Published on Friday, 28 June 2013 00:00
The Great Brinks Robbery executed on January 17, 1950, is considered to be one of the greatest heists to have ever been pulled off in all of history. It would have been the perfect crime if it was not for the paranoia of one man.
In what probably inspired Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven 2001 film or the 1960 Ocean's 11 film, the Great Brink’s Robbery consisted of a team of 11 men who stole more than US$2 million from the Brinks Armoured Car depot in Boston, Massachusetts. US$2,775,395.12 to be exact.
Linus: Smash and grab job, huh?
Rusty: Slightly more complicated than that.
Linus: Well, yeah.
- Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
The mastermind behind the entire ingenious operation was Tony Pino, a lifelong criminal. Along with Joe McGinnis, they conspired with nine other men to carry out the heist. The group staked out the car depot for a year and a half conniving on how to perfectly execute the robbery. Prior to the robbery, the two main members snuck into the Brinks headquarters and stole the plans for the depot’s alarm system and the cylinders out of the locks in order to make replicas of the keys. They returned them before anyone noticed.
Practice makes perfect, people always say. The team held repeated rehearsals on how they were going to commit the crime with each man donning a blue coat and Halloween mask. And after six aborted attempts, Pino’s Eleven decided to put their plan into action.
On January 17, 1950, the team burst into the Brinks Headquarters with guns blazing at 6:55 PM. Using the copied keys, they came to the counting room on the second floor through the locked doors and surprised, bound, and gagged five Brink employees. They then proceeded to fill multiple canvas bags with cash, coins, checks and money orders, and walked out at 7.30 PM. They were in and out within 35 minutes, leaving no trace behind.
Through meticulous planning, they pulled it off without a hitch. The gang of 11 had the perfect leadership, the perfect strategy, and the perfect getaway. The robbery was skilfully executed in a precisely timed and choreographed strike. What they did not foresee was the imperfection of just one man among the rest; Specs O’Keefe.
The money was split and the men separated, agreeing to stay out of trouble for at least six years. However, O’Keefe had to serve a sentence for some other crime he committed before and he left his share with another member. O’Keefe started to worry that the man would make off with his money before he comes out of prison, and threatened the members that he would squeal on them to the police. The others hired an assassin to kill O’Keefe but unfortunately for them, he escaped wounded and went to the cops to testify against them. Of the 11 men, with O’Keefe already in custody, eight were arrested and the rest of the two men died prior to the trial.
O’Keefe received only 4 years of imprisonment, eight of the gang members received maximum sentences of life imprisonment all of whom were paroled by 1971 except for second-in-command to the burglary, McGinnis who died in prison. Only US$58,000 of the $2.7 million was recovered.
If only that idiot O’Keefe had taken a chance and trusted the other man, all of Pino’s Eleven would have gotten away with their loot. Unlike Ocean’s Eleven, this story did not have a happy ending for them.