Most men have probably had a fantasy or two about pulling off a “once in a lifetime” kind of heist worth millions. Fortunately, most of us are sane enough not to let it get further than a thought. Below are a few men who were not. The only criteria for entry on this list is that they must have gotten away with it, at least temporarily. Anyone caught in the act does not qualify for this list. Whether it be cash, jewels, art or anything else worth big bucks, you can bet there is someone, somewhere, planning on stealing it. All values are in US$ or UK£, which bear in mind, are worth more than US dollars. I have roughly adjusted for inflation of some of the older robberies to show where they compare to some of the modern monster hauls
The largest cash robbery to ever take place in the United States this inside job was orchestrated by Allen Pace, one of the employees, on September 12, 1997 at the Dunbar Armored car facility in Los Angeles, California. The thieves made of with about $18 million. They were eventually caught and Allen received 20 years in prison.
Whilst $30 million may not seem like much compared to the other monsters on this list, bear in mind that this occurred back in 1972. By today’s standards, it would be worth more than $100 million. At the time, it was a world record amount. A group of 7 men from Ohio, led by Amil Dinsio, broke into a branch of the United California Bank in Laguna Niguel, California, and looted the safe deposit vault. Due to the nature of safe deposit boxes and their undeclared contents, only an estimate is possible. They were eventually apprehended by the FBI. One of the men involved, Phil Christopher, has written an account of the robbery in the book Superthief. I couldn’t dig up too much information on this robbery, as even the FBI website does not have an account of the robbery or investigation, so if anyone wishes to add more information in the comments, feel free.
- Employees of the Dar Es Salaam bank showed up to work one morning to find that the doors were unlocked, the vault open, and all the money was gone. It is believed that 3 guards at the bank made off with a staggering $282 million in this whopping haul. Yes, more than a quarter of a billion dollars! That’s more money than the entire economies of some small countries. It is unclear why the bank had such a large amount of cash on hand, but it was all in US currency. It is suspected that the guards had the assistance of militias, to avoid detection at security checkpoints around Baghdad, as having a lazy $282 million in the boot of your car might raise suspicions. No one has been brought to justice for this brazen crime and none of the money has been recovered. The robbery received surprisingly little media coverage.
John Goddard was a 58 year old messenger working for broker Sheppards, who was mugged whilst carrying a briefcase on a quiet London side street. However, the contents of that briefcase contained £292 million in bearer bonds. Goddard was delivering Bank of England Treasury bills from banks and building societies. Due to the nature of bearer bonds, whoever is carrying them is deemed the owner. They are as good as cash. He was held at knifepoint, whilst his assailant made off with 301 Treasury bills, most valued at £1 million each. Keith Cheeseman was arrested in connection to the crime and received a 6 and a half year sentence. Police believe that the mugging was carried out by Patrick Thomas, but he was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head before he could be charged. All but 2 of the bonds were recovered after police and the FBI infiltrated the gang responsible. It’s amazing that the second largest robbery in history was carried out by a low level thief brandishing only a knife on an insignificant back street.
- You can call this an innovative approach that resulted in one of the most successful bank robberies in the world. Took place in 2005 in Brazil, the thieves pulled it off by digging a 260-foot tunnel, equipped with wood-paneled walls and electric lights, leading from a house to Banco Central. They took $79.1 million over the weekend, so the authorities couldn’t discover it until Monday, which gave these thieves a chance to run away with money. More than 40 arrests were made, including the criminal mastermind Antonio de Araujob, but only $8 million was recovered.
- Valerio Viccei was the mastermind behind the heist that took place on July 12, 1987 and resulted in a robbery involving $66 million, worth about $154.7 million as of today. Valerio and his associates entered the facility, pretending to be customers. They overpowered the guards and put up a closed sign before they started cleaning out the safety deposit boxes. Valerio was finally arrested and received 22 years of sentence in an Italian jail. He was killed during a police shoot-out in 2000, just a day before his release from prison.
- Some robberies require careful planning. Others use brute force. But the largest in history was as simple was it was effective. Saddam Hussein treated Iraq as his own personal fiefdom, so it’s no surprise that he would feel that the Central Bank of Iraq was his personal bank account. The day before Coalition forces began bombing Iraq, he sent his son Qusay to make a withdrawal on his behalf with a handwritten note. Qusay oversaw the withdrawal of boxes stuffed with $100 bills in a five-hour operation which netted the dictator about $1 billion in US dollars. It didn’t get him very far, as he was caught sometime later hiding in a hole in the ground whilst his son was killed by US forces. Approximately $650 million was later found by US troops hidden in the walls of one of his palace’s, though the remaining $350 million has never been recovered and is considered lost.