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Sept. 20, 2021

The Great Brink's Heist - Our Take On It


The Great Brink's Heist of 1950 was almost the perfect crime. $2.775 million was stolen in Boston on a mid-January evening. We follow the twists and turns of the FBI investigation that led to the capture and eventual conviction of eight local men who had long criminal records. We conclude with our own theories about what really happened.

 

If you'd like to email Lara you can reach her at lara@doubledealpodcast.comand Nina can be contacted at nina@doubledealpodcast.com

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Thank you for listening!

All the best,

Lara & Nina

Transcript

Lara:

 

Welcome everyone! Thank you for joining us! Today we’re discussing the Great Brink’s Robbery of 1950. 71 years later many are still fascinated by this crime, and we are too. When Nina and I started doing research for our forthcoming book, we realized that Richie was connected to both of the only two men ever convicted of possessing any of the money from the heist, John “Fats” Buccelli and Edward “Wimpy” Bennett. We knew Richie had nothing to do with the crime itself as he was only 14 years old at the time, but Richie would later be arrested for Fats’ murder in 1958. You’re going to have to wait until episode 7 to hear more about that. As we started to look deeper into Fats’ background, we too ended up down the Brink’s rabbit hole. Nina, how do you want to start?

 

Nina:

 

I’d like to start with reviewing the timeline of how the crime reportedly unfolded on the night of the heist. Then we can take a look back at the planning. On January 17, 1950 at 7:10 PM seven gunmen entered the three story building at 80 Prince St. in the North End of Boston. Five of the workers were tied up, and the bandits began looting the vault. They were in the building for 20 minutes! About 17 minutes into the heist, a buzzer sounded. It was the garage attendant. The men ignored the sound after making sure nobody was coming, and continued working. They left about three minutes later. Six minutes after that, a cashier who had been tied up managed to free himself. He sounded the alarm. By 7:51 pm an all-points bulletin was put out. All of the BPD was ordered on duty. The Mass State Police and FBI were notified and the airports and railroads were being watched. 

 

Lara:

 

Didn’t one of the reports question whether they entered at 7:00 pm or 7:10 pm?

 

Nina:

 

Yes, there was conflicting information, but later when the government’s star witness came forward they stuck to the 7:10 pm entry time.

 

Lara:

 

And the guard just let them in?

 

Nina:

 

Correct. For some unknown reason the guards let them in after they bypassed 6 locks to gain entry to the counting area. The supervising guard tells the other to open the door.  Doesn’t that remind you of another crime?

 

Lara:

 

Yes, the Gardner heist, 40 years later. The moral of the story - Don’t open the door!  I’ve read two different accounts about the locks. One said they picked the locks, the other that they had keys made previously. Which one was it?

 

Nina:

 

Well my favorite is the Time magazine article that claimed that the crew broke into the building on multiple occasions under the cover of darkness, removed the lock barrel on every door along their route, fitted the keys, and reinstalled the locks in the doors before morning [http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,861883-1,00.html]. That’s twelve break-ins into the building. One time to remove the lock, and then once to put it back after they’d had the key made. And supposedly this was done for each lock. 

 

Lara:

 

You mentioned that the garage attendant rang the buzzer, and he just left when there was no answer. Didn’t Time magazine also have a crazy story that they actually opened the door and tied him up?

 

Nina:

 

One of many conflicting reports about the crime. But that Time magazine article was really egregious. 



Lara:

 

We all know it’s common with high profile crimes for false information to come pouring in, and as we’ve seen in other heists, often the employees and witnesses provide conflicting information about descriptions and the number of perpetrators. The Brink's employees stated that there were  6 to 8 men who tied them up and robbed them. They were all wearing chauffeur’s caps, Halloween masks, pea coats and all about the same height. There was a chauffeur’s cap and adhesive tape left at the scene in addition to the rope which was used to tie up the guards . Was there anything else taken besides the money bags?

 

Nina:

 

In addition to the money, the thieves had escaped with 4 Smith & Wesson .38 revolvers. One of those guns was later found in a Somerville trash can by a cop. Another was allegedly found by a ten year old boy in the same area at about the same time, but when he brought it to his father, the father disposed of it. It seems likely to me that the two guns were one and the same. 

So let’s talk about the planning of the robbery. 

Lara:

 

All of the information about the planning that was used to obtain the indictments came from Specs O’Keefe.



Nina:

 

Well, it came from a journalist with the Boston Globe, Joseph Dinneen. Specky magically corroborated everything that was in Dinneen’s so-called “fictionalized” account of the Brink’s robbery that had been published in 1954. A detective who heard O’Keefe’s story said that Specky reminded him "of those people on The $64,000 Question who know all there is to know about something." 

When he was on the witness stand, O’Keefe was even able to correct the attorneys who were questioning him. When the defense attorney pulled out a diorama of the building, Specs said, “that isn’t the whole building”.

 

Lara:

 

We read recently a statement from “Eddie” Corsetti that he and the press were continuously running stories that weren’t based on facts in order to keep interest in the heist alive.

 

Nina:

 

Corsetti said he made up the stories on orders from his editors to keep selling papers. I imagine that Dinneen was doing the same.

