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Dec. 20, 2021

The Great Plymouth Mail Robbery


Last week we told you how the Plymouth Mail Robbery job dropped into Jack Kelley's lap in a Watertown diner, and introduced you to the Dream Team Jack assembled to take down the largest cash score in history. This week Jack decides on a date and the team executes his plan. Meanwhile, Richie works with the FBI and Narcotics Agents in a sting operation.

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)

For a transcript of this episode visit our website. Follow us on Twitter for sneak peeks of upcoming episodes. You can also find us on Instagram and Facebook.

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

Thank you for listening!

All the best,

Lara & Nina

Transcript

Lara:

 

Welcome back everyone! If you haven’t listened to last week’s episode yet, we recommend that you listen to that one first. You can hear about the planning of the heist, the men involved and how it came to be. As I said in that episode, this is the story I know. The story I heard from my father, and the one he told Ernest Tidyman, when he was writing Big Bucks. It is the same story I heard Roy Appleton and dad reminisce about in the 1970s, and the same story I heard Mello Merlino and dad talk ragtime about later in the ‘90s. Just as Ernest Tidyman believed dad’s version of events, I do too. This is one of the most famous “unsolved” crimes of the 20th century.



Nina:

 

As we also mentioned in last week's episode, we made FOIA requests to all pertinent Federal and local law enforcement agencies in an effort to obtain documents to verify their version of events. The agencies claim that the documents have since been destroyed. Luckily, some of the FBI documents were part of the ones released in the JFK assasination documents. In those documents were some of Postal Agent Jencunas’ surveillance records of Jack Kelley and Richie. 

 

Pro Lerner was also under constant surveillance, but Pro didn’t actually meet Jack until after the mail robbery. At the time of the robbery he was in Raleigh, North Carolina playing for a minor league baseball team, the Raleigh Capitals. He played in 11 games that month including a 10 -1 win that ran late into the evening on August 13th at Devereux Meadows in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. He hit a two run homer during a game also in North Carolina on the 15th, the day after the heist. You can’t be in two places at one time. And Pro’s performance on home base was in the newspapers every time he played. 

 

Vinnie Teresa’s story of Billie Aggie originally being part of the plot to take the truck with Jack has been a long standing theory, but in our opinions not even remotely accurate. When Jack was released from prison he vowed to never go back there. To make sure he didn’t, he also vowed he’d never do another score with Billie. Jack wasn’t one to make the same mistake twice. We will get more into how Billie fits into the story and how Pro becomes part of Jack’s crew in the next two episodes.






Lara:

 

In addition, we collected newspaper articles pertaining to the case. Many of which stated that dad was a suspect in the heist, and of course,the postal inspectors’ surveillance of him. And then there is F. Lee Bailey’s book, The Defense Never Rests. We will cover that in future episodes. I had a chance to speak to Bailey a few weeks before he passed. I wish I had been able to speak to him earlier as his health was already failing at that time. He had hours of recordings of dad that I was hoping to gain access to. What he called “The Chicofsky Affair” was part of a string of events that led to his first disbarment proceeding. 



Nina:

 

With all that said, let’s start discussing the heist.

 

After two months of planning and plotting, Jack had decided on a date. The transports were being done on Tuesdays, and Jack chose August the 14th. The Kennedy clan was out of town including the President who was on the West Coast. The President’s mother was in the South of France. His brother, Bobby, the Attorney General, too was away. Only the President’s wheelchair bound father was in Hyannis Port, so there would only be a few Secret Service men in the area and no helicopter surveillance. The timing was perfect.



Lara:

 

Jack’s car thief, Eddie, last name unknown to me, had the vehicles ready and the triptych license plates that Jack preferred to use had been made. They were three separate license plates, cut and welded together that looked completely realistic, and untraceable. Roy acted as the communications officer. Each crew member was told to meet at Roy’s house the morning of the robbery. Roy was still in the used car business, and having a bunch of vehicles parked at his house wasn’t an uncommon sight and wouldn’t arouse any suspicions in his neighbors. 



Nina:

 

This would be the first time that all of them would be working together as one team. Richie, Jack and Tommy had done 2 scores together already. Tommy and Jack had been out together in the past. Jack and Roy also. Sonny and Mello had been robbing together since they were kids, and they had taken a score with Jack. But they’d never worked as one crew before. They of course all knew each other going back to Concord prison, and had spent endless hours together over the past three months reviewing what each of their roles would be in the heist.




Lara:

 

The night before Jack reviewed the rules with each of them. No alcohol was allowed the night before or day of, they were to go to bed early and get up early. Their normal morning routines of showering, shaving etc were to be adhered to but no breakfast, only coffee or OJ. This was so no one would get sick and vomit, leaving evidence behind if something went wrong and a shooting occurred. Each was told to dress as they normally would for the day as to not arouse anyone’s suspicions.



