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Dec. 27, 2021

Billie Aggie - The Plymouth Mail Robbery Investigation Begins


Jack Kelley's former partner, Billie Aggie, returns to star as the Postal Inspectors' "Expert" Investigator in the Plymouth Mail Robbery. Billie introduces Maurice "Pro" Lerner into Jack's circle, but Jack is one step ahead of them.

Episode 1 - Jack Kelley

Episode 4 - Roy Appleton

Episode 5 - Carmello Merlino & Sonny Diaferio

Episode 8 & 10 - Richard Chicofsky (Tommy Richards can be found in episode 10)

Episode 15 - Planning of the Plymouth Mail Robbery

Episode 16 - The Great Plymouth Mail Robbery

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Questions or comments, email lara@doubledealpodcast.com or nina@doubledealpodcast.com

Thank you for listening!

All the best,

Lara & Nina

Transcript

Lara:

 

Hi everyone! When we left you last week, the postal authorities had decided to recruit Billie Aggie to assist in bringing the perpetrators of the Plymouth Mail Truck Heist to justice. If you listened to Episode 2 you’re familiar with Billie’s past antics, but for those of you who haven't heard that one, we’re going to give you a brief history of what Billie was up to prior to August of 1962.



Nina:

 

Who in their right mind would think that recruiting Billie would be a good idea? 



Lara:

 

The authorities were obviously desperate to not have a repeat of the Brink’s heist investigation. 



Nina:

 

And I still have my doubts about whether or not the actual planners and participants were convicted in that crime. 



Lara:

 

I suspect we aren’t the only ones, but we’ll never know. Let’s talk about Billie’s background.



Nina:

 

His full name was George William Agisotelis. There’s conflicting information about his birth date and his last name. I can’t tell you how many different spellings I came across, but according to his MCI Walpole records and draft card he was born on January 31, 1921. “Billie ” was described as five feet, eight inches, weighing about 148 pounds, and with a dark complexion. To describe him as a degenerate gambler would have been an understatement. In Richie’s words, “Billie would have bet on a fucking chipmunk if you strapped a saddle on it.” 



Lara: 

 

Billie had some minor scrapes with the law in his younger days. He got married in 1942 and enlisted in the army shortly afterwards.

 

He served as an aircraft gunner in a B-17 heavy bomber unit and flew 26 missions in the European theater! He was awarded 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and his unit was awarded 2 Presidential Unit Citations. In 1944 he was discharged on an 80% disability due to combat 

fatigue.

 

When Billie returned to Watertown he was in need of a vehicle and found himself in Jack Kelley’s used car lot. I have my doubts about how true that story is. They’d both lived in the same neighborhood since childhood and there was only a roughly 5 year age difference between them. Either way their criminal relationship began after that fateful meeting in the car lot.



Nina:

 

Jack was already an experienced thief by then, and we assume that he showed Billie the ropes. For those of our listeners who haven’t listened to our first episode, let's give them a brief history of some of the scores Jack and Billie did together up to the Harvard Trust robbery in 1954 and finish off with Billie’s 1956 robbery in Wollaston.

 

In October 1947, they robbed a locked armored truck that was delivering the payroll of the Thompson Wire Works for $20,000. They unlocked the truck, took the loot, relocked the truck, and disappeared unbeknownst to the two guards who were delivering another payroll.



Lara:

 

In April of 1949,  three men waited outside the Copley Square Hotel until they saw the payroll delivered and the armored truck drive away. Once the coast was clear, they entered the hotel and went directly to the second floor offices where the payroll had been dropped off just moments before. The door to the accounting department was locked, but one of the men knocked, and an employee answered. The men took the still unopened bags of cash and escaped out the rear entrance of the hotel, disappearing into the crowd.

 

Nina:

In August of 1949 an unlocked armored car in Brookline was hijacked and robbed as the guards were collecting the tithes from a church. The police initially thought only $15,000 had been taken, but upon further investigation, it was revealed that $40,000 was missing from the truck. 

 

Lara:

 

Then on October 30, 1950, two men robbed the Newtonville branch of the Newton National Bank. They were armed with submachine guns and disguised with Halloween masks. The press noted that there were striking similarities to this robbery and the Brinks job “in timing and technique”. The getaway driver this time was a man in drag, wearing lipstick, rouge, and a kerchief on his head. They took over $50,000 from that job. 

 

Nina:

In July of 1951 they robbed the National Bank in Somerville of $33,000. The holdup occurred just as the bank was opening on a Friday morning. Same MO with the masks and submachine guns. They were dressed as policemen this time. Their next score was the Newton Waltham Bank. It was robbed of $30,000 in September of 1951. 

 

Lara:

And now for the final heist that Jack and Billie pulled together. On April 1, 1954, the Harvard Trust Company in Belmont was robbed mid-morning. Nearly $15,000 was taken. Then on May 25, Billy and Jack went to the Suffolk Downs racetrack. The cops had been waiting for them there for 10 days! At the $50 bet window, Billie pulled a wad of 16 $1 bills out of his pocket, and slipped it to Jack, saying, “Say you won this gambling.” The cops arrested both of them, and found the money on Jack. The FBI alleged that the money was from the Harvard Trust Robbery, and the authorities held Jack on charges of receiving stolen goods. Billie was released since he had slipped the cash to Jack and no longer had it on him.

But the jury couldn’t agree on whether or not Jack was guilty of receiving stolen goods, so a mistrial was declared in January 1955. But they did acquit him of a secondary charge of possessing a .45 without a permit. That charge stemmed from a later search of Jack’s house.

The retrial began in March the same year. The judge declared that Jack could not be convicted of both robbing the bank and of receiving stolen goods, so the jury had to choose one crime or the other. Jack was subsequently found guilty of the lesser charge of receiving stolen goods, and sentenced to four to five years in State Prison. He was allowed to remain out on bail pending an appeal which he lost. Jack served a total of 22 months, half in Concord and half in the Plymouth Forestry Camp.



