Throughout history, there are heists and then there are hauls. If you accept the concept that nobody woke up then decided to become a big-time bank robber, then you have to wonder how these folks wound up on this list.
Sure, they’re bad guys now, but they didn’t use to be. One day they noticed that they got away with something, maybe an accident. The grocery store didn’t charge them for something or nobody noticed their cash drawer was light at work.
The craziest part about some of the heist stories is how many of them get away with it. It’s the bold possibility which makes the risk worth while. This begs the question, would you do it if you thought you could get away with it?
These thieves thought they would. All told, you’re staring down the barrel of almost $100-million in robberies. Enjoy…
Sentry Armored Car Company Robbery of 1982 – $11-million
The bottom of this pile at only $11-million, the Sentry Armored heist was at the time the largest cash take to date. It was the inside job that the thieves disguised to look like a standard heist.
The guard claimed that thieves jumped him, but the prosecution knew better. There were four or five other co-conspirators in this heist. All authorities had to do was get the guard talking.
In the end, they only sentenced five men, all undone by their individual self-interests when questioned by the authorities. They acquitted one man.
Authorities recovered $1.5-million of the stolen goods, which makes this the only case in this list where the bad guys may have gotten away with it.
When they get out, they could still have a decent pile of money on which to live… as long as moving to Russia is an option.
1997 Loomis Fargo robbery in North Carolina of 1997 – $17.3-million
This was not a good year for Loomis Fargo. By the end, they would suffer two huge heists, $36.1-million in losses (a little over $50-million in 2016 with inflation).
The North Carolina heist was the smaller take out of the two at $17-million. The good news from this heist, at least for Loomis Fargo was, they recovered about 95% of the stolen cash.
The downfall of the robbers was that it was an inside job. Once authorities figured that much out, it was easy to find useful information about the thieves, like pictures, the addresses of family, and more.
A vault supervisor, along with his girlfriend and seven co-conspirators were directly involved. There were sixteen others who had a hand in it, but police only arrested eight.
This was the second largest cash robbery at the time, right behind the Florida Loomis Fargo robbery. Hollywood just made a movie about this one: Masterminds.
1997 Loomis Fargo robbery in Florida in March 1997 – $18.8-million
While the North Carolina Loomis Fargo heist was the careful planning of many people, the Florida heist was just one man exacting brute force.
Phillip Noel Johnson, a driver for Loomis Fargo, overpowered two co-workers to take almost $19-million. That would about $28-million by today’s standards, but at that point, who cares?
Apparently, Loomis Fargo did. They caught Johnson attempting to cross the border into Mexico riding a bus. Johnson blew his cover answering agent’s questions nervously, then presenting a fake alias.
They discovered he was carrying several passports, but not the take. Most of that he’d left in a storage shed in North Carolina. They convicted and sentenced him to 25-years in prison.
Dunbar Armored robbery of 1997 – $18.9-million
As it turns out, 1997 was the year to rob armored car companies and break heist records. The Dunbar Armored heist took place in September of that year, besting the previous two armored company heists, almost crossing the 19-million mark.
It set the current record for cash heists in US History to date, even twenty years later.
Allen Pace, a safety inspector for Dunbar, used his inside knowledge of the Los Angeles depot to plan his heist. He enlisted five childhood pals to help him.
They walked into the vault using his keys, avoided cameras using his knowledge of how they worked, then ambushed the two guards. They loaded their take into a U-haul and left.
Despite police’s heavy suspicion of Pace, the crew would have gotten away with the heist, had one of them not loaned money to a friend wrapped in the original cash straps.
Authorities only recovered half the cash from this heist.
United California Bank heist of 1972 – $30-million
No other heist on US soil can even touch the take from the United California Bank heist. The $30-million in cash and valuables would be worth roughly $170 million today. It goes down as the single greatest take in US history.
Professional robber, Amil Dinsio enlisted his brother, James, his nephews, his brother-in-law, and two other conspirators to pull off the heist. They blasted their way into the vault roof, using dynamite to get through the concrete.
They would have made off with the cash, but they got greedy, trying to pull off a similar heist closer to home in Ohio. The police were able to link these two heists, then figured out that the gang traveled to California using their real names.
Cops found a townhouse the boys rented in California to stage their heist. It was there, in the unwashed racks of the dishwasher that they were able to pull prints, which they used to unravel the gang with federal warrants for their arrest.
There you have it. The most lucrative heists in US history, but not one of them successful. These stories, of course, are not all the heists out there.
There are some cases where the bads guys did get away with it, but that’s a tale for another time on History Things.