“I went up today and worked awhile on my board.”
|The Great Brink's Robbery
was an armed robbery of the Brink's Building at the corner of Prince St. and
Commercial St. in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts, USA, on January 17,
1950. Today the building is a parking garage located at 600 Commercial Street. |
The robbery resulted in the theft of $1,218,211.29 in cash, and $1,557,183.83 in checks, money orders, and other securities. At the time, it was the largest robbery in the history of the 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 an eleven-member gang, all of whom were later arrested
According to information later gleaned from Joseph "Specs" O'Keefe, Joseph "Big Joe" McGinnis was the originator of the heist. He brought Atonia "Fat" Pino, and Stanley "Gus" Gusciora.
Secretly, O'Keefe and Gusciora entered the Brink's depot; they picked the outside lock with an ice pick and the inner door with a piece of plastic. Later, they temporarily removed the cylinders from the five locks, one at a time, so that a locksmith could make duplicate keys for them. Once this was done, Pino recruited seven other men, including Pino's brother-in-law Vincent Costa, Michael Vincent "Vinnie" Geagan, Thomas Francis Richardson, Adolph "Jazz" Maffie, Henry Baker, James Faherty, and Joseph "Barney" Banfield.
The gang decided to wait for the optimal time for their heist. Pino studied schedules and was 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, exactly across from the Brink's building on Prince Street. By the time they acted, the gang had been planning and training for two years.
On January 17, 1950, after six aborted attempts, the robbers decided that the situation was favorable. They donned clothing outwardly similar to that of a Brink's uniform with Navy pea coats and chauffeur's caps, along with rubber Halloween masks, gloves, and rubber-soled shoes. While Pino and driver Banfield remained in the getaway car, seven other men entered the building at 6:55 PM.
With their copied keys, they came to the second floor through the locked doors and surprised, bound, and gagged five Brink's 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.
The robbers walked out at 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 expired. The robbers scattered to establish their alibis.
Brink's Incorporated offered a $100,000 reward for information. The only clues police could initially find were the rope that the 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 that 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. It was 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 the two professed ignorance of the Brink's robbery. Gang members came under suspicions, but there was not enough evidence for an indictment, so law enforcement kept pressure on the suspects. Adolph Maffie was convicted and sentenced to nine months for income tax evasion.
After O'Keefe was released, he was taken 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 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 a couple of unsuccessful attempts, he hired underworld hitman Elmer "Trigger" Burke to kill O'Keefe. Burke traveled to Boston and shot O'Keefe but failed to kill him, despite seriously wounding him. FBI approached O'Keefe in the hospital, and on January 6, 1956, he eventually decided to talk.
On January 12, 1956, just 5 days before the statute of limitations was due to run out, 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 on July 9. Banfield was already dead. A trial began on August 6, 1956.
Eight of the gang members received maximum sentences of life imprisonment; except for McGinnis, who died in prison, all were paroled by 1971. O'Keefe received only 4 years and was released in 1960. Only $58,000 of the $2.7 million was recovered.
“I went up today and worked awhile on my board.”