 

Lara:

 

According to Specs’  account, 7 of the 11 men charged except for Baker, Gusciora, Banfield and O’Keefe  were involved in the planning going back to 1948. Specs said that Pino approached in 1947 about the robbery plans, and that a Mr. X was behind the plot. Specs claimed to have rebuffed Pino’s offer to become part of the crew because of the mysterious Mr. X. Later in 1948 Pino revealed to him that McGinnis was Mr. X and Specs was on board. The location of the Brink’s office was then on Federal St. in Boston.  These meetings were said to have occurred at Pino’s house. Each of them took turns casing the location. Pino obtained the outfits and weapons as early as 1948. 

 

Nina:

 

So Specky is the one giving this timeline, but he says he wasn’t actually involved in the initial planning?



Lara:

 

That’s correct. Now,  in December of 1948 the Brink’s office moved to Prince St in Boston’s North End. It was agreed that McGinnis wouldn’t physically be involved in the heist, and Pino wouldn’t enter the building because of a physical issue, he  would stay in the truck. Banfield would drive the truck as he was a chauffeur by trade, and Costa would drive the backup car before going onto  the roof of a nearby building to scope out the vault area. They supposedly made 5 dry runs, but the conditions weren’t right until January 17th.



Nina:

 

Then there was Specs’ claim that they broke into the ADT office not once, but twice in order to obtain the plans for the vault, and then return them. There was even a plan to go to DC to break into the US Patent Office. But they never followed through on that. I don’t know about you, but that seems a little far fetched.



Lara:

 

Far fetched? Sounds like pure fantasy to me. At the trial Specs contradicted himself and said it was 4 dry runs. Of course it would make sense to watch the building to clock the guards, etc, but I doubt they actually “attempted” anything prior to January 17th. Supposedly along the way McGinnis decided  they needed a telescope to make sure the vaults were open when they entered. He purchased one and later returned it for a refund. McGinnis then cashed the check at  J.A. Smokeshop.

 

Nina:

 

So they have over a million dollars from this heist but he returns the telescope?

 

Lara:

 

It’s unclear when he returned it, but Pino then buys binoculars for Costa to use insteadLar. By the time the trial rolls around in 1956 the Prosecutors magically find the very same telescope out in California and have it sent back to Boston. 

 

Nina:

 

Speaking of the 1956 trial, when the Brink's job took place in 1950, the statute of limitations in Massachusetts for armed robbery was six years. On a Federal charge, the statute of limitations was just half that. Six years later, Massachusetts had increased the statute of limitations to 10 years, and the US Congress had extended the statute of limitations to five years. This meant that while the alleged suspects could not be charged for the federal crime of armed robbery, they could still be charged for the same crime in Massachusetts. These amendments were passed mainly due to the slow-moving Brink’s investigation.   

 

Lara:

 

In September of 1955 the Massachusetts State Senate even tried to extend the statute of limitations to 20 years, but it was shot down.  Before we dive into what happened after the robbery. Let’s touch on The Statler Hotel robbery which took place the day before the Brink’s Heist. As we talked about in episode one, Jack Kelley appeared to be planning his heists around others as a distraction. Nina, tell us a little about the Statler.



Nina:

 

On January 16, 1950, yet another payroll heist took place. Three armed men, faces covered, surprised a guard outside the cashier’s office, and forced him to unlock the door. Two of the men held the cashiers at gunpoint, while the third grabbed the bag of money. They escaped through a ballroom, exiting out a side door. They apparently had a car waiting for them on Columbus Ave. The three men got away with $26,000 in cash, and another $22,000 in checks, many of them negotiable. 

 

Lara:

 

So there is the possibility at least that Jack may have at least known about, if not directly participated in, the planning of the Brink’s robbery. As we will see later in season one, Jack planned upwards of a dozen robberies that he never actually participated in, including the Brink’s robbery of 1968.

 

Nina:

 

High probability! But it was overshadowed by the Brinks job with the police calling it an amateur’s job in comparison {https://www.newspapers.com/clip/85317242/statler-holdup-amateurs-job-18-jan-1/}. Jack must have been grinding his teeth over that remark!

 

Lara:

 

No question about that!

 

Nina:

 

The police were much more interested in linking the Brink's job to the Surtevant payroll robbery of 1947. 

 

On October 30 that year five men with sawed-off shotguns held up the Sturtevant Blower Works just as it was opening. It was unclear how long they had been in the building, or how they’d gotten in. They were first noticed coming from the executive offices on the top floor of the building. Two of them were wearing Halloween masks, making them unidentifiable. The masks had an added advantage. Many of the witnesses reported that they initially thought the whole thing was an elaborate joke.

 

Lara:

 

So similar to other robberies credited to Jack regarding how the bandits were disguised.

 

Nina:

 

Exactly. The door to the cashier’s room was closed but not locked. The money was being sorted for payroll on three tables. As in all of the other heists we have highlighted over the past few weeks, money was left behind. The change was ignored, as was another bag containing $1000 in $10 bills. In all, $1900 was left behind. But the men had gotten away with about $109,000 in a little over two minutes. 

 

The police had few, if any, leads. In fact, the only lead they seemed to have was the suspicion that it must have been an inside job, given how familiar the men were with the layout of the building, and the company’s payroll procedures.



Lara:

 

How long until they made an arrest in the Surtevant case?