Nina:

 

Sonny and Mello met at their garage on Huntington Ave in Boston at 7:30 am, and traveled to Roy’s house in Sonny’s car. Richie, who was always an early riser, was up at 4. He picked up Tommy on the corner near Tommy’s house in Weymouth at 7:15. Tommy had taken the day off from work, but didn’t tell his wife. He left his home dressed for work and a bag of sandwiches in hand. Jack drove on his own and was already at Roy’s house by the time the others arrived. Roy’s wife Ann was used to men coming and going and thought nothing of it. She served them all coffee, and left them alone in the kitchen. 



Lara:

 

Jack began to question each of them as to whether or not they ate, drank etc. After hearing their responses, he reviewed where the vehicles and equipment were. The gold Pontiac, Blue Oldsmobile sedan, and black Ford pickup truck were parked a few blocks from Roy’s house in Avon behind a restaurant. Jack, Mello and dad had moved the vehicles the day before. Roy had placed two Lama 9 mms and 2 submachine guns fully loaded in each vehicle. He’d also delivered the 46 long police uniform to the Oldsmobile neatly folded and wrapped in paper. Three roadblocks that had been stolen from the highway department were under a tarp in the back of the pickup truck. Tommy’s dress and wig were in a paper bag in the Pontiac. Jack once again questioned each of the men about how they felt. Everyone assured him they were just fine. 



Nina:

 

Tommy, Roy, Richie, Sonny and Mello sat around the table talking about the McLeans and the McLaughlins, the tension in the city, the Angiulos and so on. Jack refrained from taking part in the idle chatter and gangster gossip. At 1pm he told them it was time to head out. They left for the restaurant to switch cars. No one was worried about someone complaining about the unattended vehicles. Jack owned the place through a straw corporation. Jack also owned one in Acton. They parked away from one another and each pair took their vehicle after the roadblocks were moved to the Oldsmobile. Tommy and Roy in the Pontiac, Richie and Jack in the Oldsmobile and Sonny and Mello in the pickup truck. They left five minutes apart from one another.



Lara:

 

The meetup point was the picnic area at the Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth. Each took a different route and arrived separately. They were to appear as if they were unknown to each other. They arrived under light rain between 3 pm and 3:30 pm. Jack watched his men intently thinking about what they were capable of under pressure, and their ability to be ruthless when the need arose. The team had to be cohesive as their lives were in each other’s hands. 

At 4 pm, Jack decided it was time to move out. Tommy was sitting at a picnic table and he told him to get in his disguise. Tommy went into the back of the Pontiac and put his wig, dress, heels and red lipstick on. He mumbled “fuck you” under his breath as he made his way to the front seat under the watchful eyes of his cohorts and Roy behind the wheel. They were to drive to the Clark Road overpass to watch out for the mail truck. When the mail truck was in sight they were to signal dad and Jack who would be watching them through binoculars from the Clark Rd exit on Rte 3.



Nina:

 

But first Jack had to change into his police uniform. He left the tunic and cap off for the time being so as to not draw attention to himself. It was Jack’s job to set up the roadblocks to divert traffic off of rte 3 while they were taking the truck. Sonny and Mello would wait 15 minutes before they left to take their position on the northbound side where the trees blocked the view to the southbound side. They pulled off onto the shoulder and raised the hood of the pickup pretending to have engine trouble. There they waited. 



Lara:

 

With each two man team in their positions, all that was left to do was wait for the red, white and blue Dodge van to arrive. But as time passed each of them realized that the mail truck was not on its usual schedule. After months of tracking the transport, it was clear that they were very punctual and consistent, but not this day.



Nina:

 

Little did they know that the two postals had decided to stop off for a beer! They dropped in at Wally’s which was about 6 miles off of their normal route. They parked the truck out of sight behind a garage and were greeted with open arms by the proprietor. After exchanging pleasantries, they settled in to enjoy their beers.



Lara:

 

Roy and Tommy were anxious. They knew they couldn’t stay out in the open on the overpass for long without drawing attention to themselves. Maybe someone would stop,  thinking that there was a woman in need of help. Once someone was close enough they would realize that Tommy was anything but a woman. He was sweating and the wig was making his head itch. Roy was his usual overly energized self, and was nervous that they would miss the truck and fail to signal Jack. They had started driving back and forth on the overpass rather than staying parked. Tommy kept the binoculars to his eyes straining to see the truck in the distance. Both knew that by this time the truck should have already passed their watchpoint, and all they could think or say was, “where the fuck is the truck?”



Nina:

 

In the meantime, Jack and Richie were watching the frantic pair through their binoculars. Jack muttered, “what the hell are they doing?” Richie confirmed that they were indeed driving back and forth. He offered that maybe something was bothering them. Jack said, “I’ll bother them with a kick in the ass!”