Nina:

 

Billie wasn’t just running with Jack. Occasionally, he would attempt less fruitful endeavors on his own or with other lightweights. He and an employee of the Union Club robbed a payroll that was being delivered in January 1950. The employee got $1200 and Billie $700. His weapon of choice for that heist was a lead pipe wrapped in a rag.



Lara:

 

After Jack and Billie’s partnership ended, Billie and two other men robbed the Wollaston branch of the Granite Trust Company on May 11th, 1956. But things didn't go quite as planned. 

 

Billie decided that he had the perfect alibi: his mother’s funeral! He borrowed his brother’s car, picked up his accomplices and headed to Quincy.

 

At 9:20 AM Billie and his 2 accomplices sped away from the bank after robbing it of $4600. They were driving a green Buick which they abandoned one and a half miles from the bank on the corner of Safford and West Squantum St. The cops were in pursuit. This is where the trouble really started. The other 2 men jumped into another car, but Billie took off on foot through the fairway of the Wollaston Golf Course.



Nina:

 

At that point the police had cordoned off the area in a 10 square mile radius. Hundreds of police, Coast Guard helicopters, minesweepers and even an amphibian plane were all hunting down Billie. So what did Billie do? He commandeered a lawnmower from the greenskeeper at the golf course. Yes, you heard that right! A lawnmower was his getaway car! The greenskeeper tried to stop Billie, but Billie told him someone had gotten hurt and he wanted to help him, and off he went.

 

Billie was cruising at a respectable 25 miles per hour when he reached the edge of the golf course and turned onto the street just in time to side swipe a priest driving two caddies home from the golf club. As Billie once again tried to flee on foot he was shot in the stomach by a police officer. The cops asked the priest to give Billie the last rites. After his escapade on the lawn mower, Billie earned a reputation as a desperado.



Lara:

 

To top everything else off Billie had the keys to the abandoned getaway car and the bullets in his pockets. The two other suspects, one of them being Tommy Richards, were brought in for questioning but later released.

 

Once Billie recovered from his wounds, he was tried in Dedham Superior Court and found guilty on September 27, 1956. The jury returned the verdict in one hour and 15 minutes. He was sentenced to 13 to 14 years in state prison for the bank robbery and an additional 3 to 5 years for stealing the lawnmower. The sentences were to run concurrently.

 

Initially in Walpole State Prison, Billie was so unpopular that he was voted out by the Prison Guards. In January of 1958, Billie was transferred to the Concord State Prison where he was almost immediately placed in the hole for 15 days for causing a disturbance by bouncing his mattress off of his cell door.

 

And that’s where he met Richie and Roy. 

 

Let’s move onto the master plan that the Postals came up with.



Nina:

 

William F. White had been named inspector in charge just 11 months previously. He was a native of East Boston who joined the Post Office as a letter carrier in 1929. Ten years later he graduated from Bentley’s School of Accounting. Three years after that White was appointed an inspector in the Philadelphia Division of the Postal Inspection Service. He transferred back to Boston in 1944, where he had been ever since. In 1952 White started assisting in investigations outside of the New England area, and in 1958 he was assigned to investigate major fraud cases. 



Lara:

 

Newly appointed Boston Police Commissioner, Edmund McNamara, announced that he was putting all his resources at the disposal of the Postals and the FBI. McNamara said he personally felt that the mail robbery was “more susceptible” to being solved quickly than the Brink's job had been. And McNamara would know since he’d been the FBI’s lead investigator on that case since the first night, and had helped to bring it to its dramatic conclusion. At the same time, McNamara had also been made the liaison officer between the FBI and the BPD.

 

J Edgar Hoover described McNamara as “alert, diligent, aggressive, and skilled”.

 

Jack was very familiar with Edmund McNamara and how he operated. After all, McNamara had been the one who questioned him just hours after the Harvard Trust job and who arrested him at Suffolk Downs in 1954.



Nina:

 

Jack was zigzagging across New England in an effort to confuse his tails with Richie at the wheel. The others were working. Jack wanted to see the pattern the investigators were making, but it seemed they were interested in bums and idiots while stating the case would be solved shortly. In the meantime Makris was poking around trying to find out what, if any, progress the investigators had made.

Lara:

 

Every two or three days the boys would take turns rolling the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters from the heist. Then they would go around to bars, restaurants and shops trading in a few rolls here and there for bills. The same for the singles. The boys would hit the spots where large bills were tendered, switching out wads of ones and fives for $50s and $100s.



Nina:

 

Jack threw caution to the wind and decided on a little mischief instead. To make himself stick out like a sore thumb, he chose to buy a black Cadillac Coupe Deville. No matter how incompetent the surveillance team was that would be following him, it would be impossible for them to botch tailing him. That was the way he wanted it. A new game of cat and mouse. 



Lara:

 

Being the cheapskate that he was, but also wise, Jack wasn’t going to spend any of the loot on his new ride. He had his electronics man in the Comm Ave shop remove his faux Fed transmitter-receiver first. Then the old ride went to Eddie’s chop shop. The next day he reported it stolen. Once the insurance claim was processed, check in hand, Jack purchased his shiny new Caddy. His bases were covered.

 

Dad was happy to be behind the wheel of the Caddy. It was a much welcome change to the broken down old car with rotting floorboards, bald tires and wiper blades. Richie clearly understood that Jack was being obvious for a reason. The law was watching Jack and Jack was watching them. But who was who wasn’t so clear. 



Nina:

 

In the first 8 months that Jack had the Caddy, he and Richie put 50,000 miles on it. They moved around so quickly that the surveillance teams had difficulty tracking them. The authorities procured a lightweight plane to monitor Jack's neighborhood beginning at daybreak. The plane would then alert the men on the ground where he was headed. This went on for months.



