The Great Brinks Robbery Of 1950: A Perfect Crime...Almost.
On January 17, 1950, 11 men steal more than $2 million ($29 million today) from the Brink's Armored Car depot in Boston, Massachusetts. It was the perfect crime—almost—as the culprits weren’t caught until January 1956, just days before the statute of limitations for the theft expired.
During the robbery, as described by 5 Brink’s employees inside, “a group of armed, masked men emerged, dragging bags containing $1,218,211.29 in cash and $1,557,183.83 in checks, money orders, and other securities” With very little evidence, the investigators had little information to find the criminals. Brink’s soon “offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible”. It was stated that, “in the hours immediately following the robbery, the underworld began to feel the heat of the investigation. Well-known Boston hoodlums were picked up and questioned by police” (FBI). Creating a stir within the community, many were on edge.
The robbery’s mastermind was Anthony “Fats” Pino, a career criminal who recruited a group of 10 other men to stake out the depot for 18 months to figure out when it held the most money. Pino’s men then managed to steal plans for the depot’s alarm system, returning them before anyone noticed they were gone.
Wearing navy blue coats and chauffeur’s caps–similar to the Brink's employee uniforms–with rubber Halloween masks, the thieves entered the depot with copied keys, surprising and tying up several employees inside the company’s counting room. Filling 14 canvas bags with cash, coins, checks and money orders—for a total weight of more than half a ton—the men were out and in their getaway car in about 30 minutes. Their haul? More than $2.7 million—the largest robbery in U.S. history up until that time.
No one was hurt in the robbery, and the thieves left virtually no clues, aside from the rope used to tie the employees and one of the chauffeur’s caps. The gang promised to stay out of trouble and not touch the money for six years in order for the statute of limitations to run out. They might have made it, but for the fact that one man, Joseph “Specs” O’Keefe, left his share with another member in order to serve a prison sentence for another burglary. While in jail, O’Keefe wrote bitterly to his cohorts demanding money and hinting he might talk. The group sent a hit man to kill O’Keefe, but he was caught before completing his task. The wounded O’Keefe made a deal with the FBI to testify against his fellow robbers.
Eight of the Brink's robbers were caught, convicted and given life sentences. Two more died before they could go to trial. Throughout the entire case, one question remained a mystery, and continues to be a mystery to today's FBI, where did the money go? As of January 1956, more than $2,775,000, including $1,218,211.29 in cash was still unaccounted for. On June 4, 1956 a man named “Fat John” admitted he had money that was linked to the Brink’s robbery in his possession. “A search warrant was executed in Boston covering the Tremont Street offices occupied by the three men” (FBI). After searching the premises, it was discovered behind a wall partition, a cooler containing $51,906 identified as part of the Brink’s money. Even after this recovery, more than $1,150,000 from the robbery is missing. The Boston Globe stated, “while there are many theories of where the missing money went, the likely answer is that the robbers quietly spent it” (Boston Globe). The most interesting part of this story is we truly never will know where the money went as the last survivor, Maffie died at 77 years old in 1988. Another theory is that “the rest [of the money] is fabled to be hidden in the hills north of Grand Rapids, Minnesota”. Leaving people wondering, is the Brink’s Robbery one of the most “perfect crimes” ever committed?