Lara:

 

Tommy and Roy weren’t the only ones getting anxious. Sonny and Mello were in even more distress particularly as they couldn’t see their fellow crew members from where they were because of the island of trees. Mello kept saying that there was a chance the others were picked up. Sonny tried to convince him that Jack would have called the whole thing off if he saw any signs of the law and they hadn’t seen a single cruiser pass by. Sonny did his best to reassure Mello that there must be a problem with the mail truck and not with their fellow thieves.



Nina:

 

The two beer swilling postals cleared out of Wally’s at 7:30 pm. At 7:43 Tommy and Roy finally spotted the mail truck coming towards them at about 45 mph. It was still drizzling and beginning to get dark. Tommy couldn’t believe his eyes. He jumped out of the car and ran to the opposite side of the overpass and gave the signal to Jack and Richie.






Lara:

 

Jack told dad to open the trunk. Jack threw on the tunic, buttoned up and put on his cap. At 7:47 Jack set up the roadblocks across the highway just as the postals passed them, and ran back to the Oldsmobile where dad was waiting behind the wheel. Dad already had the car in gear. He slipped his foot off the brake and floored the accelerator. They flew down the highway in a matter of seconds. 



Nina:

 

The postals saw the Oldsmobile speeding past them. Sonny and Mello also saw Jack and Richie on the move and immediately felt relieved. Both of them removed their machine guns from under their seats and placed them beside them. Sonny saw Jack and Richie pull up about 25 yards behind them and slipped the pickup into reverse. Jack stepped out with the submachine gun in his left hand, but held down along his side. He nodded to Sonny and Mello and stood beside his vehicle while his vision was focused on the mail truck up the road.



Lara:

 

At 7:51 the truck was coming along the bend. The postals saw Jack at the side of the Oldsmobile and must have assumed the speeding vehicle they had seen fly past them had been stopped by the Staties. Jack stepped out into the road and flagged down the mail truck with his right hand motioning them to pull over in the stretch between the pickup truck and the Oldsmobile.



Nina:

 

The postals thought that maybe they needed a witness to the speeding driver of the Oldsmobile. As they pulled off the road and came to a stop the pickup truck backed up in a flash to within an inch of the front bumper and the Oldsmobile barreled forward to within an inch of the rear bumper. Sonny and Mello were out of the pickup, machine guns drawn in a flash, and rushing the doors. Richie and Jack were approaching from the rear, also with their machine guns raised as backup.



Lara:

 

The startled postals now facing the barrels of four Sten guns didn’t even go for their weapons.

Sonny growled, “open the fucking doors or you’re dead.” Patrick Schena told him the doors weren’t locked. Sonny yanked open the driver’s door while Mello opened the passengers side and both yanked the postals out, removed their sidearms and hustled them into the back of the mail truck. Jack told William Barrett to open the rear doors. Barrett was rattled and couldn’t fit the key in the lock. Jack ripped the keys from his hand, opened the doors and ordered them both to get in the back of the truck.



Nina:

 

Jack handed his machine gun to Richie and climbed in to restrain the postals with tape and ropes and blindfolded and gagged them with rags with the assistance of Sonny. Once the postals were immobilized, Jack grabbed one of their caps, hopped out of the back and closed the doors with Sonny still guarding their captives. Jack got behind the wheel and took off with Mello behind the wheel of the pickup and Richie behind the wheel of the Oldsmobile on Jack’s tail. Jack had designated 4 minutes to take the truck, and they had.



Lara:

 

In the meantime Roy and Tommy collected the roadblocks. They counted 30 vehicles that had been detoured by those roadblocks off to the narrow streets around Buzzards Bay. As they raced off to join their compatriots, Tommy ripped off the wig, dress and shoes and wiped off the streak of red lipstick from his face. His disguise would muddle up the investigation for years.



Nina:

 

Jack took the first cutoff north of the Clark Road exit off of rte 3. He drove aimlessly for 90 minutes in an effort to confuse the two restrained postals. During the journey Jack and Sonny shouted at each other using the names Buster and Tony. The postals would later recall that Buster ordered Tony to make three different stops and unload the leather and canvas bags. The endless ride and multiple stops were designed to confuse the two postals and leave them with false clues and information. Sonny would snarl and growl from time to time which led them to believe there was a dog in the back with them.



Lara:

 

Mello followed them for the first 25 minutes of the journey. Roy and Tommy were in tow. Dad wasn’t far behind in the Oldsmobile. On that first stop, only a few blocks from the on ramp to rte 3, all of the loot, the weapons, Jack’s Statie tunic and cap and Tommy’s disguise were loaded into the pickup. Tommy took over driving the pickup truck and Mello and Roy switched to the Oldsmobile and moved the roadblocks with them. Dad continued following the mail truck but now in the Pontiac while Sonny, Jack and the postals were still inside. They abandoned the mail truck and two postal employees on Rte. 128 near the Randolph cutoff. It was the perfect location as they could pick up Rte 24 south and be back in Avon in a matter of minutes. 

