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10 Brazen Armored Car Heists That Remain Unsolved

by Robert Grimminck
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Armored truck robberies are notoriously hard to pull off. Usually, they happen during the day in a public place. In most cases, a team of professionals must do the heist because the money transport personnel are trained to specifically stop robberies. Due to the difficulty of even committing the robbery and since there are so many people involved with a crime, very few go unsolved.

10The Rochester Armored Motor Service Of America Heist


On June 26, 1990, two guards were transporting money to the Federal Reserve branch in Buffalo, New York. Outside of Rochester, they stopped for a sandwich. An unidentified woman guard went into the store, and when she did, a man with a shotgun apparently stuck the barrel of the gun into the slot in the door, and a guard by the name of Albert Ranieri let the man into the cab. Once the female guard came back to the truck, she, too, was held at gunpoint.

Ranieri was forced to drive to a rural area, where he and the other guard were bound and blindfolded. They said they did not know how many robbers there were, but they believed it was at least two men. The robbers took 700–800 kilograms (1,500–1,700 lb) of money, which was worth $10.8 million, or close to $19.6 million when accounting for inflation. Neither guard was hurt in the robbery.

Authorities were immediately suspicious of Ranieri. They also believed that his father, Albert B. Ranieri Jr., might have been involved. Ranieri was eventually arrested in 2000 on racketeering charges. In court in 2001, Ranieri admitted to stealing the money, along with shooting a pool hall owner that he believed was stealing money from him.

Ranieri was convicted and received 30 years, but he did not give up anyone else on his team. Also, not much of the money was recovered. He laundered some of the money, $87,000 was recovered from his home, and he admits to burning another $100,000 in his barbecue. The FBI says that the investigation is ongoing, although the five-year statute of limitation on the robbery has expired.

9The Rutledge Berkshire Armored Car Services Depot Theft


At about 6:00 AM, on January 31, 2002, two security guards arrived at the Berkshire Armored Car Services Depot in Rutledge, Vermont, to start their shift. Shortly after they arrived, a lone gunman wearing a mask with a thick New York accent entered the building and tied the guards up. He then brought in a vehicle, thought to be a van that was found a short time later, and took all the money in the vault.

In all, the man got away with $1.9 million ($2.5 million accounting for inflation). The FBI questioned many people in regards to the robbery. Employees who were working there at the time and former employees received polygraph tests, and they all passed. The police even have a partial palm print, but have not found a match. The robbery is the biggest heist in Vermont’s history.

8The Lynnwood Loomis Robbery


Photo credit: Augustas Didzgalvis

It was the late morning of February 19, 1991, and 48-year-old Peter Berg and 33-year-old Jeffrey Pease were making a delivery to a large grocery store in Lynnwood, Washington. Berg was driving, and when Jeffrey returned to the truck with the store’s receipts, two men approached the truck. In front of shoppers, one started beating Pease, and the other one started firing with a semiautomatic at the truck.

Berg jumped out of the cab and fired his weapon, but he missed. He was shot and killed. Pease also fired off a shot, but he was shot seven times, including once in the head. The two gunmen grabbed some bags that contained just over $20,000 ($35,000 when accounting for inflation) and fled the scene. Luckily, Pease survived the shooting.

The first suspect the police had was a former Loomis employee named Michael Carl Wortz. Wortz had staked out the grocery store for the robbery, and his ex-wife said he had been looking for a partner to execute his plan. But Wortz didn’t match the description of the two men, and Pease didn’t recognize him. Police believe that the two gunmen were friends of Wortz. Wortz was charged and found guilty of conspiracy to commit second-degree robbery in the case.

7The Plymouth Mail Truck Robbery


Photo credit: Beland/Wikimedia

On August 14, 1962, a mail truck with armed postal workers was heading from Cape Cod to the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston, Massachusetts. Their cargo was $1.5 million that they had collected from several banks in the Cape Cod area. Along the highway, the truck came across a police barricade with two officers standing in front of their police cars, and they directed them to a drive with a dead end that was hidden from the highway.

Quickly, the fake officers pulled their cars in behind the mail truck, which blocked the truck in. They charged at the truck with sawed-off shotguns and disarmed the two men in the truck. The postal workers were tied up and blindfolded. Then 16 bags of money, worth $11 million when adjusted for inflation, were loaded onto a waiting vehicle. At the time, it was the biggest robbery in the history of the United States.

In 1967, two men and a woman were indicted. One of the men, Thomas Richards, was supposed to testify against John Kelle and Patricia Diaferio. However, a few days before he was set to testify against Kelle and Diaferio, Richards disappeared and was never seen again. Without his testimony, Kelle and Diaferio were acquitted.

6The Brentwood Purolator Robbery


On St. Patrick’s Day, 1982, two men entered the Purolator Armored Inc. Terminal in Brentwood, Pennsylvania. They slipped under the door after a truck left and approached a security guard working inside the terminal. The two men, one black and one white, said they were FBI agents with a tip that a robbery was going to happen. Once they got close to the guard, they disarmed him by taking his shotgun.

The guard was hit in the head and told to lie down on the ground. Once on the ground, he was handcuffed, and tape was put over his eyes. From there, the two men used walkie-talkies to bring in a vehicle. They loaded up the van with about 225 kilograms (500 lb) of money, worth about $2.5 million, or almost $6 million in 2015. The robbers then took off, leaving behind $55 million.

No suspect has ever been named in connection with the heist. The police cleared the security guard and a police officer who abruptly quit days after the robbery. The only real connection anyone made to the crime happened at a trial in 1990, where a drug dealer and federal informant by the name of Joseph Rosa said that Pittsburgh mobster Geno Chiarelli committed the robbery, but the allegation was never substantiated.