Nina:

 

They arrested many people in the area over the next week or so. Patsy Farina was arrested on October 31, as he was leaving the barber shop in Brighton where he worked. The cops were eventually forced to release him for lack of evidence.

 

Ten days after the Sturtevant job, Sammy Granito was picked up by the police in New York. This was supposedly based on the tip of another criminal who was picked up for an unrelated crime {https://www.newspapers.com/clip/84917880/witness-balks-on-testifying-at-granito/}. Granito and his alleged accomplices denied everything, of course.






Lara:

 

Sammy Granito goes on to be a capo regime under Jerry Anguilo and a confidant of Raymond Patriarca. We will be discussing Sammy in other episodes this season. So Nina, did they name the other accomplices?

 

Nina:

 

“Happy Joe” Bellino was arrested in New Jersey and extradited to Massachusetts, where he was held on a $25,000 bond. Tony Pino was also held on a $25,000 bond at the Charles St. Jail. Pino’s brother-in-law, Vincent Costa, was arrested, but released on $20,000 bail. Michael Geoghan was also arrested but released by Boston police after witnesses failed to identify him in a lineup {https://www.newspapers.com/image/433496241/} {https://www.newspapers.com/image/433496432}.

 

Lara:

 

So three of our Brink’s suspects are picked up for the Sturtevant heist in November of 1947.

 

Nina:

 

Yes. Sammy Granito was eventually tried and convicted of the Sturtevant heist. He was sentenced to a 16-20 year state bid. The other three men were acquitted. The $109,000 was never recovered. 

 

At the time of his arrest, Granito was out on bond for transporting $12,000 worth of antique silverware across state lines. The silverware had been stolen from a shop in Providence, Rhode Island in March 1947. Another 3 year federal bid was added on later for that job.  https://www.newspapers.com/image/433506247/

 

I don’t want to delve too deeply into what we’ve labeled the Disorganized Crime element in Providence here. We will be highlighting them and their escapades as we get further into the season. Lara, tell us about the main suspects in the Brink’s case.



Lara: 

 

The initial list of suspects was a whopping 93, and they were under constant surveillance. That narrowed to 88 by the spring of 1950. By 1953 the list was reduced to 44 and later to the 11 who are eventually tried: Anthony Pino, Joseph McGinnis, Adolph “Jazz” Maffie, Vincent Costa, Michael Geagan, James Faherty, Thomas “Sandy” Richardson, Stanley “Gus” Gusciora, Joseph “Specs” O’Keefe, Henry Baker and Joseph Banfield. As we mentioned  in the Sturtevant story, three of these men, Pino, Costa, and Geagan, were suspects in that robbery also. Now, Nina, tell us about the baby chair!

 

Nina:

 

Nearly six months after the Brinks heist, Stanley Gusciora and Specky O’Keefe were picked up in Pennsylvania for boosting clothes and illegal gun possession. The two men were locked up in a county jail in the summer of 1950. In a phone call between O’Keefe and his estranged wife in mid-July, he made the comment, “Just take good care of the baby, you know what I mean?” [page 106] This call was apparently recorded since the Feds alleged that they had heard these words spoken by O’Keefe in their later request for a search warrant.

 

Lara:

 

Wait! Specs and Gusciora supposedly pulled off a million dollar plus robbery, and they’re pinched in Pennsylvania shoplifting?

 

Nina:

 

That’s what they were picked up for! Who knows if it was true! The O’Keefe home was raided a few days after the telephone conversation. But the FBI came up empty. The “baby” it turned out was the illegitimate child of O’Keefe’s that he had dumped on his wife. 

 

Lara:

 

They thought the “baby” was the Brink’s loot?

 

Nina:

 

I don’t think they ever really believed that. They knew Specky was running around on his wife. But they still used it as an excuse to get a warrant. This was not the first time that FBI Special Agent, John B Greene, had sworn out a warrant on the O’Keefe family. Three months earlier, in late April 1950, O’Keefe’s sister’s home was also ripped apart by the FBI. Greene alleged in his warrant request that Mary Hooley was hiding $60,000 from the Brinks heist in an overstuffed baby’s stationary chair and footstool [page 119]. There was even less evidence produced for that warrant than the phone call. Of course, Greene had to return the warrant because “nothing was found to be seized.” [page 113] 

 

Lara:

 

It’s bad enough that the Feds destroyed both of the houses, but Specs’ wife being saddled with raising his love child must have driven her insane. Enough of that melodrama. Let’s get back to the investigation. 



Nina: 

 

I’m backtracking just a little bit here to early March 1950, before the raid on Mary Hooley’s house. The Feds reported that they had found the alleged getaway truck, a Ford, chopped up into pieces and burned in a dump down the street from O’Keefe’s home. Any identifying numbers on the truck had been obliterated. Even so, the cops told the press that they believed that the truck was one that had been stolen in November 1949 from Kenmore Square in Boston.

Two days later, the Feds announced that the equipment that was used to cut up the truck had been found on the side of the road in Quincy. Guess where they found it? On the side of the road leading to the Wollaston Golf Club!



Lara:

 

The Wollaston Golf Club saw a lot of action in the ‘50s!



Nina:

 

Billie’s escape attempt was much more interesting. Anyhow, according to the Feds, the five bottles of acetylene were traced to a Somerville dealer. They had been purchased before the heist. The equipment was supposed to have been returned for a deposit, but obviously that didn’t happen.. The vain hope that this new evidence would yield some breakthrough was soon dashed.