Lara:

 

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s get back to Billie. Dad’s handler, SA H Paul Rico, had the idea to track Billie down. Rico had been in the FBI for over a decade at this point. While Rico had not been assigned to McNamara’s Brink’s Team, he did play a peripheral role, including in the arrest of Fats Buccelli and Wimpy Bennett in 1956. You can listen to Episode 7 for that story. Rico had been partnered with other Agents over the years, including John F. Kehoe, who you also might remember from our episodes about the Brink’s job. Kehoe will be making more appearances as we move further into the season. 



Nina:

 

But now, Rico had a new partner. Gerard Spencer Comen. The Rookie. A Maryland native, born in 1940, Gerard played football in high school. Comen had joined the FBI straight out of college, just a few months earlier. And Rico got stuck with him, teaching him the ropes. 



Lara: 

 

Rico knew that Billie would have tried to find out who pulled off the heist the moment he heard about it. With SA Comen in tow, they headed to Watertown to see if they could find Billie in one of his usual haunts. Billie was still on parole for the Wollaston heist, so it would be easy to pressure him. It wasn’t too hard to find Billie. He was a creature of habit. They stopped at the used car lot that Billie was known to operate.



Nina:

 

Rico berated Billie, telling him he wanted the names of the Plymouth guys. But Billie kept insisting that he had no clue. Rico wouldn’t let Billie wriggle out of it that easily, saying that BIllie must know because he was such a busybody. Then he threatened to violate Billie’s parole, and put him back in prison. 

 

Under the pressure being exerted by Rico, Billie could only think of three men. One had a bad ticker, one was in the can, and the other was Jack. Billie’s only doubt about Jack was that he had seen Jack and the others hanging in The Scene only an hour after the heist was reported. In Billie’s twisted logic, Jack must be clean, so that’s who he would feed them. At least that’s what Billie would later claim.



Lara:

 

So Billie gave up Jack. This was no surprise to Rico as Jack was already on the FBI’s list of suspects. And Rico probably suspected that Billie had set Jack up for the pinch at the racetrack back in ‘54. After all, Billie did pass Jack the bills just before McNamara arrested him. Rico then demanded to know who else Jack had in his crew. Billie swore up, down and sideways that he had no clue. 

 

Rico knew that going after Jack wouldn’t be easy. He wouldn’t crack. Their best bet was to use Billie to suck Jack in. Good, old-fashioned entrapment. 



Nina:

 

Their usual MO. 

 

But since the Postals were in charge of the investigation, they would be the ones to have to soil themselves with Billie’s bullshit. Rico could wash his hands of the whole thing, but he wouldn’t let Billie just slither away either.



Lara:

 

All pertinent law enforcement agencies were informed that the Postals had an informant, and that their target was John J. “Red” Kelley.



Nina: 

 

Then the Postals approached Billie with a deal, telling him they’d pay him $75 a week to report on Jack and the others. A reward of $100,000 was also held out as a carrot if Billie could manage to implicate Tommy Richards in the Wollaston robbery. Billie did at least have the presence of mind to ask how they were going to get that kind of money. The Postals told him they planned to take up a collection of $100 from the 1000 Postal Inspectors in the country. Anyone who wouldn’t kick in would be transferred to Boston. Nobody wanted to be in Boston and so all of them would pay. Billie bought it. They also promised him immunity, passports, the end of his parole and the reward money deposited in a Mexican bank account. 

The Postals weren’t above using the stick, though, either. They too threatened to send Billie back to prison if he didn’t cooperate with them. 

 

According to Billie’s later story he didn’t agree right away. He claimed that several days passed before he contacted the Boston office at the urging of his wife. And Jack’s wasn’t the only name that Billie gave them. He also told them to look into Joseph C. Tripoli of Lawrence. Billie claimed to have met Tripoli through Jack as Tripoli was also in the used car business back in the 1950s, and Billie was buying vehicles from him for his taxi business. 



Lara:

 

It should be noted that Joe Tripoli had no prior record. At the time surveillance began on him, he owned a tavern in Lawrence. In addition to them offering Billie money, Tripoli claimed that he was offered immunity and $250,000 for information and testimony regarding the mail robbery. His home and business were searched and items illegally removed. Tripoli would go on to say that there was “bad blood” between himself and Billie.



Nina:

 

Who didn’t have a gripe with Billie?



Lara:

 

Well he wasn’t going to win any popularity contests. In the meantime, the Postals bought the house next door to Billie and placed an agent named Earl Wheeler in it. They also set up a direct phone line from Billie’s basement to the basement of the house next door. But instead of calling, Billie would just walk over every night to the back door. Wheeler’s dog would bark, signalling Billie’s arrival, and the two men would sit and chat, with Billie reporting on his progress.



Nina:

 

In return for his $75 a week, Billie was wired up with a microphone that was placed just below the second button of his shirt with a wire that ran to the small recorder that hung in his armpit from a strap over his shoulder. Billie’s only mission was to meet up with Jack and get him on tape. One issue was the recorder sounded like someone with pneumonia wheezing and whining. Not very covert. Billie’s bigger fear was what would happen to him if Jack found out. Prison was one thing, but crossing Jack would be a final event.



Lara:

 

And just when it all seemed hopeless, a present was dropped on Billie’s lap, Maurice “Pro” Lerner. Our next episode will be dedicated to Pro, but we will give a little background here. Most believe he was called Pro because he was a former baseball player, but it was actually short for professor. He was an excellent student and extremely bright especially when it came to mathematics. The nickname stuck when he became a minor league baseball player. 

 

Billie happened upon Pro in The Scene. The Brookline native was back in town after wrapping up the current baseball season.. Pro was looking for action and Billie was looking for protection from a fresh new face. Pro’s good looks and strong physique drew Billie in, and now Billie had an excuse and possibly a bodyguard to approach Jack with.




Nina:

 

My suspicion is that Jack may have actually sent Pro to Billie as a way to lure Billie in closer. Pro had been dropped from the roster in Charlotte in late May 1961. He returned home to Brookline for the summer and was trying his hand out at crime. Not very successfully, but I have my theories about that. I’ll elaborate on them in our next episode, but maybe Jack and Pro crossed paths back then.