As they left, Jack yelled back to Sonny, “I’ll see you in Providence!”

 

Dad picked up Sonny and Jack a few feet from the truck and headed to Avon where Sonny, Jack’s and his car were still waiting. Sonny would dump the Pontiac just over the Brockton line, walk back to his car and make it home at a reasonable hour. Two decoy getaway cars had already been left north of the Clark Road exit the night before by Sonny and Tommy. They had been stolen in Revere weeks prior just for that purpose. 



Nina:

 

As Tommy drove home to Weymouth in the pickup truck, he thought how perfect it all went. It was only 8:30 pm, and he would be home by 9. His wife, kids and mother-in-law were at the movies leaving him plenty of time to stash the equipment and the loot behind the wallboard he had already loosened in his basement. That would leave him enough time to dump the pickup truck and be home waiting for his family, beer in hand, and watching TV.



Lara:

 

Roy and Mello joked around on their ride to torch the Oldsmobile. Roy laughed about how the wig was driving Tommy crazy and said, “I’ll never go on a caper with that broad again.” Mello laughed for the first time in months. They made their way to Dorchester where they torched the car with the two gallon can of gasoline they had in the trunk. Mello’s car was parked a few blocks away. He drove Roy home where he wanted to relax by reading, but they had other plans. Mello was focused on the next day’s baseball game and what bet he would place.



Nina:

 

Roughly two hours after the robbery, the postals managed to escape the bindings of the tape and rope. Relieved to be alive, they were shaking and laughing. At first they couldn’t get their bearings, but then realized they were near the Randolph exit of rte 128. They stood there, their legs still bound, waving their arms trying to get passing motorists to stop to help them. It was still raining and at that time of night people weren’t willing to stop.



Lara:

 

Finally, a 22 year old student from Ecuador, Ricardo Unda Freiere, who was on a scooter stopped. The postals screamed, “Robbery, call the police!” Unda Freiere took off to find a payphone to call them. The man who answered his call thought he was a crank. Frustrated, Unda Freiere drove to Stoughton and approached the first cop he saw. That cop took him to the police station. There the police chief grilled him and wanted to know why he was in the US! But finally they took his claim seriously, and the alarm was sounded!



Nina:

 

In the meantime, Jack had arrived home around 9:30 pm. He and his wife greeted each other. He fed his two Siamese cats and left on his own. The plan was for all of them to meet at their favorite haunt, The Scene, except for Tommy as it would have been out of the ordinary for him to be hanging out rather than at home. Jack wanted them all to be seen out in public in case anyone was asking questions. By the time Jack arrived, Richie was already at the bar. The next to arrive were Sonny and Mello, together as always, hence their nickname, the Bobbsey Twins. As Roy was walking in, so was Billie Aggie! 



Lara:

 

Billie couldn’t contain himself. “Jesus Christ, did you hear about the score on the Cape?”

 

Roy tried to fluff it off and said, “what’s to steal, fish?”

 

Billie said, “no, someone took down a mail truck in Plymouth for $2 to $3 million. It’s all over the news!”

 

In total shock Roy said, “no shit!” His surprise was genuine as none of them had any idea exactly what the amount of the score that they’d just taken was.



Nina:

 

Billie continued rambling on about how someone took the score in Kennedy’s backyard and on and on. Roy knew Billie was too shrewd to be running around acting hysterical over a heist. He knew Billie was there on a hunting expedition to see who might be responsible for taking the truck, hoping to see some acknowledgement on Roy’s face. But Billie got nothing from Roy. Billie knew it could have only been two or three men and one of those was his former partner, Jack. In Roy’s mind Billie was treacherous. After all, who would rob a bank while their mother was being buried, thinking it would be the perfect alibi? Billie!






Lara:

 

As Roy and Billie made their way into the bar, Jack spotted Billie. Billie was no match for Jack. Jack broke Billie’s balls about not really being Greek. But Billie couldn’t resist asking, “where’ve you been all night?”

 

Jack replied, “looking for you! It’s your birthday and I wanted to buy you a drink.”

 

It wasn’t Billie’s birthday, but it was enough to throw him off. Not one to ease up when he had someone on the ropes, Jack asked Billie where he had been all night. Billie knew Jack was way ahead of him. Billie was glad to have been at the drive-in with his wife and in-laws and a prior heart attack as an alibi. Given Billie’s record, he knew he himself would be at the top of the list of suspects. Billie would change his story slightly down the road saying he didn’t hear about the robbery until the following day, but consistency was never one of Billie’s attributes.

 

Billie snapped back, “I wasn’t on the Cape if that’s what you're thinking! You know they knocked a truck off for $2 mill down there tonight.” The birthday comment didn’t even register in Billie’s mind.

