The Great Brinks Robbery – the armed robbery of the Brinks Building in Boston, Massachusetts went down on today’s date, January 17 in 1950. It was a bold, and a meticulously planned heist, and for six years the culprits managed to evade capture. They managed to bag $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. Cleanly and smoothly executed with very few clues left at the scene, the robbery was called as “the crime of the century”. Yet, in spite of the fact that all nine members of the gang wound up in the can, most of the stolen booty has never been recovered.
The Carefully Planned Scheme
Anthony “Fats” Pino (above, and isn’t he sharp looking??) was the originator of the heist, which he had carefully planned for over 18 months. He brought in Joseph “Specs” 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. They then re-installed the originals, so nothing seemed amiss. 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 waited for the perfect hour for their heist; having studied the schedules of the building staff, they were 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 ruined building nearby.
The Bandits Make Off With the $$$$$$$!!
That night, they put on clothing which appeared to be similar the Brink’s guards uniform with Navy pea coats, chauffeur’s caps, rubber Halloween masks, gloves and rubber-soled shoes to muffle their footsteps. While Pino and driver Banfield remained in the car, seven other men entered the building 6:55 PM. With their bogus keys they came to the second floor through the locked doors and surprised, then bound and gagged five Brinks employees who were storing and counting money. They missed the General Electric Company pay box but scooped up everything else. The gang then calmly went about their “business” and strolled out of the Brinks building at 7:30 PM. Along with the cash, they had taken four revolvers from the guards. The gang speedily counted their take, gave some of the members part of their cut and agreed not to touch the rest of the money for six years – time enough for the statute of limitations to expire. They then split up and went their separate ways.
The Police and the FBI Begin to Investigate….
It was a devilishly audacious and clever plan. But six whole years is a long time for criminals to keep their yaps shut and stay out of trouble, no matter what the inducement. The Brinks Company offered $100,000 reward for tips on the theft. The only clues police could find to begin with were the rope which the robbers had used to tie the employees and a chauffeur’s cap. And informers info was useless at the start of the investigation. The getaway truck – a green 1949 Ford which had been stolen weeks before the heist was found chopped to pieces in Stoughton, Massachusetts, near O’Keefe’s home. But in June 1950, O’Keefe and Gusciora were arrested in Pennsylvania for a burglary. These sticky-fingered fools were convicted, O’Keefe got three years in Bradford County Jail and Gusciora 5 to 20 in the State Slammer at Pittsburgh. Through their informers police heard that O’Keefe and Gusciora had insisted on using some of their Brinks loot 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 kept quiet. Gang members had indeed come under suspicion but the FBI and the police just didn’t have enough evidence to bring their case. So law enforcement kept putting the screws to the boys. Adolph Maffie was later convicted of income tax evasion and got nine months in the clink.
And the Boys Begin to Blab!!
After O’Keefe got out of jail, he was obliged to stand trial for another burglary and parole violations and was released on bail of $17,000. O’Keefe later claimed that he had never seen his part of the Brinks booty after he had given it to Maffie for “safekeeping”. But he needed some of his take and didn’t fancy waiting six years to get it. So he kidnapped Vincent Costa and demanded his part of the loot for ransom. Pino ponied up a small ransom but then decided to have O’Keefe rubbed out. After couple of blown tries he hired underworld hit man Elmer “Trigger” Burke to do it right. Burke went to Boston and peppered O’Keefe with a sub-machine gun but O’Keefe still managed to dodge the bullets, and was seriously wounded, but had not bought it. FBI approached O’Keefe in the hospital and on January 6, 1956 he began to sing like the proverbial bird.
In January 12, 1956 the FBI arrested Baker, Costa, Geagan, Maffie, McGinnis, and Pino. They caught Faherty and Richardson in Dorchester, Massachusetts in May. 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 the maximum sentences of life in the can, but O’Keefe received only 4 years and was released in 1960. So all of the boys wound up dead or in the slammer, but most of the loot was never recovered. According to eh….. legend…. it is all squirreled away in the hills just north of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
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“The Most Notorious Crimes in American History: An Updated and Expanded Version of Life’s Classic Book of Dastardly Deeds” by the Editors of Time/Life Books. New York, 2010
“The Great Brink’s Holdup” by Sid Feder and Joseph F. Dinneen, 1961