Lara:

 

As they moved into 1952, the authorities were struggling to find anyone or anything to give them a reason to convene a Federal Grand Jury. Rumors went around about different witnesses and suspects. One alleged suspect was murdered outside his home three days after his name was leaked to the newspapers.

 

By the middle of the year, the authorities were starting to get desperate. Memos whizzed back and forth between government lawyers in Boston and DC discussing the finer points of criminal law. The statutes and precedents were clear: they didn’t need a name. John Doe was acceptable. But a basic description was necessary to get an indictment. Hair color, height, eye color, weight. The FBI couldn’t even provide the lawyers that much. The government had spent two and a half years chasing their tails. Time was running out on the statute of limitations. Something had to be done.

 

Nina:

 

A Federal Grand Jury was convened on November 25, 1952 {https://www.newspapers.com/image/433564531}. Such an act must mean that the Feds had enough concrete evidence and suspects in mind to prosecute, the media speculated. But the truth was that nothing had changed. The Feds still had no new leads, no new evidence, no new suspects. Nevertheless they knew that this was their last shot. And they had to try. They’d initiated their fishing expedition.



Lara:

 

12 indictments were reportedly sought. 40 subpoenas served. But the fishing expedition began to hit roadblocks in the form of reluctant witnesses and an uncooperative FBI, who refused to transport Stanley Gusciora to Massachusetts from where he was still locked up in Pennsylvania on the weapons charge.

Specs, who was also locked up in Pennsylvania on the same charge, was allowed to appear. But he was reluctant to speak, and ended up being charged with contempt of court. 



Nina:

 

Another unnamed witness was given the weekend to “think it over” when he refused to testify. Specky’s sister, Mary Hooley, was sentenced to one year in jail for contempt of court on December 8 {https://www.newspapers.com/image/433369945/}. Her husband and another brother were also charged with contempt for refusing to answer questions. 



Lara:

 

And the contempt charges kept rolling in. Boston bookie, John Henry Carlson, was sentenced to 18 months.. 

 

On December 17, 1952, Edward “Wimpy” Bennett, was charged along with Adolph “Jazz” Maffie, John Daly, and Joseph Banfield. The charges against Banfield and Bennett were eventually dropped on January 7, 1953 when they agreed to testify. Maffie and Daly kept quiet, and were released on $5000 bail on January 5, 1953. 



Nina:

 

The FBI also refused to testify but they were given cover by the judge, who stated that they couldn’t testify because their knowledge about the particulars of the case was “secret and confidential” {https://www.newspapers.com/image/433511783/}.

 

On January 17, 1953 the Federal Grand Jury returned its decision: no indictments, secret or otherwise. The US Attorney’s Office had failed. The Federal statute of limitations for the charge of armed robbery had now passed. However, the Feds still had another card to play.



Lara: 

 

The Feds were struggling to find any new leads, so they turned their attention to a heist that took place in early 1952. 



Nina:

 

An armored truck was robbed in broad daylight on March 25, 1952. The truck parked in front of a drugstore on Danvers Square after making a delivery, and the guards jumped out for their usual mid-morning break. While they were inside getting their coffee, three men broke into the truck. They transferred over $600,000 into a waiting Buick that was double parked, and sped off at 85 miles per hour toward Peabody. 

 

Lara:

 

Hey the way you say Peabody is as bad as Waltham!

 

Nina:

 

You crazy Bostonians and your mispronunciations!

 

Lara:

 

Whatever you! Keep saying the names wrong!  

 

Nina:

As I was saying, the Buick was later found abandoned about 15 miles away in Everett. It had been stolen out of a commuter parking lot there from a construction worker who lived in Malden. A Pontiac from the same parking lot was their next getaway vehicle. It too was later found abandoned. The trail went cold after that. The media noted the job’s “precision and cold-blooded daring”. This time about $87,000, mostly in coins, was left behind. 

 

Lara: 

Now who does that crime remind you of?

 

Nina:

 

Jack! Cold-blooded and precise.

 

At first, the Feds thought they’d caught a lucky break. There was some hope that the armored truck job at Danvers would hold the key to the still unsolved Brink’s job. The armored truck at Danvers was housed in the same building as the Brink’s armored cars. The thieves had a key to enter the truck through the passenger side of the cab. The door from the cab into the back of the truck had been left unlocked by the guards.



Lara:

 

As we will see in other robberies Jack committed or planned, keys were made ahead of time. 

At this point, nearly $3 million had been stolen in the Northeast between 1947 and 1952. $1 million of that had been stolen between January 1950 and March 1952. 



Nina:

 

And little, if any, of it was recovered. 

 

The fantasy of an easy two-for-one was soon dashed. The police were unable to find a single witness who would admit to seeing what had happened that morning. A traffic cop had been about to admonish the men for double parking, but they sped off before he could reach them. An additional patrolman was usually stationed at Danvers Square. He would keep an eye on the truck for the men while they took their coffee break {https://www.newspapers.com/clip/85328922/cop-on-break-at-danvers-29-march-1952/}. However, he was given every 6th Tuesday off, and March 26 just happened to be that day.

Special Agent McNamara and his FBI team were at a loss. 

