The Stopwatch Gang
The Stopwatch Gang was a group of four Canadians, Paddy Mitchell, Lionel Wright, Stephen Reid, and driver Grant Bethel, who made a living robbing banks in the United States and Canada. From 1974 to 1980, they robbed nearly 100 banks and stole the equivalent of about $15 million Canadian dollars.
The gang was famous for the brilliant planning of their jobs. They were known for robbing banks in two minutes or less and getting away with no trace. The group was nicknamed "The Stopwatch Gang" by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, because one of the men was seen wearing a stopwatch around his neck while robbing the bank. They were known for non-violent methods and politeness to victims.
They successfully completed a $750,000 gold heist in 1974 from the Ottawa airport. They were arrested after that robbery and all escaped from prison by 1979. Then, they carried out a large number of bank robberies in the 1980s along the California coast, where they stole large sums of money. The gang's biggest heist took place at a Bank of America branch in San Diego on September 23, 1980, when the US$283,000 they stole set a San Diego record.
The gang's story is recorded in several television documentaries and books, including Mitchell's autobiography, This Bank Robber's Life, which he wrote from prison.
Stephen Reid later became a noted Canadian author after writing Jackrabbit Parole while in prison and then being paroled in 1987. In 1999, Reid re-offended and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. He was released on day parole in February 2008. Reid died in hospital near his home on Haida Gwaii in June 2018.
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- Meissner, Dirk (3 March 2015). "Stopwatch Gang bank robber and author Stephen Reid denied full parole". The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail Inc. Retrieved 17 June 2018.