Lara:

 

Anything is possible. You know I think Pro allowed himself to get caught in order to put himself on the radar and build some street cred for himself. But for certain in late September of 1962 he was making his entre into criminal society.



Nina:

 

On a rainy evening in the final week of September, Jack and Richie were going to dinner at Anthony’s Pier 4. Its location was perfect for Jack. The narrow bridge that led from downtown Boston to the pier was the only way in or out by road. That single passway allowed Jack to see who was following him, and give those following him an easy time of it. That night both Jencunas of the Postal authority and Comen of the FBI were assigned to surveilling Jack and Billie’s attempt to contact him. There were 25 agents from the Postals, the Staties, the BPD and the  Feds tailing Jack and Richie. The authorities decided to wait on the other side of the bridge, rather than get caught up in the traffic. Billie passed Rico and Rico wondered who was in the car with him. 



Lara:

 

Jack and dad took a table that would normally fit 6 people. This was typical for dad. Whether for an unexpected guest or the abundance of food he would order for himself. The staff never questioned it because what he would spend and tip would surely be more than any other patron. Richie ordered main courses as appetizers. Everything in the ocean basically, plus a salad covered in roquefort dressing to wash it all down. Jack ordered a salad of lettuce and tomatoes and some canned orange slices. He was convinced that all that seafood was dangerous for you as they ate all sorts of waste, but the diner grub was healthy in his mind. Before dad could dig in, Jack reminded him, “that stuff will fucking kill you!” 

 

Dad replied, “it’s better than living off of fucking nothing running around with you all day.” 

 

Before Jack could get out a response, he spotted Billie Aggie speaking to the maitre d’. 

 

But the man who was with Billie was of more interest to him. Jack wanted to know who the kid was. He’d already labeled him in his mind as “capable.” A natural born killer. Jack made eye contact with Billie and motioned for him to come to their table. 



Nina:

 

As Billie and Pro approached the table Jack asked Bilie who his friend was. Billie made the introduction and Pro decided to sit next to Richie. But Richie was frozen! The bulge in Billie’s coat pocket caught Richie’s eye, and the only thing on his mind was that Billie was packing and was going to take them out. Sitting ducks. Unarmed, Richie was thinking about slipping under the table, but then it dawned on him that the stranger who just sat down beside him might be there to take them both out. Still standing, Billie drew the pistol from his pocket and blurted out, “I wanna borrow $50,000 from you. You know, from the money from the Plymouth heist.” Billie was trembling, but Jack was laughing. He slipped the pistol from Billie’s hand and deposited it in his own pocket before anyone was the wiser. “Billie, if I knew where there was 50 grand, I’d take this gun of yours and go steal it myself.”



Lara:

 

Pro started laughing and dad went back to buttering his roll. Billie was now the only one frozen. Jack convinced him to sit down and join them. Jack ordered everyone a round, but before Billie could gulp down the first drink, he had already ordered a second. He sat there in near silence while Jack, dad and Pro got acquainted. Pro told stories about his baseball days, his time in the Marines, and the carpets he claimed he was currently selling. Jack knew Pro’s dad was a small-time bookie. In the meantime, Billie’s tape recorder was rolling. “Hey, Billie, you oughta see a doctor. You don’t sound good. You’re wheezing. Must be those cheap cigars you smoke.”



Nina:

 

Billie agreed that he should get an x-ray. He could hardly contain himself. Prison was a better option than this. Not one to miss a chance to break Richie’s balls, Jack went on a tirade about how everyone should throw away the cigars or they’d end up like Billie. At that Jack rose to his feet and brought the evening to an end. He wished Billie good health and asked Pro for his number which he was happy to provide in the form of a business card. Jack headed for the Caddy with Richie in tow. 

 

The first thing out of Richie’s mouth was about Pro, “What’s this guy Maury’s story?” 

 

Jack responded, “He’s got real capabilities. Oh, and watch your driving. There are at least 18 cars filled with Feebies, postals and cops waiting for us over the bridge.” 



Lara:

 

Back at home, Billie continued to call Rico and Wheeler. He was terrified and ready to have a nervous breakdown. The authorities could care less if Billie lived or died, but Billie was certain that he wouldn’t make it out of this in one piece. 



Nina:

 

In addition to Jack and Joe Tripoli, Billie gave the authorities the name of Tommy Richards. To add to Tommy’s headaches, his brother-in-law who worked for the IRS, also gave Tommy’s name to the Postals. He claimed he believed Tommy was living above his means. This led to Tommy’s home being destroyed by postal inspectors and Federal Marshals in October of 1962. Tommy’s neighbors were questioned. Many said they saw “strange men” coming and going, and were asked to provide descriptions of them. His bank accounts were reviewed and a wiretap was requested from the Feds. They also discovered that Tommy had begun construction of a new patio in August which was completed in late September. 



Lara:

 

On October 2nd, when Tommy was returning home from work at about 8:15 in the evening, he spotted two government issued Chevrolets on his street. Instead of heading home, he stopped at the packie for beer and to use the payphone to call Roy to let him know what was happening. By the time Tommy made it through his door the three postal inspectors were in his living room. They told Tommy to sit down and he snapped back at them for telling him to sit down in his own home. They immediately started questioning him about the money stolen from the mail truck. Tommy denied any knowledge and asked them to leave. 



Nina:

 

On October 16th, Barrett and Schena, the two postals, were brought to the Fall River Post office to view Tommy from afar to see if they could ID him. Schena and Barrett said that Tommy was wearing the same type of eyeglasses that the robber who was wearing the police uniform had on. Tommy was called in for questioning

 

As we mentioned, on the evening of October 2nd, Tommy called Roy to let him know about the heat on him. The following day Jack and Tommy met in Quincy. Then on the 7th in Watertown. This would be their last contact for months. 