 

Lara: 

 

As the Federal Grand Jury came to its dissatisfying conclusion in January 1953, the Feds decided to try a new angle. George O’Brien had a record dating back to 1920, and was linked to suspects in both the Brinks and the Sturtevant heists. The FBI had him on their list of suspects in the Brink's job because of that. Their hope was that O’Brien would be the key to cracking the case. 




Nina:

 

On Thanksgiving Day 1953, 20 months after the Danvers heist, George O’Brien’s home in the Wollaston section of Quincy was raided by the FBI (https://www.newspapers.com/image/433509829). George had purchased the house for $22,000 in February of the same year, eleven months after Danvers. He had also purchased two cars for $5700 at about the same time. Since O’Brien was unemployed this made the FBI suspicious. Another FBI team raided his son’s car and dorm room at MIT at the exact same time {https://www.newspapers.com/image/433509873/}.

 

Lara:

 

George Jr was then driven around by the Feds for 6 hours all the while being questioned. 



Nina:

 

That sounds more like a kidnapping. 



Lara: 

 

Exactly. The son told the Feds about a safety deposit box that he and his mother held. They confiscated $3100 from it. George Jr and his mother were charged with receipt of stolen property. The boy was expelled from MIT as a result. The President of MIT did allow him to return to classes pending the outcome of the case. In addition George O’Brien’s brother was questioned at the Howard State Prison in RI. The authorities were also seeking to question a guard from the Danvers robbery that happened to also be a former employee at  the Brink’s office on Prince St. It turned out that a neighbor of O’Brien’s was the one who called the FBI with suspicions about the O’Brien family. O’Brien was charged with the theft of “more than $100” on December 23, 1953. He was not charged with armed robbery. Nevertheless the judge refused bail on the recommendation of the Assistant US Attorney, who cited O’Brien’s long criminal record. It was eventually reduced to $100,000 but never lowered from that.

 

 

Nina:

 

At the trial the real estate agent testified that O’Brien put $10,000 cash down on the house and was carrying the balance of $9,000 in a mortgage. None of the over $10,000 found in O’Brien’s home or the safety deposit box were linked to either robbery. On the witness stand an official from the Federal Reserve failed to identify the money as matching the money stolen at Danvers. George O’Brien was eventually acquitted in April 1954 after just 30 minutes of deliberation by the jury.



Lara: 

 

Two months later on June 17, 1954. George was found shot in his car near Franklin Park. A .38 caliber revolver was found wedged between his left arm and his body and one spent round on the floor of his car. A bullet penetrated his right temple and exited the left. His wife said he went out to make a phone call as he believed his phone was tapped and was headed to an appointment with his lawyer, Paul Smith, in Boston.  It was later deemed a suicide. Nina, what do you think?



Nina:

 

Well, my first thought is that maybe it was one of the missing .38s from the Brink's job. But why would you kill yourself after being found not guilty? But here’s where it gets even crazier. The same day George was shot, Elmer “Trigger” Burke tried to kill Specky in a 35 minute attempted hit in Dorchester which was located less than a mile from where George’s body was found. 



Lara:

 

We will be doing a bonus episode on Elmer “Trigger” Burke this season. 

 

Dad tried to get Burke’s story written for years. He had endless documents about him, and was working with Armand Mastroianni on the story off and on for over a decade. I don’t know why they never finished it or whatever happened to all of those papers. I assume Dad knew Burke through the McGlaughlins since he was close to them and Burke was friends with them. 

 

Burke was picked up on June 18th on Huntington Ave in Boston. The authorities found an arsenal in Burke's rented room on St. Botolph St. The ballistics tests matched one of the machine guns to the rounds found at the Victory St. scene from the attempted hit on Specs. Thirty shots fired in 35 minutes. New York wanted Burke returned there for three murder charges, but the locals refused on the basis of the machine gun charges.



Nina: 

 

Back to Specky. After the attempt on Specky’s life he goes on the lam. There was another murder attempt made on July 6 on St. Botolph St, but once again he managed to escape. Specky found himself on the FBI’s most wanted list with 5 warrants out on him for violating his parole. There was a raid in Halifax on June 21st, but they came up empty handed. On the same day John H. Carlson came forward to say he was with Specky the night Burke tried to kill him.



Lara:

 

In the meantime, George McLaughlin was also on the lam in Maine. Remember what I said in episode one that all of our stories end up in Maine? Well it still makes me crazy. George gets picked up trying to boost a $17 woman’s swimsuit! He was released on $500 bail only after being reassured by the judge that his bail wouldn’t be forfeited if he returned to court. Mind you he had $760 in his pocket when he was arrested for stealing the swimsuit! He was transferred to Somerville, MA and once again released on bail. His occupation was listed as a gambler even though he had a union organizer card on him. The Feds were hoping they could use George to solidify their case against Burke.

 

Nina:

 

Finally, on August 1, 1954 Specky was captured in Leicester, MA and turned over to Boston. 2 days later Boston bookie John Carlson went missing. He was one of the men charged with contempt during the Federal Grand Jury in late 1952. Carlson’s  body was never found. One of many to be killed over the next 15 years in Boston and the surrounding area. 