 

Jack whistled as he was genuinely impressed with that number. And dad almost choked on his cigar and ended up in a coughing fit. Like Roy, dad had no idea the size of the score they made. Roy started pounding dad’s back giving them a moment to exchange a look of amazement and pride. It might sound crazy to “normal people”, but they knew they had just made history. They had just taken down the largest cash score ever.



Nina:

 

The following day the news and the newspapers were filled with stories and theories about what was labeled the Great Plymouth Mail Robbery. The two postal guards, Patrick Schena and William Barrett’s statements filled the newspapers. They described a man about 6’ tall in horn rimmed glasses and a police uniform as the one who stopped the mail truck. Schena said when he stepped on the brake, two cars shot out and blocked them in. He stated the man in the uniform and another man ran up on them with machine guns pointed at them. Both stated they saw 4 men in total and that the one wearing the police uniform drove the mail truck. The two vehicles that were found and the third near the Randolph cut off were all dusted for prints and searched. Other than a roll of wrapping paper in the car found in Randolph, they came up empty handed. That car wasn’t even part of the heist.







Lara:

 

A spokesman from the Federal Reserve said that it had only been three weeks since they started using mail trucks to transport money from the Cape. It was time to start covering their own asses. 

 

The escort service had been canceled on July 17. But nobody seemed to know who had given the order to cancel it. This statement was contradictory to their prior claim that they were only transporting money in the mail trucks for 3 weeks.

 

The Post Office Regional Director’s office claimed that the police escorts were canceled because the police were too busy with Summer traffic and other duties.

 

A State Police Official said the escorts were canceled after the commander of the Middleboro barracks was notified that the Post Office Department would handle things its own way.



Nina:

 

Another excuse was that the State Police Convoy would attract undue attention and make the mail truck a more likely target.



Lara:

 

A million and one excuses. 



Nina:

 

There was never a police escort, at least according to Makris. 

 

And, of course, the press couldn’t resist resurrecting the Brink’s and Danvers jobs, pointing out that the Brink’s job was only “solved” six years later when Specky flipped, and that none of the money was ever recovered from the Danvers heist.



Lara:

 

The media also picked up on the similarities to the Fall River job in 1935. We mentioned this incident briefly in the Raymond Patriarca episode

 

On a cold snowy day in mid-January 1935, five armed robbers with machine guns and automatic pistols kidnapped a driver of the US Mail truck and escaped with two registered mail sacks that had been sent by the Federal Reserve in Boston to the BMC Durfee Trust Company in Fall River. The bags had arrived on the morning train from Boston. The driver of the mail truck, Herbert Reid, didn’t make it far from the train station when he was hijacked. 

 

Reid said that two men jumped on each of the running boards of his truck, held him at gunpoint, and forced him to turn onto the next street. After Reid had turned, they told him to stop the truck. They then blindfolded him with a handkerchief and put him in the back on the floor of a waiting black sedan. The truck and the sedan continued on the South Somerset road and turned off on a lonely wooded road in Swansea. 



Nina:

 

When they stopped, the thieves took the mail bags they were looking for. The blindfold was removed from Reid's eyes and replaced with adhesive tape. The tape was also used to bind his hands and feet and another piece was used to cover his mouth. They placed him back in the sedan. Another car was waiting and the thieves escaped in this vehicle. Reid was eventually able to free himself and made his way to the highway where he was able to get someone to take him back to Fall River.

 

Eventually the cops had zeroed in on a gang operating out of Rhode Island, and two suspects ended up at Alcatraz.



Lara:

 

The theories as to who pulled off the Plymouth heist were all over the map.  

 

The fact that machine guns were used led to speculation that the holdup might have been staged by a notorious New York gang. Albert “Bumpy” Nussbaum and Bobby “One Eye” Wilcoxson were already wanted by the Feds for a bank holdup in Brooklyn that had netted $35,000, and resulted in the murder of a guard. Nussbaum had allegedly been seen in West Abington in May by a cop who had stopped to see if he was ok. Instead Nussbaum shot at the cop and then fled on foot. Wilcoxson and Nussbaum were believed to have a young blonde haired woman of about 18 years old with them. The three were reportedly seen in Braintree the following month on Rte 128.

 

Descriptions of the three and photos of the two men were placed in the newspaper in hopes that the public might be able to help identify them as culprits in the Plymouth Heist. 

 

That theory was quickly discarded by the FBI when they learned that the gang were no longer in New England.



Nina:

 

It was quite some time before law enforcement revealed that the two postal agents had diverted from their prescribed route. But even then the guards lied, saying they’d stopped off to visit a sick colleague, leaving out the part that it was in a barroom.

 

Barrett had replaced the usual guard who had been out on sick leave for almost a week due to nerves, before leaving to go on his annual vacation. The regular guard told the press that he would stand in the back throughout the whole trip with his .38 unholstered, looking out the back window at anyone following too closely for too long. 

