Great Brink's Robbery

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Present-day North Terminal Garage in Boston, site of the Great Brink's Robbery in 1950

The Great Brink's Robbery was an armed robbery of the Brink's building in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts, on January 17, 1950. The $2.775 million ($31.3 million today) theft consisted of $1,218,211.29 in cash and $1,557,183.83 in checks, money orders, and other securities. It was at the time the largest robbery in the history of the United States, and has been called "the crime of the century". The robbery remained unsolved for nearly six years, until estranged group member Joseph O'Keefe testified only days before the statute of limitations would have expired.

Of the eleven people involved in the robbery, eight would receive life sentences after a trial, with two others dying before they could be convicted. Less than $60,000 of the more than $2.7 million stolen would ever be recovered. The robbery received significant press coverage, and was eventually adapted into four movies.

Perpetrators[edit]

  • Joseph McGinnis – according to O'Keefe's testimony, McGinnis was the mastermind behind the robbery; however, this was later disputed by Geagan.[1][2] He was responsible for destroying incriminating evidence, including guns, the truck, and clothes.[3] McGinnis died in prison on October 5, 1966.[4]
  • Joseph "Specs" O'Keefe – O'Keefe died in March 1976, at the age of 67.[5]
  • Anthony Pino – according to Geagan, Pino was the leader of the gang.[2] Pino died in October 1973, at the age of 67.[6]
  • Adolph "Jazz" Maffie – Maffie died in September 1988, at the age of 77. He was the last surviving member of the robbery.[7]
  • Thomas "Sandy" Richardson – Richardson died in 1980, at the age of 73.[8]
  • Vincent Costa – Costa was released from prison in 1969 after being paroled. He was arrested again in 1985 and charged with cocaine trafficking.[9]
  • Michael Geagan – Geagan was released in 1969 after being paroled.[10]
  • Henry Baker – Baker died in prison in 1961, at the age of 54.[11]
  • James Faherty – Faherty, along with Geagan and Maffie, was released in 1969 after being paroled.[10]
  • Joseph Banfield – Banfield died in 1955, at the age of 45.[12]
  • Stanley Gusciora – Gusciora died in July 1956 of a brain tumor, before he could be tried for his role in the robbery.[3][13]

Planning[edit]

The robbery was first conceived in 1947; however, in 1948, after months of planning, the group learned that Brink's had moved to a new location. While the theft was originally intended to be a burglary, rather than an armed robbery, they could not find a way around the building's burglar alarm. After observing the movements of the guards, they decided that the robbery should take place just after 7 pm, as the vault would be open and fewer guards would be on duty.[14] Over a period of several months, the robbers removed each lock from the building and had a key made for it, before returning the lock.[15] Two vehicles were stolen: a truck, to carry away the loot from the robbery; and a car, which would be used to block any pursuit. Vincent Costa was the group's lookout, and signalled from a nearby rooftop when he saw the vault being opened.[3] After five aborted runs, Costa finally gave the go-ahead on the night of January 17, 1950.[14]

Robbery[edit]

Seven of the group went into the Brink's building: O’Keefe, Gusciora, Baker, Maffie, Geagan, Faherty, and Richardson.[14] They each wore a chauffeur cap, pea coat, rubber Halloween mask, and each had a .38 caliber revolver.[16] At 7:10 pm, they entered the building and tied up the five employees working in the vault area. They spent about twenty minutes inside the vault, putting money into large canvas bags.[17] Approximately a million dollars in silver and coins was left behind by the robbers, as they were not prepared to carry it.[18] The total amount stolen was $1,218,211 in cash and $1,557,183 in checks and other securities.[14] By 7:37, one of the Brink's employees managed to free themselves and raise the alarm.[17]

Investigation and falling out[edit]

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. Other members of the group came under suspicion 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 a 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 him but failed to kill him. The FBI approached O'Keefe in the hospital and on January 6, 1956, he decided to talk.

On January 12, 1956, just five 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 pleaded guilty January 18. Gusciora died on July 9. Banfield was already dead. A trial began on August 6, 1956.