 

Burke was arraigned on the machine gun charge the same day. On August 7th, Specky was transferred to the Springfield House of Correction. The District Attorney was going to place him in Charles Street jail with Burke but apparently had a last minute change of heart. Good thing too, since on August 28th Elmer Trigger Burke escaped from the Charles St. Jail!



Lara:

 

In September, Pino was accused of having hired Burke to take out Specs and Carlson. Pino under oath denied the allegation. At the time Pino was being held without bail by immigration officials and was deemed a “witness” in the Brink’s case. He was slated to be deported because of moral charges from his youth and stealing a dozen golf balls in 1948. 



Nina:

 

Later the next month, on the night of October 23 at 10pm, a Revere Truck Driver on his way home sees a bag of money on Route 128 as he’s stopped at a light. He gets out, picks up the bag, sets it on the seat next to him, and continues home. Stopping at a nearby restaurant parking lot so he can see what he just picked up, he is shocked to find that the bag is stuffed with money, including $1000 bills. Rather than going directly to the police, the man decided to head home. The bag is still sitting beside him. He doesn’t get too far, however, when he gets carjacked and beaten by four guys who then drive away with the bag.  




Lara:

 

How can you make this shit up? And what does it have to do with any of this?

 

Nina:

 

The Feds were convinced that it was $250,000 from the Brink's job!

 

Lara:

 

Talk about grasping at straws! Time to get back to Specs. 

 

Nina:

 

The Feds finally had their man after 5 long years. Right where they wanted him.

They had initially picked Specky up on an old parole violation. But that wasn’t enough to keep in prison for as long as they needed him to be. So they dug back into his 30 year old record and found a suspended sentence for a 1945 gun possession charge. The Feds convinced the judge to revoke the suspension and got a 27 month extension on jail time.

In March of 1955 the authorities claimed that Specky’s life was in danger and moved him to an isolation cell at Concord. No outside time allowed {https://www.newspapers.com/image/433338699/}.

 

Lara:

 

Special Agent Larkin and Special Agent in Charge Ed Powers visited Specs on a regular basis. They were courting him by bringing him cigarettes, candy and gifts.

The agents told Specs that the other members of the Brinks gang were “laughing at him - they were loose and he was in the can.” 

 

Eventually Specs broke. On January 11, 1956, O’Keefe began to tell the Prosecutors an amazing tale, a tale almost identical to Dinneen’s 1954 book! 

“A story so detailed that it could only have come from someone who was on the inside of the job, both in its planning and its execution.”



Nina: 

 

Or someone who had read Dinneen’s book! O’Keefe claimed that he had been cheated out of 95% of his share of the loot. He hinted that he flipped because he felt that he had been double crossed by McGinnis. He also indicated that he was not the only one who had been cheated. Costa had lost out on $25,000; Richardson $20,000, and even Pino had been short-changed $10,000.

O’Keefe continued on in this vein, blaming everyone in the crew for how it all went sideways. And alleging that his accomplices had tried to kill him not once, but twice!

 

Lara:

 

Don’t forget Specs’ jailers said he was a model prisoner “they never had a better one!” With the help of their well behaved prisoner the Feds finally got their wish. Just before the 6th year , they were able to get indictments against the 11 suspects. The grand jury was comprised of 17 people, rather than the customary 23. The prosecutor's office said they didn’t want to hear about technicalities.

 

 

Nina:

 

On January 12th 6 of the suspects were arrested. Anthony Pino, Adolph “Jazz” Maffie, Vincent Costa, Michael Geagan, Joseph McGinnis and Henry Baker were all taken into custody. Jazz’s 6 year old son called the Quincy police when he saw his father being handcuffed. The officers arrived to find the FBI there.

 

Stanley Gusciora was already in custody in Pennsylvania.

 

Joseph Banfield had already died.

 

Sandy Richardson and James Faherty were on the lam with FBI Wanted Posters out for their arrest.



Lara:

 

Gus was extradited from Pennsylvania in May 1956. To say he wasn’t pleased with being roped into Specs’ story was an understatement. He told the media that the FBI had hounded him for six years. They had also harassed his family, showing up at their house two times a week, asking the same questions about the Brink's job over and over. 

 

The Feds had finally gotten to Specky, and he had lost his mind, Gus alleged, all the while maintaining his own innocence. 

 

Richardson and Faherty were finally arrested on May 17, 1956 in a Dorchester apartment while eating a beef stew dinner.

 

A little over two months later, Gusciora dropped dead in the prison hospital at Norfolk. The autopsy report came back with “acute cerebral edema” as the cause of death. He was just 36 years old. The Brinks trial was one month away.





Nina:

 

The trial began on August 27, 1956, after 13 days of wrangling to impanel a jury. 1181 people were challenged or disqualified prior to that. The jurors were sequestered and even an electronic ray gun was brought in to prevent any of them from watching any programming that might influence their deliberations. One court officer would be present with the ray gun gadget in hand while the jurors were watching tv or listening to the radio ready to zap it at any moment!

 

Lara:

 

As if they hadn’t already spent nearly three times the amount of the money stolen in order to have a trial! Special pillows, tours to Cape Cod, and movie outings filled the jurors’ weekends.