 

“Nobody ever followed us.” he said, “I can’t understand it -- nobody was supposed to know about the trips.”



Lara:

 

Jack had been following them nearly every trip since June at that point. The route was always the same. Then the story changed from the robbers having submachine guns to being armed with shotguns. By the way, the two .38 caliber sidearms that were taken from the postals were never recovered. And if the second guard always rode in the back, why was Barrett up front? Then there was the story that they stopped off to see their ailing friend before they collected the money, but we know that was another lie because the banks would have already been closed by then on a Tuesday afternoon. More ass covering on the part of the postals. A telling statement was made by Chief Postal Inspector William F. White when asked if transporting the money in that fashion was a risk. His response, “That’s hard to say. If we say yes, we look stupid. If we say no, we still look stupid.”



Nina:

 

Nothing they were going to say would change that!

 

There was also the implication from locals that it was a little too easy for Jack and his crew to commit the heist:

 

“I think that they succeeded in fattening a pigeon for the kill,” one Cape banker was quoted as saying.



Lara: 

 

A local postal official agreed, saying: “It was set up made-to-order from beginning to end.”




Nina: 

 

The usual guard also stated, “When we set up the special run we were careful not to follow any pattern.”





Lara:



As I said before, the claim that they were always using different routes to transport the money each week was also an effort to cover their asses and not look like fools. There was no shortage of contradictory information coming from the postal authorities.

 

Everything from how long the transports had been running, the route and the reasons seemed to change on a daily basis.



Nina:

 

This was not the job of amateurs, The Boston Globe noted. “The smooth as silk hold up of the mail truck could only have come as a result of long and careful planning.”

 

“Behind the actual caper, police said, must have lain hours and hours of plotting and rehearsal.”

 

“No unnecessary violence. No jittery fingers on the trigger of the machine guns, no bare hands to leave fingerprints… these were the result of precise planning and exceptional execution.”



Lara: 

 

It was at this point that the local authorities were finally told about the brand new system of moving the money via mail trucks. Something Jack had known for months from his friend, John Makris. 



Nina:

 

That wasn’t the only hole in their security. According to reports, the local banks on the Cape were also very blase about their own security. 

 

“One bank official used to drive up to the Hyannis Post Office in his private car with hundreds of thousands of dollars for shipment. Postal officials pleaded with him to call for a police escort. He finally did, but only after the Post Office refused to install a mail box outside the bank.”



Lara:

 

Think about how risky that was! If Jack only knew.



Nina:

 

Madness really considering the number of armed robberies at that time.

 

While the authorities were chasing their tails, Jack and his crew were waiting to find out the final tally of their score. That Friday night Richie waited for Jack outside of his Watertown home. Jack was always home by 6 on Friday evening to give his wife her weekly household allowance. It was his standard practice and it had become Richie’s role to count out the $75, comprised of a variety of bills. Not once or twice but three times. Same procedure as always. Jack loved ritual, routine and of course, his superstitions. 

 

While Richie was sitting in the car waiting for Jack, he couldn’t help but feel disgust for the array of trash, rolaid wrappers, newspapers and cardboard coffee carriers. To top it off there were orange peels and apple cores amongst the debris. Richie was desperate to clean up the mess, but he figured it was just another of Jack’s superstitions. Worse than the trash getting on his nerves was the unknown of what their haul actually was. They had been waiting for three days, and he was sure he wasn’t the only one dying to know.



Lara:

 

They were all going insane, except Jack. Imagine Tommy! The temptation of the loot sitting behind a panel in his basement, just inches from his fingertips. Mello was ready to punch holes in the wall, and Sonny was a wreck trying to keep Mello calm. And Roy! He couldn’t even find solace in his endless hours of reading. Instead he had been pacing until he nearly wore a hole in the carpet of his living room. But soon their anxiety would be alleviated. 

 

When Jack finally plopped himself down in the passenger's seat, he told dad, “go!” 

 

“Where are we going, the diner?” 

 

“No, head to Tommy’s. We’re having the count.”



Nina:

 

Roy had already received the call from Jack to find Sonny and Mello and to inform Tommy that they would be meeting at Tommy’s house that evening. Finding Sonny and Mello was a task. Sonny had decided to take Mello fishing in an effort to calm him down. Sonny’s wife, Patricia, informed Roy that they were out on a boat. Roy knew exactly whose boat. 



Lara:

 

Vinnie Teresa would invite people on his boat to have meetings out of reach of wiretaps and listening devices. 



Nina:

 

He would know all about the listening devices! His handler, John Kehoe, had to listen to them every day.



Lara:



The man was a fucking informant! He was a wire! A live one! At least as early as 1962. Good old BS812-TE!



Nina: 

 

Well, that was still a secret at that time.

