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You are here -> HOME - RETROVILLE - 1950 - In the News - Brinks Robbery
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Welcome to Retroville! It's 1950!
On January 17, 1950, at 7:30 p.m. what would become known as "The Great Brinks Robbery" occurred at the Brink's Building in Boston netting the bandits nearly $3 million in cash, checks, and negotiable securities.

The robbery had gone like clockwork for the seven men who had planned and executed the daring heist. With months of planning behind them, they had simply walked into the Brink's office, tied up and gagged the employees, and stuffed cash, money orders, and other negotiable instruments into bags before leaving through the outside door.

The men who planned the robbery had taken great care in planning the job. They had staked out the Brink's building for months ahead of time. Using binoculars, they had spied on the building from adjacent and nearby rooftops.  They made careful notes about who went in, who came out, what lights were on while what was going on, and what cues to look for.

During the months preceding the robbery, they had broken into the building on several occasions, made detailed floor plans, and even removed lock cylinders to have keys made before returning the cylinders to their rightful places inside the Brink's building.

To keep identification to a minimum, they had stolen a brand new truck, a green Ford stakebody, from a dealer's lot. They reasoned that a used vehicle might have identifying marks, so they were taking no risks. The lookout for the job stole a sedan from behind a local theatre. They used no personal vehicles either during their stakeout or during the robbery.

To further thwart identification, the men donned Navy P-coats, chaffeur caps, and Halloween masks. Using very little verbal communication while inside the building, the men signaled each other using previously determined hand signals and gestures.

So, with fresh keys to the locks, stolen vehicles to transport them, hand signals worked out, and disguises on, they entered the Brink's building. They quickly made their way to the second floor where they surprised the workers counting money. They tied up and gagged the workers, piled the money into bags, and exited the building. They threw the bags of loot into the waiting green Ford truck, and left the city.

The FBI was without any suspects, few leads, and very few clues. The robbers had worn crepe soled shoes and rubbers to avoid leaving identifiable footprints. Their disguises were so well-done that nobody in the Brink's building could identify any faces. Despite hundreds of leads and a reward of $100,000 offered by Brink's, the trail quicky went cold.

Finally, they got a break in the case. In February, some boys found one of the revolvers taken in the robbery. The gun, tossed onto a riverbank in Somerville, Massachusetts, would become one of the few clues the FBI would ever have.

A month later, pieces of the green Ford truck were found at a dumpsite in Stoughton, Massachusetts. This was a great clue! The FBI had been looking at several men in the Stoughton area as possible suspects. The proximity of the truck pieces to their locations made them look even better.

Throughout the coming year, several of the gang were arrested on unrelated charges, served time, were paroled or released, and returned to the Boston area. The FBI constantly monitored members of the suspected gang of thieves. Figuring they would eventually get something on one or more of them, they kept the pressure on all of them.

Just as suspected, the different gang members began turning on each other. There were attempted assassinations, shootings, fights, and growing animosity between the various members. The FBI moved in on the member they believed most likely to talk, a man named Joseph "Specs" O'Keefe.

After attempts were made on O'Keefe's life, and after he failed to receive what he believed was his fair share of the loot, he finally broke down and told the FBI what they had been waiting to hear.

Indictments were obtained and trials were held. Ultimately, of the original eleven men believed to have participated in the robbery, eight went on trial. One of the men had been killed and one had gone missing and became an FBI's Most Wanted Fugitive. The other, O'Keefe pleaded guilty to the charge of robbery.

In the succeeding two weeks, nearly 1,200 prospective jurors were eliminated as the various defense counsels used their 262 peremptory challenges. Another week passed – and approximately 500 more citizens were considered – before the 14-member jury was assembled.

More than 100 persons took the stand as witnesses for the prosecution and the defense during September, 1956. The most important of these, "Specs" O'Keefe, carefully recited the details of the crime, clearly spelling out the role played by each of the eight defendants.

At 10:25 p.m. on October 5, 1956, the jury retired to weigh the evidence. Three and one-half hours later, the verdict had been reached. All were guilty.

Judge Forte on Oct. 9, 1956, Pino, Costa, Maffie, Geagan, Faherty, Richardson sentenced the eight men, and Baker received life sentences for robbery, two-year sentences for conspiracy to steal, and sentences of eight years to 10 years for breaking and entering at night. McGinnis, who had not been at the scene on the night of the robbery, received a life sentence on each of eight indictments that charged him with being an accessory before the fact in connection with the Brinks robbery. In addition, McGinnis received other sentences of two years, two and one-half to three years, and eight to 10 years.

While action to appeal the convictions was being taken on their behalf, the eight men were removed to the State prison at Walpole, Mass. From their prison cells, they carefully followed the legal maneuvers aimed at gaining them freedom.

The record of the state trial covered more than 5,300 pages. The defense counsel in preparing a 294-page brief that was presented to the Massachusetts State Supreme Court used it. After weighing the arguments presented by the attorneys for the eight convicted criminals, the State Supreme Court turned down the appeals on July 1, 1959, in a 35-page decision written by the chief justice.

On November 16, 1959, the United States Supreme Court denied a request of the defense counsel for a writ of certiorari.

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