 

Nina:

 

The trial lasted until October 5, 1956. It took the jury 3 and a half hours to return a verdict of guilty for all of the men. Pino, Costa, Maffie, Geagan, Faherty, Richardson and Baker all received life sentences, 2 years for conspiracy to steal, and 8 to 10 years for breaking and entering at night. McGinnis, who was not present at the robbery, also received a life sentence for being an accessory before the fact, plus three other sentences ranging from 2 years to 10 years. All future appeals were rejected.

 

Lara:

 

Baker and McGinnis died in Walpole. During the trial Baker questioned O'Keefe's sanity in a petition to the court. He also alleged that O'Keefe was a "drug addict, a chronic liar, and one who liked to exhibit himself in the nude."

 

Maffie, Richardson, Costa, Faherty and Geagan were released in December of 1969.

 

Pino was released from prison in 1970. He ended up back in prison for 1 year and then passed away at home in October of 1973.

 

Costa along with Maffie and Richardson worked with Noel Behn to write The Big Stickup at Brink’s. In 1977 it was announced that Dino de Laurentis was Adapting the book for a movie, The Great Brinks Robbery. Each of them received a $10,000 advance plus royalties for the story. 

 

But Costa couldn’t stay out of trouble. He was arrested in 1976 for participating in a counterfeit ring and later for manslaughter in New York. While he was out on parole for the manslaughter charge, and supposed  lifetime parole for the Brink’s robbery, he was pinched with 3 ounces of cocaine in 1985.

 

Jazz Maffie and Sandy Richardson became stars with the making of the Brinks movie in 1978 signing autographs at the premier in Boston. Jazz passed away on September 27, 1988. Richardson passed on September 28, 1980.

 

Geagan called himself the staff sergeant and claimed they pulled off the Sturtevant job. His share was $23,000. He said he never fired a gun during a holdup. He also claimed to have plastic keys made for every Brink’s truck and to have been systematically pulling off heists for several years prior to the Brink’s heist. 

He said Specs didn’t lie in his testimony but he should have protected Gus and that Maffie didn’t take Specs’ money. They all blamed Gusciora for bringing Specs on.



O’Keefe ended up in Hollywood, and worked as Cary Grant's driver. He passed away in 1976 under an assumed name.

 

Nina:

But he had no problem telling everyone he met that he was involved in the Brink’s job!

 

Lara:

 

They’ve all long left this world, but their stories are still alive. Nina, do you want to share any of your theories with us about the robbery?



Nina:

 

Numerous articles and books have been written on the Brink’s job, and everyone just assumes that McNamara and his FBI team solved the crime. But I have to tell you, I find their results very dissatisfying. And you know that one of my hobbies is researching white collar crimes. So, of course, my mind went there almost immediately as an alternative hypothesis. That the heist was an inside job to cover up some kind of financial fraud. It’s like you’re more likely to be murdered by someone you know than by a stranger. Same principle.



Lara: 

 

So you’re thinking some sort of insurance fraud on the armored carrier’s part? Rather than a run of the mill employee such as a guard.

 

Nina: 

 

Right. And at first the Feds did think it was an inside job. But they seemed to only focus on the men who were at the scene of the crime. And after those men passed multiple lie detector tests, the Feds dropped that theory. 

 

Luckily, I don’t give up as easily as the FBI does. So I had to keep digging and pursuing my white collar crime theory. And that’s how I got to the insurance claims. 

 

The Brink’s company had a $5 million “all risk” policy with the British-based insurance company, Commercial Union {https://www.newspapers.com/clip/85318036/commercial-union-ins-policy-18-jan-1950/}. This policy included theft, and was held by a British firm because US law did not allow for universal policies. US firms could only insure against specific risks. Brinks also used US firms for specific risks and held $10 million in those types of policies. In addition, there was a $9 million universal policy with Lloyds of London. 

 

Lara:

 

Did anyone ever receive any of the reward money?

 

Nina:

 

Within 24 hours of the heist, Brinks offered a reward of $100,000 and Commercial Union offered a reward of $50,000 for any information leading to the capture and conviction of the bandits and any recovery of the loot {https://www.newspapers.com/image/433345662/}. These rewards were never paid out because the case was eventually solved by the FBI and they could not accept reward money as public servants. And then I guess Specs didn’t qualify as he was party to the crime. 

 

Then too, did they ever recover any of the loot?

 

Lara: 

 

$50K was found at Wimpy’s building in the summer of 1956. We will be covering that part of the Brink’s saga in episodes 7 and 9.

 

What about the insurance claims?

 

Nina: 

 

By late March 1950, more than 75% of the insurance claims on the Brink’s heist had been paid out. A big ad in the newspapers of New England was taken out by Commercial Union, who noted that over 100,000 people had been reimbursed {https://www.newspapers.com/clip/85319234/commercial-union-assurance-letter-31/}. By July of that year, $200,000 had still not been claimed {https://www.newspapers.com/image/433407417}. But I think that was just the checks. Remember that $1.2 million of what was stolen was cash. But then there was another $1.5 million in checks, money orders, and other securities.

 

Lara:

 

That’s strange. How long until all of the claims were submitted?

 

Nina:

 

I’m not sure if that $200 grand was ever claimed. But from what I could gather Brink’s was paid their portion of the claim within hours {https://www.newspapers.com/clip/85330019/where-is-brinks-cash-11-oct-1956/}. Some piece of that was covered by Lloyds of London, but I'm not sure what the percentage was. {https://www.newspapers.com/clip/85329813/brinks-insurance-payout-13-jan-1956/}.



