United California Bank robbery

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The United California Bank burglary took place on 24 March 1972, when the safe deposit vault at United California Bank in Laguna Niguel, California, was broken into and $9 million ($55 million today) in cash and valuables were looted by professional burglars led by Amil Dinsio.[1]

Background and the robbery[edit]

Dinsio's accomplices were his brother, James Dinsio, his nephews Harry and Ronald Barber, his brother-in-law Charles Mulligan, alarm expert Phil Christopher and Charles Broeckel. The Dinsio crew was from Youngstown, Ohio and Christopher and Broeckel were from Cleveland. Amil Dinsio was the mastermind of the operation but he worked closely with his brother, James, an explosives expert and designer/fabricator of burglary tools. His brother-in-law, Charles Mulligan, was the driver and look-out man. The inclusion of Phil Christopher and Charles Broeckel was forced upon Dinsio by the person who clued him in on the score. Dinsio reluctantly took Broeckel along as muscle only, which proved to be a critical mistake. He had no skills needed to assist in any other way with the score as he was nothing more than a petty thief. Broeckel helped inside the vault to bust open safe deposit boxes. Christopher played a key role in disarming the alarm. The total stolen from this score was estimated at nearly $9 million.[2] The gang gained entry to the vault by using dynamite to blast a hole in its reinforced concrete roof.

Investigation and arrests[edit]

While the burglary itself was executed perfectly, the thieves made the mistake of perpetrating a similar crime back in Ohio a few months later. The FBI linked the two burglaries, and their investigation of transportation records revealed that five of the gang members had travelled to California on a single flight using their own names. A sixth man, James Dinsio, arrived on a separate flight the day before the crime. They also learned of the townhouse used as an HQ, which had been rented by one of the gang members. A search initially found nothing, until the dishwasher was checked. The burglars had forgotten to run the dishwasher before returning to Ohio, and the recovered fingerprints permitted federal arrest warrants to be made. This led to the arrest and conviction of all the burglars, along with recovering most of the loot as well.

Trial and witness tampering[edit]

Earl Dawson, who assisted the police and testified against the gang, was offered money by his brother Harold Dawson to influence his testimony. Earl Dawson was placed in the witness protection program as was Charles Broeckel, who testified against his co-conspirators in exchange for immunity from prosecution. [3][4]

In popular culture[edit]

Accounts of the burglary and investigation have been shown on truTV and Investigation Discovery. Dinsio’s book, Inside The Vault, was self-published in 2014 with the assistance of his daughter. The 2012 movie Superthief discussed Christopher's knowledge of alarm systems and his role in the planning and execution of the burglary. The incident is used as the basis of the 2019 movie Finding Steve McQueen.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The FBI Files: Season 6 - Ep 7 "The Perfect Heist"". youtube. 24 December 2014.
  2. ^ http://50cases.freedomblogging.com/2009/11/13/day-12-the-largest-bank-burglary-in-us-history-targets-nixon%E2%80%99s-millions/305/
  3. ^ Appeals, United States Court of; Circuit, Ninth (December 26, 1975). "516 F2d 796 United States v. Dawson". F2d (516): 796 – via openjurist.org. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ "YouTube". www.youtube.com.
  • Porrello, Rick; Superthief: A Master Burglar, the Mafia, and the Biggest Bank Heist in U.S. History; 272 pp.; Next Hat Press (2005); ISBN 0-9662508-5-0

External links[edit]