Eight of the gang's members received maximum sentences of life imprisonment. All were paroled by 1971 except McGinnis, who died in prison. O'Keefe received four years and was released in 1960. Only $58,000 of the $2.7 million was recovered. O'Keefe cooperated with writer Bob Considine on The Men Who Robbed Brink's, a 1961 "as told to" book about the robbery and its aftermath.

Films[edit]

At least four movies were based, or partially based, on the Great Brink's Robbery:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Historical Photos: Boston's Great Brinks Robbery". WCVB. January 17, 2020. Retrieved October 29, 2022.
  2. ^ a b Connolly, Richard (January 12, 1975). "A quarter-century later—Brink's robber admits guilt to Globe". The Boston Globe. p. 1. Retrieved November 18, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c "O'Keefe Says Brink's Holdup Gang Vowed To Kill Any Member Who Periled Others". The San Bernardino Sun. September 18, 1956. p. 5. Retrieved October 29, 2022.
  4. ^ "Joseph McGinnis Obituary". The Boston Globe. October 6, 1966. p. 34. Retrieved November 18, 2022.
  5. ^ Tomasson, Robert E. (March 28, 1976). "Specs O'Keefe, Informant In Brink's Robbery, Dies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 29, 2022.
  6. ^ "Tony Pino, 67, Participated In '50 Boston Brinks Holdup". The New York Times. October 6, 1973. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 29, 2022.
  7. ^ "Adolph (Jazz) Maffie; Last Survivor of Brink's Gang". Los Angeles Times. October 3, 1988. Retrieved October 29, 2022.
  8. ^ Schorow, Stephanie (January 15, 2012). "Brink's robber penned gangster novel". Boston.com. Retrieved October 29, 2022.
  9. ^ "Brink's Robber Held in Jail". Associated Press. February 4, 1985. Retrieved October 29, 2022.
  10. ^ a b "Brink's Bandits Get Christmas Home". The Desert Sun. December 23, 1969. p. 8. Retrieved October 29, 2022.
  11. ^ "One of Bandits in Brink's Robbery Dies". The Desert Sun. February 15, 1961. p. 2. Retrieved October 29, 2022.
  12. ^ "Six Arrests Break $1,218,211 Brink's Robbery". The San Bernardino Sun. January 13, 1956. p. 3. Retrieved October 29, 2022.
  13. ^ "Brink's Robbery". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved October 29, 2022.
  14. ^ a b c d Baldwin, Carl (May 21, 1961). "The Men Who Robbed Brink's". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. p. 94. Retrieved November 18, 2022.
  15. ^ Hurley, Cornelius (January 17, 1960). "Brink Robbery History Recalled After Decade". Santa Cruz Sentinel. p. 7. Retrieved November 18, 2022.
  16. ^ "$1,500,000 HOLDUP: 7 Masked Men Rob Brink's, Boston; Leave Another Million". The Boston Globe. January 18, 1950. p. 1. Retrieved November 18, 2022.
  17. ^ a b Hurley, Cornelius (January 17, 1960). "The False-Face Bandits: Greed Wrecked the Brink's Case Gang". The News & Observer. p. 42. Retrieved November 19, 2022.
  18. ^ "HOLDUP: Continued From the First Page". The Boston Globe. January 18, 1950. p. 10. Retrieved November 19, 2022.

Further reading[edit]

  • Stephanie Schorow (2008). Crime of the Century: How the Brink's Robbers Stole Millions and the Hearts of Boston. Commonwealth Editions. ISBN 978-1933212548.
  • Noel Behn (1977). Big Stick-Up at Brink's!. Putnam. ISBN 978-0399118975.
  • Sid Feder; Joseph F. Dinneen (1961). The Great Brink's Holdup: The First Complete Account Of The Robbery, The Conspiracy, Investigation, Confession, And Trial. Doubleday & Company.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°22′02″N 71°03′27″W / 42.3672°N 71.0575°W / 42.3672; -71.0575