 

But the immediate concern for Jack was moving the cash. A dangerous task, knowing full well that Tommy’s home would be under 24 hour surveillance. Jack knew from his own surveillance that the coverage of the home would be light on the day the authorities would ask for the warrant. On October 22nd, Richie dropped Jack off at Filene’s in downtown crossing. The traffic and people were so dense in that area, that Jack was able to disappear into the crowd, losing any tails. But before Jack departed, he directed Richie to park the car in an obvious place. He told Richie to be at the diner in Watertown the next morning at 8:30. A car would pull up, toot the horn twice and Richie was to get in the passenger's seat. Jack had to get a message to Tommy. Although Jack believed loyalty was necessary, survival was crucial. The message was, “you do what you have to do, and I’ll do what I have to do.”



Lara:

 

Dad parked the Caddy directly across from Police Headquarters on Berkeley St and decided to indulge in a peaceful dinner before catching a cab home. Their tails did notice Jack exit the car, but lost him almost instantly. They also noticed that dad parked next to police headquarters, but why they couldn’t quite figure out. 



Nina:

 

The following morning, October 23rd, at 8:23 the agents assigned to observe the house saw Tommy’s wife’s black 1961 Chevy station wagon emerge from behind their house and onto the driveway and down the street. Two other agents followed Tommy to work, but the other agents were told to maintain surveillance on the house and not follow Tommy’s wife. At 8:35 a 1961 black Chevy station wagon that was grimey to the point that the plates weren’t readable pulled up at the diner in Watertown where Richie was waiting. The horn was honked twice and Richie got in. There was Jack behind the wheel. 

 

Richie asked, “is this Tommy’s car?” 

 

Jack replied, “It’ll do.” 

 

In the meantime the US Attorney was in court trying to obtain the search warrant for Tommy’s house. At 9:15 am the postal agents observed Tommy’s wife's vehicle returning home. They noticed that it looked like she had been driving through the mud. But it wasn’t Tommy’s wife, it was Jack and Richie. They swung around the back and entered through the garage door that was always left unlocked. They went up the stairs into the kitchen then down into the basement. Jack instructed Richie to remove the wall panel neatly with a chisel. Richie told him, “no problem. The thing is up with thumbtacks.” 

 

They had the panel off and the 8 postal bags removed and the panel back up by 9:23 am. Each carried two sacks and made two trips to the station wagon where the bags were covered by a blanket. They left the driveway by 9:30 am, the exact time the search warrant was issued for the house.



Lara:

 

Jack and Richie transported the money to a nursery in Dover, MA. The money would be buried in a greenhouse under the potting soil that was stored there. Richie asked Jack if he had told Tommy that he was moving the money. Jack responded, “I don’t fucking tell anybody anything.” They dumped the Chevy in Dedham and went for a stroll while they waited for Pro to pick them up. Jack had decided to bring in Pro because besides his two arrests in 1961, he was an unknown entity and didn’t have the heat on him that the others did. This would be their first mission together.

 

The only thing on Jack’s mind was how did the authorities stumble across Tommy. Was it Billie or someone else? 



Nina:

 

Meanwhile, the agents arrived and knocked on the door out of formality, knowing full well that no one was home. They decided to wait for Tommy’s wife's return in hope that she would confess where the money was hidden out of fear of them destroying her home. When she returned 15 minutes later, the agents noted she must have washed the car, since it was no longer spattered with mud. They never realized that there were two different cars. It took Jack and Richie 15 minutes to get the loot out of the house and another 20 minutes to bury it and pay the owner of the nursery $10,000 for his assistance. 



Lara:

 

It took the Postals and Marshals 15 hours to destroy Tommy’s house. They ripped open every wall and ceiling. They tore up the floorboards, broke out the patio and welded open the water storage tank. They even broke open the cinder blocks that made up the foundation. Working under floodlights well into the evening. What did they find? A .45 caliber pistol,a bulletproof vest, a shotgun, $330in $10 bills and two wide leather belts under a hat in Tommy’s closet and one empty .45 caliber clip and two empty footlockers. Except that the footlockers were no longer empty. Tommy’s wife had used them to store extra clothes, including 7 pairs of shoes, 5 sets of pajamas, one leather harness, one snowsuit, three pairs of socks, four blankets and quilted crib pads, three undershirts and training pants, eight pants, two terry cloth shirts, one white sweater, one rain hat, one sport shirt, and one vest.






Nina:

 

This is way worse than the warrant for Specky O’Keefe’s baby chair! And they took all of it, and they didn’t give it back.



Lara:

 

To make matters worse, the following day the FBI showed up and dug up the septic tank!



Nina:

 

According to Inspector Dunne’s statement released on October 23rd, after they destroyed his home, Tommy supposedly told them that he might be willing to return the money for the reward but was afraid of being shot in the head. None of this seems plausible. Tommy supposedly met Dunne and Sims again on the 18th in a parking lot near his home. The agents claimed that Tommy asked if he had to pay taxes on the reward money! He wanted to know how much he would receive after the taxes were deducted from the $100,000 reward. They claimed that the person who planned the robbery asked him to buy trunks to store the money in. The trunks were in his basement empty because the mastermind decided to store it in custom made wooden crates instead. They asked Tommy what kind of car the mastermind drove, and he said it was a Chrysler Imperial. He claimed to meet him at his mother’s house by accident. Every time he visited his mother, the third person magically showed up because he had a 6th sense! Tommy and the mastermind/third person met on October 3rd at 521 Southern Artery in Quincy. Postal inspectors were watching them. Tommy claimed to have met the same person on October 7th at 40 Dexter St in Watertown, which was Tommy’s mother’s home. From October 2 to October 22nd the postals had Tommy’s house under constant surveillance. 



Lara:

 

It’s as if they were trying to get Tommy killed! Issuing insane statements in the newspaper. 