 

Back to the count. All that was left was for Tommy to persuade his wife to go and visit her mother with the kids. 

 

 

Lara:

 

Sonny and Mello were already cruising the neighborhood looking for a safe place to park. Dad and Jack had watched them pass as they were waiting to see Tommy’s wife leave. Roy had parked about 4 blocks away. Jack entered first, followed by Roy, then dad. Mello entered the house next and finally Sonny. They all stood in silence in Tommy’s kitchen near the basement door. Jack and Tommy went down the stairs first and the others waited for Jack’s signal to descend the steps. Dad was the last to pass through the basement door and locked it behind him. Tommy took a claw hammer and removed the panel with ease. One by one Tommy removed the sacks and spilled the money out onto his workbench. Each of them smiled at the sight of all that cash, even stone-faced Jack. Another one of those soft whistles of Jack’s escaped from his lips.



Nina:

 

The men began to count. Low and behold in Roy’s stack there was a counterfeit $20 bill. Roy was appalled at the poor quality of it. Richie lit one of his ever present cigars with it. The boys laughed, except Jack. He made Richie scoop up the ash from the bill and put it in his pocket to dispose of elsewhere. No traces of evidence to be left! 

 

It took them 2 hours and 20 minutes to sort the money into piles by denomination. They each counted their stacks without writing the amount down. Upon completion each of them reported their amount to Jack who calculated the total in his head. Including the handful of counterfeit bills, the total was $1,551,277.

$2000 in $1000 bills

$12,000 in $100 bills

$24,000 in $50 bills

$452,000 in $20 bills

$792,000 in $10 bills

$139,000 in $5 bills

$4100 in unlucky $2 bills

$42,700 in $1 bills

The balance was in coins.



Lara:

 

The total may not have been as high as the news had initially reported, but it was the largest cash heist in history at that time. $150,000 was counted out and placed in a double paper shopping bag and sealed with masking tape. Tribute to George. George being Raymond Patriarca. The payment would not be made directly, but rather through the proper chain. Peter Limone would transport the money to Raymond after it went through Jerry Angiulo. 

 

$60,000 was put to the side for Jack to pay back the shylocks. $250,000 was divided evenly amongst the 5 men of Jack’s crew, and another $50,000 for Jack and partial good faith payments to Makris. Over $1,000,000 was returned to 8 mail sacks and sealed back into Tommy’s wall.

 

I have to gripe again about Vinnie Teresa and his tall tales. He claimed in his book that Jack washed the money from the mail truck for .80 cents on the dollar. The money was clean and untraceable. He never laundered money from that score. Vinnie portrayed himself as a crime encyclopedia inserting himself into every crime in New England. He made Richie’s stories seem like little white lies.



Nina:

 

You have such a resentment against Vinnie!

 

In the meantime, John Makris was waiting for his cut. From the day of his meeting at the diner in Watertown with Jack, they’d had zero contact with one another. There he was sitting in the postal annex listening to the investigators discuss the case day in and day out. He decided he would include a paragraph about the new investigator being assigned to the case knowing full well that Jack would be reading every newspaper cover to cover. Makris hoped to pique Jack’s interest and maybe get a face to face meeting and his 10% finder’s fee finally in his pockets.



Lara: 

 

As the days passed with no contact, Makris tried another tactic. He told his colleagues in the press that he had written a script for a one-hour TV drama modeled off another mail robbery that had taken place in 1921. Unfortunately, Makris’ project had been shelved due to budget constraints. 

 

“You can imagine how amazed I was when I learned those guys down in Plymouth had pulled practically the same caper. Fortunately my script has been kept under lock and key and only the Hollywood people and certain postal inspectors have read it.”

 

The Plymouth job wasn’t exactly according to script, though. In Makris’ version of the story, “...a dishonest postal worker supplies the necessary inside information to pull off the robbery.” 



Nina: 

 

To make even more certain that he got Jack’s attention, Makris made sure to insert a couple of little jabs:

“These guys should have read my book before they attempted the robbery. The postal inspectors never give up. There is no statute of limitations. They’ll keep on investigating this crime, even if it takes twenty years until they catch all those involved.”

 

Makris continued by stating that he thought Jack’s fatal mistake was showing his face.

“Now the inspectors have composite sketches of two of them. Those composites will be distributed all over the country.”



Lara:

 

Soon Makris started getting his cut in dribs and drabs. First it was $8000 in a shoebox that was sent by parcel post. Then one morning he found $3700 in an envelope over the sunvisor of his car. Another morning while on the train commuting to work a man sat beside him and placed a brown paper lunch bag next to him. At the next stop the man got off and left the bag containing $27,400. That would have to do for now. But Makris knew Jack was a man of his word, and would make good on the rest.