Lara:

 

What about the Danvers job?

 

Nina:

 

Danvers was more straightforward. As a payroll robbery, the victims and the amounts owed to them were known. The amounts were reimbursed within 24 hours. Commercial Union was again the insurer. The guards were also bonded through Commercial Union. Of course the company suspended their coverage because they’d abandoned the truck in the square that morning {https://www.newspapers.com/image/433340049}. 

 

After George O’Brien was acquitted of that crime in April 1954, Commercial Union filed a claim for the $10,000 that had been seized from the O’Briens by the FBI. Even though there was no evidence that any of that money had come from the Danvers job.



Lara:

 

What a bunch of creeps! And what about the Brink’s company itself?

 

Nina:

 

Commercial Union’s American representative, Hugh Edward Reeves, had been a board member at Brink’s since 1941. In this dual role, he engineered Brink’s insurance policies and was intimately familiar with the operations of the company. I guess they were protecting their interests. But it seems like a conflict of interest to me.

 

Lara: 

 

No argument from me.

 

Nina: 

Then in March 1956, Reeves and other members of the Brink’s board filed an antitrust suit against the chairman of the board, J.D. Allen. The suit alleged that Allen was selling the company out from under them. Allen had already sold 44,500 shares to a New York-based holding company named Pittston {https://www.newspapers.com/clip/85032975/brinks-chairman-disposes-of-stock-27/} and was on the verge of selling 55,000 more to a Pittston subsidiary. If the sale was allowed to go through, Reeves’ lawsuit alleged, Pittston would have a monopoly {https://www.newspapers.com/clip/85330170/brinks-anti-trust-suit-13-march-1956/}.



Lara:

 

The two parties reached an agreement in 1957 {https://www.newspapers.com/clip/85337333/pittston-gains-control-of-brinks-9-jan/}

But the purchase wasn’t completed until 1962. Pittston changed its name to Brink’s in 2003. And it’s still probably the most recognizable name in armored transport. 

 

Nina:

 

It’s just suspicious to me that Allen sold his shares just as the indictments were coming down for the Brink’s case. The company had also been having labor troubles in the form of strikes the previous year, though. Maybe he was just over it. 

But I’m still leaning toward insurance fraud in both cases. At least it makes more sense than the crew the Feds picked up. Now what about Mr. X?

 

Lara:

 

I still have my doubts that any of the men in that crew were capable of planning such an elaborate heist. We’ve got a crew stealing golf balls, shoplifting clothes,exposing themselves and pulling smaller jobs, so it’s a tough sell for me. Yes, Costa, Maffie and  Richardson “confessed” to the author who was writing the Brink’s book, but they had already done the time and might as well have profited from it. I’m not questioning their involvement necessarily. Only their ability to plan it.

 

Nina:

 

Don’t forget that when Billie got picked up after his lawnmower adventure, the Feds were still sure that Mr X was out there. They thought that he was the mastermind behind Granite Trust and that he was getting a 25% cut for every job that he planned.

 

Lara:

 

As I mentioned earlier Jack openly states much later in court that he planned numerous heists over the years for other crews. As for the keys and their claim to have keys to every Brink’s truck in Boston, plastic no less I don’t buy it. I do know that in the ‘60s Jack had a guy from Canada that was making keys for him to the trucks they were going to hit.

 

Nina:

 

That definitely makes sense with the Danver’s job. We know that they couldn’t have picked the locks on the truck. Apparently a spare key for each truck was just sitting out at the garage on Prince Street where anyone could grab them when they needed to. So it makes sense that Jack would have had the key made. 

 

And then there was a report early on in the case that the usual guard downstairs had the night off. No one was assigned to take his place {https://www.newspapers.com/clip/85328402/guard-on-night-off-18-jan-1950/}. The door that he usually guarded was left unlocked, and that’s allegedly how the men got in. But we never hear about him again.

 

Lara:

 

I do want to mention the statement from the BPD LT. who was Pino’s alibi the night of the heist. He, Mcginnis and Pino were in McGinnis’ liquor store in Dorchester at 7 PM that evening. To get from Dorchester to the North End in 10 minutes, even if the streets were empty is nearly impossible. Anyone who knows Boston and the traffic there will attest to that. Yes it was 1950, but if you read the FBI reports from surveillance of the suspects at that time they were constantly losing them in the traffic. 

 

Nina: 

 

And I thought the traffic in LA was bad!

 

Lara:

 

I suffered through that once. You guys at least keep moving. We’re at a standstill blowing the horn and cursing one another!

 

Nina:

 

So does it make sense to you that nobody saw them enter the building at 7 o’clock on a weeknight?

 

Lara:

 

Especially in the North End! There was a woman who came forward several days later who said she saw a fancy, black sedan, but no other eyewitnesses. And that’s the end of our Brink’s story.

 

We’d  love to hear from you if you have any thoughts or theories about the Brink’s job! Please email me at lara@doubledealpodcast.com

Next week we will be discussing Roy Appleton - Conman to Armorer. We hope you listen in.

Pandering time! Please subscribe, follow, like and share. The show notes didn’t make it up last week. I’ll take the blame for that. All of the links are in the show notes below and a full transcript is available on our website. Thank you for listening!

 

BYE!