 

They also claimed that Tommy told them he was in possession of 65 to 70% of the loot and that the third person/mastermind had the rest. He supposedly named “him” in front of the inspectors to his wife and blamed her for wanting to go on vacation to the Cape. Dunne stated that Tommy’s wife said she wanted the thieves arrested immediately as she said they would come and kill them. 

 

Finally, Garrity, the same Garrity from the Brink’s case, issued a statement. Garrity stated that considering what was found at Tommy’s house, he would not be issuing an arrest warrant. Garrity’s story matched the story I heard, that Tommy refused to cooperate or talk about the case. 



Nina:

 

Tommy threatened to sue. Garrity said he could, but he would fight him every step of the way! 



Lara:

 

On November 2nd, Inspector Dunne and two other agents arrived at Jack’s house. He had hoped to get a little extra help from the local police chief, asking him to arrest Jack on a phony charge and hold him while the Postals tore apart Jack’s home. The police chief refused.

 

So Dunne had to resort to Plan B. He and another Postal Inspector, McNabb, waited until they were sure that Jack wasn’t home. Since Jack was under constant surveillance it wasn’t that hard to make that determination. One group of Postals followed Jack to Lawrence, 30 miles north of Watertown, where they reported to Dunne that the coast was clear, since Jack was visiting Joe Tripoli. Dunne’s plan was to get in, take anything that looked incriminating and leave. 

 

Jack’s wife, Elizabeth, opened the door to see Dunne and McNabb. Dunne announced, “We have a warrant for the arrest of John J Kelley for a bank robbery in Ohio.” More horse shit since he claimed the warrant was from 1957 which was when Jack was in prison.

 

Before Mrs. Kelley could demand to see the warrant, the men pushed past her and marched upstairs. They subsequently ripped apart the house looking for evidence. Unable to get into a locked closet, they forced the door open. Inside they found two empty money bags with the First National Bank of Boston’s logo on them, a length of clothesline, $235 in cash, and some shotgun shells. 



Nina:

 

At this point, Jack called home from Joe Tripoli’s house. Maybe a neighbor called since Dunne told Mrs Kelley that she couldn’t call out, not even to her pastor. On the phone, and between sobs, Mrs Kelley told Jack what was happening. Jack told her to put Dunne on the phone. Dunne offered to meet Jack at the Postal annex in Boston to talk about the situation. Jack refused, saying, “You wait right where you are.”

 

When Jack arrived home, he asked to see Dunne’s warrant. Of course, there wasn’t one, and Dunne had failed to get one in the time he was in the apartment. But the icing on the cake was that all the items they’d taken from the closet had already been sent to a laboratory to be “examined”. Dunne said he’d replaced the $235 with his own money and pointed to a side table where it was sitting. 



Lara:

 

Up to this point, Jack had remained outwardly calm, but now he flashed back to Ed McNamara and Billie planting the 16 $1 bills on him at Suffolk Downs. It was the final straw. He picked up the cash off the table and threw it in Dunne’s face, “Get out! Don’t try to plant any money on me!” 



Nina:

 

The postals didn’t stop pressuring Billie. They showed him a wanted poster of Frank James “Machine Gun” Campbell and told him that Jack had hired Campbell to whack him. And Tripoli was continuing to be pressured to identify Tommy as one of the participants in the Essex Trust robbery from back in March.



Lara:

 

Finally in December the pressure got to Billie and he confessed to Jack what he had been doing. Jack of course already knew and had been one step ahead of him. Jack put the word out that he was looking for Billie by asking around for him in his usual haunts. He knew it would only be a matter of time before Billie would surface. Finally, he showed up at the diner. He looked like shit. The stress of his secret agent life had taken its toll on him. 

 

Before Billie could plop himself down in the booth he blurted out, “I swear I didn’t tell them anything.” 

 

Jack played the concerned father role and offered him money to get himself together. Billie told him that it was Rico who first pressured him, that the Feds and the Postals wanted Jack for the Plymouth job. By this time Billie had latched onto Jack’s hand. Jack brushed him off and said he had no clue what he was talking about. That was Jack’s opportunity to suggest that they both needed a lawyer. He convinced Billie that the authorities were trying to frame the both of them. Jack offered to introduce him to his new attorney F. Lee Bailey.



Nina:

 

Jack had been using John FItzgerald as his attorney but fired him after an unsavory incident at Fitzgerald’s office. He arrived for their meeting about what legal action could be taken to get the Postals off his back. But when Jack walked into the office, he saw Dorothy Barchard fleeing in some state of undress. Looking across the room, he saw Joe Barboza holding onto Fitzgerald’s ankles as he held him out the window. 

 

To relieve the tension in the room, Jack made a joke, and got Barboza to free Fitzgerald. But Jack was through. He wasn’t going to get wrapped up with someone on Barboza’s enemy list. Gangsters were bad news, in Jack’s book. “The only place you find them is in prison or the cemetery and I don’t wanna go with them.”

 

Barboza plopped Fitzgerald on the floor and asked if he had seen Dorothy. Jack proceeded to tell him she ran down the hall.

 

It would be a little over 5 years before Fitzgerald would lose his leg in a car bombing incident while driving Barboza’s car. Fitzgerald’s fling with Dorothy would last that long. And Fitzgerald wasn’t Dorothy’s only side piece. Our bonus episode on Dorothy will be coming out this Friday morning, December 31st.  

 

But now Jack needed a new lawyer. 



Lara:

 

On Monday, December 10, 1962, the Boston Globe ran a front page article stating that Federal Investigators had told them that the “Great Plymouth Mail Robbery” had been solved. Sounds like the same claims they made with the Gardner Heist 50 years later. 

 

The guilty parties were known and would be arrested in the next three weeks. A new Federal Grand Jury was set to convene the following Monday, and the case would be presented to them. 

 

Contacted by the Globe, the Assistant US Attorney, stated, “Our main thrust has been toward total recovery of the money.” 