Nina:

 

While the authorities were forming task forces, hauling in suspects and grasping at straws, Jack and his crew were going about their business. Sonny and Mello were at their gas station and garage. Of course there was the temptation to gamble gnawing away at both of them. Tommy was climbing up poles and down holes as he would any other day. Roy was down at his car lot selling vehicles, but unlike in the old days, there were real cars and customers. 



Lara: 

 

Dad, who never really worked, other than the necessity of a parole job or hanging around our family’s store on Charles St, spent most of his time driving Jack around town. Jack didn’t keep normal hours, so dad would nap when Jack was in his home or on some pitstop. Jack would nap while dad drove. 

 

Occasionally, Jack would pose some odd question like “Where do all the birds go to die?” The a/c had to be on with the windows open or otherwise you’d catch a cold. And the diner trips to far flung dumps in Connecticut or Maine or wherever Jack fancied. Dad wouldn’t step foot in one of those places and took it as an opportunity to get some shut eye. But there was a method to Jack’s madness. All of the endless road trips were Jack’s way of plotting his defense and offense against the authorities.



Nina:

 

Well, Richie did have some free time. As we’ve mentioned in previous episodes, SA H Paul Rico arrested Richie while he was transporting weapons for the McLaughlins shortly after the Essex Trust Robbery in the first half of ‘62. Rico used the possibility of life in prison to pressure Richie into becoming a Confidential Informant. 

 

Richie, though, ignored the “Confidential” part of Rico’s deal, confessing all to Jack. A huge risk for Richie, and a bigger risk for Jack by continuing to use Richie in his crew. But Jack figured they could use the connection to their advantage against their competition and enemies. With Richie on the inside, so to speak, he’d have a better idea of what the Feds suspected.

 

Richie had to feed information and give up other criminals to Rico in exchange for his freedom. But Rico was only interested in Richie’s drugs and weapons dealings with Ralphie Lamattina and the McLaughlins. He had no idea that Richie had graduated to armed robbery. 



Lara:

 

On September 8, Richie and two other men were arrested in the parking lot of the Wellington Circle shopping center in Medford. Dad’s cohorts had tried to negotiate the sale of a kilo of heroin valued at $16,000 to undercover agents posing as narcotics buyers. It was part of a sting operation Dad had been working on since getting picked up by Rico several months earlier. 



Nina:

 

A few weeks later attorney Joseph Sax was arrested as a member of a multi-million dollar international narcotics ring. 

 

If you listened to Episode 8, you’ll recall that Sax was the defense attorney when Richie was falsely accused of participating in the DeSisto home invasion. 

 

The authorities alleged that Sax and one of his long-time clients acted as brokers who not only got wholesale outlets for the narcotics but also took part in the actual importation of the drugs from France to Canada and then into the US. At one time the gang had employed the Guatemalan ambassador to Belgium as a courier. 

 

Bail was set at $50,000 pending a hearing on October 5. Sax claimed he had no idea why he had been arrested, but Boston’s Narcotics Bureau chief said that Sax had not only been active but was a ringleader in the narcotics ring, and had been for the past 15 years.



Lara:

 

Who wouldn’t dad set up?!? The man concocted more stories and was beyond believable. No one was a match for him. He was so convincing, he would even have you believing you were guilty.






Nina:

 

In Richie’s defense, Sax did help put Richie away. He probably told Richie he had no chance of winning his case, and told him to plead out.



Lara:

 

Who knows, maybe Sax was working for Fats Buccelli all that time. There was always a thread of truth to dad’s stories.



Nina:

 

At the bail reduction hearing the following day, Sax’s attorney, Paul T Smith, argued that Sax was penniless and that, even if Sax had wanted to skip town, he had nowhere to go. The judge agreed to halve the bail if Sax surrendered his passport. Sax agreed and was freed. 



Lara:

 

The Assistant US Attorney called Sax a “Jekyll-Hyde” character who enjoyed the reputation of respectability as a member of the bar while actually taking part in the dope smuggling operation. He also alleged that Sax even produced customers for the heroin. Sax and his alleged accomplices were indicted in New York on October 5.



Nina:

 

Meanwhile, the Postal Inspectors were named the lead investigators of the Plymouth job, making the FBI subordinate. This made Jack very happy. He didn’t believe they could solve crimes any better than they delivered the mail. But the Postal Authorities had concocted a plan to catch the mail truck thieves. Their brainstorm involved none other than Billie Aggie.

 

In our next episode, we’ll be covering the Postals’ grand scheme to recruit Billie Aggie to bring in the perpetrators of the Plymouth Mail Robbery and the aftermath through January of 1963. We’ll also be introducing Maurice “Pro” Lerner.



Lara:

 

The Mail Robbery will be part of many more episodes throughout the season. We hope you listen in! Our YouTube channel is up. It’s only audio for now, but in case you prefer to listen there, the channel link can be found in the show notes. Please like, follow and share! Thanks everyone!



Nina and Lara:

 

BYE!