Great Brink's Robbery
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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. It was then the largest robbery in the history of the United States. The robbery, skillfully executed with few clues left at the crime scene, was billed as "the crime of the century". The robbery was the work of an eleven-member gang, all of whom were later arrested.
Joseph "Big Joe" McGinnis was the originator of the heist according to information later gleaned from Joseph "Specs" O'Keefe. He brought Anthony Pino and Stanley "Gus" Gusciora.
O'Keefe and Gusciora secretly entered the Brink's depot; they picked the outside lock with an ice pick and the inner door with a piece of plastic. They later 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 "Jimma" 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 when the lights in the building windows were on. O'Keefe and Gusciora 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 tenement building across Prince Street from the Brink's building. By the time they acted the gang had planned and trained for two years.
On January 17, 1950, after six aborted attempts, the robbers decided that the situation was favorable. They donned clothing 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. They had taken money and four revolvers from the employees. The gang rapidly counted the loot, gave some of the members their cut, and agreed not to touch the rest for six years, after which the statute of limitations would have expired. The robbers scattered to establish their alibis.
Investigation and falling out
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. Any information police could get from their informers initially 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. Police heard through their informers 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 attempts he hired underworld hitman Elmer "Trigger" Burke to kill O'Keefe. Burke traveled to Boston and shot O'Keefe, seriously wounding but failing to kill 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 to run out, the FBI arrested Baker, Costa, Geagan, Maffie, McGinnis, and Pino. They apprehended Faherty and Richardson on May 16 in Dorchester. O'Keefe pled 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. All were paroled by 1971 except McGinnis, who died in prison. O'Keefe received 4 years and was released in 1960. Only $58,000 of the $2.7 million was recovered.
At least four movies were based, or partially based, on the Great Brink's Robbery:
- Six Bridges to Cross (1955, Joseph Pevney)
- Blueprint for Robbery (1961, Jerry Hopper)
- Brinks: The Great Robbery (1976, Marvin J. Chomsky)
- The Brink's Job (1978, William Friedkin)
- Article on the Great Brink's Robbery
- FBI - The Brinks Robbery
- Historical Photos: Boston's Great Brinks Robbery