 

Therefore, the alleged guilty parties were being allowed to “roam at will” in the hope that they might lead investigators to the money. The four men weren’t named but it was clear that the authorities had not changed their minds that Billie, Jack, Joe Tripoli and Tommy were the thieves. 



Nina:

 

Confidential memos had been issued to local law enforcement to keep the four suspects under constant surveillance. The memo also instructed local police not to arrest or stop the men but to allow them to go about their business.

 

“But we want proof beyond a reasonable doubt. We don’t want to gamble with a $1.5 million case.” the AUSA continued.

 

Nobody wanted to see a repeat of the Brink’s Circus. You’ll recall from Episode Three that in November 1952, two months before the statute of limitations ran out, Federal prosecutors threw together a case and presented it to the Grand Jury in hopes that someone would slip up and break the case for them. The drama played out for weeks with contempt charges against Wimpy Bennett and Specky O’Keefe’s family among others. The Prosecutors ended up with egg on their face and not a single indictment. And the contempt charges were all dismissed on appeal.



Lara:

 

The next day another article about Tommy and the raid on his house appeared on the Boston Globe’s front page. That evening, Billy Norton, a Boston Traveler reporter contacted F Lee Bailey, and told him that Jack and the others wanted to take polygraphs in order to clear their names.

 

Bailey agreed, and the following day, Jack and Joe Tripoli arrived at Bailey’s office together. 

 

According to Bailey, “Trip” was about five feet six, stockily built with greying black hair, a widow’s peak, and a friendly dark-eyed smile that was showing strain around the edges. 

 

Jack told Bailey that he wanted him to represent the two of them. Even though he had previously refused to take polygraphs administered by the Feds, he was now willing to take one if it was impartially administered.



Nina:

 

On the 14th, they met again to administer the test. Trip went first, but the place was so crowded with reporters wanting to catch the breaking story, that they couldn’t get an accurate read. Bailey declared the test “inconclusive” and said they’d try again the following day. 

 

On the 15th they met in a suite at the Parker House Hotel. As they were wiring Trip for the re-test, Tommy walked in. He stated that he also wanted Bailey to be his lawyer. In the meantime, Billie had called F Lee’s office and been told where to find the others. He walked in just after Trip finished testing. Trip’s test came back clean. He knew nothing

 

Then Bailey told the other three that they should wait to see if the Postals would agree to the independent polygraph before they went through with it. But he did ask that they all take a mini test about any conflicts of interest between them since they all wanted him to represent them against the Postals. 



Lara:

 

Of course, Red and Tommy beat the test. They had nothing against one another. But Billie flunked.

 

Jack and the others went to Bailey’s office nearly every day for the next two weeks. By the end of the month, Bailey says he approached Jack and asked him straight out: “Do you think Billie might be a spy for the Postals?”

 

“Anything’s possible,” Jack replied, “but it seems funny that they’d put him on the flyer if he wasn’t a real suspect.”

 

“That could just be a cover,” Bailey said. “Billie flunked the lie test cold.”

 

“You didn’t tell me that before,” he said. “You mean the bastard’s against us?”

 

“Could be. But if he is, we might be able to work it to our advantage. Let me try something.”

 

Of course Jack already knew all of this, but wasn’t going to let Bailey know how and why or how long he had been plotting to turn the tables on Billie and the Postals. 



Nina:

 

Bailey reassembled the full group. “Gentlemen,” he said, “I want all of you to be extremely careful not to get so provoked at these post office clowns that you get into any physical fights with them. That would be very bad. They carry guns, and you might get hurt. I am going to give each of you a cheap and very simple camera. Any time you see a postal inspector near you, take his picture and keep snapping until he leaves. This may give you some peace, and give us enough evidence to get an injunction against the sons of bitches. Just bring all the flim to me. I repeat: don’t get provoked into fights. Any of you could get shot at any time.” He turned to Billie, “Especially you.”

 

“Whaddya mean?” he said. “Why me?”



Lara:

 

Bailey pulled out a copy of the poster that offered a $50,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the robbers. 

 

“There is a phrase in this reward offer that provides that any robber who is killed while resisting arrest will be “deemed convicted” for the purposes of the reward. In other words, the easiest way to get the money is to kill you. This cuts out waiting for the trial or risking the possibility of acquittal.

 

“You, Billie, are an especially likely target. You have a record for armed robbery and have carried a gun in the past. So whereas the others are not considered dangerous, you are. Anyone could gun you down and then claim that he thought you were about to shoot him.”



Nina:

 

The next morning, Billie was waiting at the door when Bailey arrived at his office and confessed everything. “I’ve got something to tell you,” he said to Bailey. “I’ve been working with the postal people, steering them on Tommy and Kelley and Trip and some other guys. They been paying me every week. Seventy-five bucks. And they said I’d get a big reward if anything broke.”

 

Billie unbuttoned his jacket, loosened his tie, and began, “A few days after the robbery,” he said, “some postal inspectors came to me and said I could help them. They said I was a convicted bank robber, and probably could give them some good leads on who might of done the Plymouth job. I told them I wasn’t interested in being an informer even if I knew something, which I didn’t. They told me they could go to my parole board and get me violated so I would have to go back in the can. But if I cooperated, I could get some cash, maybe a whole lot of it. All I had to do was give them some names.”



Lara:

 

“I didn’t want to go back to the can, so I agreed. I figured I’d give them some bullshit, and when they didn’t get no where, they’d leave me alone. They asked me to take a lie detector test so they’d know I wasn’t involved myself. I took it, and they said I passed and gave me fifty bucks.”



Nina:

 

“Then they asked me if John Kelley might have been in on the job. I said sure, he could've done it, he’s smart enough. So they asked me if Kelley knew anyone who didn’t have a record and could hold the money without being suspected.

I had once met this guy Richards with Kelley, except that at the time his name was Bagdadlian. He had a steady job as far as I knew, and no record. So I gave them his name. I also mentioned Tripoli, who used to be in business with Kelley selling used cars. They put taps on all their phones. They would play the tapes for me to see if I could tell who was on the other end of the line.”