5The Yurakucho Mitsubishi Bank Robbery


On November 18, 1986, an armored vehicle from the Bank of Japan arrived at a branch of the Mitsubishi Bank in the Yurakucho neighborhood of Tokyo. As the guard was delivering the money to the bank, two men wearing motorcycle helmets approached the truck. Once they were close enough, they sprayed an unidentified chemical, thought to be mace, into the eyes of the driver.

Once the driver was blinded, one of the robbers struck him in the head with an unidentified instrument. They grabbed two aluminum cases and four bags, all of which contained about $2 million (worth about $4.3 million in 2015). After grabbing the money, they took off in an unmarked van that was driven by a third man. The van was found abandoned a short distance away.

The police believe that the crime was possibly the work of a group of foreigners.

4The Brooklyn Delicatessen Caper


On November 19, 1969, three guards driving a Wells Fargo truck went to the Aqueduct Racetrack in Brooklyn, New York, and picked up $2 million. Then, following union rules, they stopped at a delicatessen that was about 10 minutes away from the racetrack. Making sure one guard was in the truck at all times, they all took turns leaving the truck for a lunch break. When the third guard returned to the truck, the other two guards opened the door, and they found two men holding the guard at gunpoint. The two gunmen and the third guard got into the truck with the two other guards, and they were joined by the third robber in the truck. The three guards were handcuffed, and the robbers put money bags over their heads.

The robbers drove the truck a few blocks, ending up on a street where children were playing and people who were home during the day were watching the street. The witnesses watched them load the money into a beige Chevrolet, and after three minutes, the three robbers drove away. Because there were so many witnesses, they only managed to steal $1.37 million (approximately $8.8 million in 2015), leaving $700,000 behind.

Authorities are not sure who robbed the bank, but they believe that seven men were involved in all, and it was an incredibly professional heist.

3The Eden Prairie RAM Security Heist


Photo credit: Appraiser/Wikimedia

A little bit after 1:00 PM on April 18, 1989, a RAM security guard was loading bags of money into an armored truck in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. He turned around when he heard a car engine and saw a man armed with an M16 assault rifle wearing a nylon stocking over his head. The guard tried to get into the back of the truck, but when the masked man threatened to shoot him, he stopped.

In the front of the car, a van pulled up, and a man wearing a plastic mask got out. He placed a black box on the hood of the truck, and in his hand, the man held what looked like a garage door opener. He signaled to the driver that the black box was an explosive. A third man, also masked in a nylon stocking, climbed in through the back of the truck and held a gun to the driver’s head. The guard was told to put his hands to the ceiling.

The three robbers loaded up the car with a little less than a million dollars and were gone about 60 seconds later. They hardly said a word and barely drew attention to themselves. The only time the robbery got close to violent was when one of the guards tried to steal one of the robbers’ guns, but when the guard heard a bullet load into the chamber, he stopped wrestling. The FBI arrived on the scene, and when they X-rayed the bomb, they found out that it was fake.

The thieves left no clues at the scene, but the use of a fake bomb during an armored car robbery was similar to another robbery that happened in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1986. The payload from that robbery was about $600,000. Once calculated for inflation, the trio of thieves stole at least $2.2 million and their identities remain unknown.

2The Toronto Brink’s Robbery


Photo credit: GeorgHH/Wikimedia

On April 24, 1980, 29-year-old Larry Roberts and his partner were delivering money to a Toronto Dominion bank inside the Agincourt Mall in Scarborough, Canada. Just before 1:30 PM, they were walking back to the armored truck, and Roberts was wheeling through the mall with three bags, which contained $178,500 (US $144,000), and that is about $1.2 million when accounting for inflation.

Three men approached the guards and ambushed them. One of the robbers shot Roberts in the chest, and his partner was shot in the arm by a different gunman. The robbers grabbed the money, fired their guns in the air, and ran out through the library attached to the mall. Once outside the mall, they got into a green car and fled the scene. Roberts died on the way to the hospital, leaving his wife a widow and his disabled son fatherless. The other guard survived.

The police believe that two cars were used in the robbery, and both cars were stolen in Montreal, while the plates were stolen in Ottawa. Investigators have DNA profiles of the three robbers, plus a female accomplice, but they have not found a match. They also believe that the suspects committed similar crimes across the country in Canada and possibly a few in the United States. In June 2015, the Toronto police department announced a reward for information about the crime and released age-enhanced drawings of the two gunmen.

1The Sacramento Loomis Heist


Photo credit: Michael Grindstaff

March 24, 1999, was a rainy night. At about 7:30 PM, a Loomis, Fargo and Company transport truck left Sacramento, California, heading to a depot in San Francisco. Along the trek, they made two stops, one at an intersection before heading onto the interstate and the second at a weigh station along the way to the depot. When they arrived at the depot, they were surprised to find a hole in the roof of the trailer. At first, they thought that they had been struck by a meteor. But when they looked in, they found out that about 160 kilograms (250 lb) of money, equaling $2.3 million, was missing. When considering inflation, the heist is valued at $3 million.

It is believed that as the semi-truck left the depot in Sacramento with its drivers and two guards in the cab, someone jumped from the roof of the depot onto the roof of the detached trailer. The trailer door had an alarm on it, but the roof was only made from thin aluminum. So he, she, or they cut a hole and jumped in. Then, as the truck stopped at Cordelia truck scales in Solano County, a lone man was seen climbing down from the roof of the transport and ran away.

No one was ever arrested, and police are unsure how many people were involved in the heist.

Robert Grimminck is a Canadian freelance writer. You can friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or visit his website.

fact checked by Jamie Frater