowing down the list to the people who possibly could have done it.

Halpern: Gradually, the case began to take shape as investigators zeroed in on a group of suspects already known to lawmen.

Fox: The guys who eventually turn out to have actually committed the crime were involved in a host of other crimes, not just in the Massachusetts area, but going down as far as Pennsylvania. And as each of them ran into law enforcement trouble because of their additional actions, they actually needed money for lawyers, and it started to create tensions in the group.

Halpern: Pieces of a 1949 green Ford truck found in a dump in Stoughton, Massachusetts, provided a break in the investigation.

Two suspects lived in the Stoughton area and investigators dug deeper into their possible roles in the crime.

One of them was Joseph O’Keefe.

Fox: Finally, Joseph O'Keefe, who seemed to be running into some of the most trouble, getting back into jail, and getting in and out, and in and out, and needing lawyers all the time and needing money for lawyers, cracked and actually spilled the beans on the case.

Halpern: O’Keefe revealed that the robbery had been an 11-man job.

Six gang members were arrested.

Two others were in already behind bars, and one was dead.

The remaining two were put on the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list and later caught.

On October 5, 1956—about six years after the heist—a Boston jury found those eight men guilty.

More than half of the money was recovered.

Learn more about this famous FBI case and others on fbi.gov.

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