 

“Anyway, on the same day they busted into Kelley’s apartment, they talked to Richards in a post office in Fall River. He denied knowing anything, but they thought he acted suspicious. When they told me that, I egged them on. I said he probably had the money buried somewhere near his house.”



Lara:

 

The date that Billie gave conflicts with the information in the newspaper article, but it’s not that important.

 

“Then they found out that he put in a new cement patio right after the robbery. They were sure that was the spot. Dunne saw Richards the next day, but couldn’t get anything out of him. They wanted me to help them break into the house some night when no one was home and make sure the money was around, and then they would get a warrant. They even gave me money for some rubber gloves so we wouldn’t leave any fingerprints. 

 

“But that never worked out because when Tom and his wife went out they always left a babysitter. Finally, they said they were positive Tom was the right guy, and they were going to get a warrant anyway. They said they could file a statement saying Tom admitted having the money, and that would be enough. I said how the hell could you do that if Tom said he didn’t know nothing about the money? They said it would be Tom’s word against Dunne’s, and any Federal Commissioner would take the word of an inspector against the word of a slob like Tom.

So they got a warrant and ripped up the house and they didn’t find a goddamned thing.



Nina:

 

Bailey replied: “If Kelley and Trip and Tom were the guys who pulled the robbery, they would also be the kind of guys who might get wise to you and buy you some cement shoes. Did you ever think of that?”

 

“Of course,” said Billie, “I had some other names I could have given, but those names have guns. Kelley and the others are just clowns, I knew they wouldn’t do anything.”

 

“If you’re not afraid of them,” Bailey said, “why did you decide to tell me all this?”



Lara:

 

“It’s the goddamned poster!” Billie said, “I could get shot in the face on account of that thing. The postals are so goddamned stupid. You have no idea how stupid they are. You know, one time they told me they didn’t know nothing about robbery cases, and I was running this investigation because I was an expert. How do you like that? Me, the expert of the investigation.”





Nina:

 

“Billie,” Bailey said, “you have done your friends a grave injustice, I think you should do all you can to repair the damage.”

 

“Sure,” said Billie, “what do you want me to do?”

 

“You have spied on us, and that was a grave transgression. I think the only fair way you can repair the damage you’ve done is to do a little counter spying.”



Lara:

 

“You mean I should keep working for the postals, but really be working for you, right?” 

 

“Exactly.”

 

Billie agreed, saying the Postals would never catch on. “They’re too goddamned stupid.”



Nina:

 

And he was right! Bailey hooked Billie up with a wire of his own and sent him to see Wheeler. Billie’s mission this time was to get Wheeler to repeat the story about the $100,000 reward for Tommy’s head, and other extrajudicial activities the Postals had been involved in over the course of their “investigation”. Billie had the intel Bailey needed within 5 conversations. 



Lara:

 

In addition, Bailey told Billie that he wanted the money Billie was getting every week from the Postals. “I’ll give you dollar for dollar but I want what you get.”

 

Billie agreed and they shook on it.

 

On December 28th, Bailey, Jack, Tommy and Tripoli went on the radio and the following evening on TV. Bailey laid out the charges against the authorities putting them on the defense. They each stated that the government had offered them $250,000 for identifying the holdup gang.

 

Garrity denied this allegation, saying that the only offer on the table was one of up to $200,000 and was open to anyone who supplied information.




Nina:

 

In the meantime, Bailey drafted a 16 page document outlining Billie’s adventure with the Postal authorities including the yellow phone with the line that ran from the house next door to Billie’s basement. Bailey alleged that the authorities were involved in bribery, payoffs and threats in an effort to entrap Jack, Tommy, and Joe. 

 

Billie had to find a way to sneak into court to file an injunction along with Bailey. This injunction would prevent the authorities from contacting him and continuing to use him as an informant. Billie also claimed to have tapes of the authorities threatening him to entrap Jack. Bailey charged the inspectors with illegal wiretapping, intimidation and attempted bribery. After he brought the claim to Senators Saltonstall and Kennedey, he then wired Washington DC. Both Senators then sent a telegram to US Chief Postal Inspector Henry B. Montague requesting a response to the accusations. 



Lara:

 

Tommy didn’t enjoy the thrill of the chase like his cohorts did. Sure he was a bank robber, but he was also a family man. He wasn’t as sharp and ruthless as the others. His paranoia from feeling he was being followed every minute of the day was taking its toll on him. The postal authorities would drag Schena and Barrett to his job weekly asking, “are you sure this isn’t one of the men who robbed you?” His home life wasn’t much better. He had to rebuild his house bit by bit, and his wife spent most of her time in tears. And Jack had to keep his distance. Tommy was alone.

 

Jack wasn’t worried though. In his opinion the law was 6 cupcakes short of a dozen. They were too busy blaming each other for one another’s stupidity to actually do something. But what did worry Jack was what to do with the roughly $900,000 buried in the nursery. Until he came up with a new plan, the loot had to stay put.



Nina:

 

In mid-March 1963, Billie’s wife won the Grand Prize at the annual New England Home Show. This of course merited a write up in the Boston Globe by one of Bailey’s favorite journalists, Bob Leary. The Grand Prize was “a complete family room” with a refrigerator, a portable bar with stools, a tv, a sound system, lamps, a slide projector and screen, three pieces of Danish furniture, and other gifts. 



Lara:

 

We’re going to leave you there. As we mentioned before, on New Year’s Eve we’ll be releasing a bonus episode about Dorothy Barchard. Dorothy was a very busy girl. Listen in to find out about her beaus and occasional participation in a robbery here and there. Next week, we will be discussing Pro Lerner. There's much more to come about Jack and his crew and of course Billie, so subscribe to find out when those episodes launch. Please, like, share, follow and leave us a review.



Nina & Lara:

 

BYE!