Speaking of heists (see my last article about real life bank heists and upcoming films about former SOF operators here), I just came across an article about a doozy of a case involving the Italian mafia forty years ago. The crew made off with 5 million in cash as well as an additional 1 million in diamonds.
The crew had arrived at JFK airport in New York, and they had already subdued one worker, but there were another 10 to go. Fortunately for the thieves, they were well-prepared — right down to knowing the names of the employees they were about to accost.
Once the gang got inside a warehouse on the airport grounds, they systematically rounded up the night staff, according to media reports. Each of the ten were threatened with bloody violence, and as a result none resisted.
One of the workers, a supervisor, was the key to the plot – he was the one who could open a vault housed in the warehouse. As terrified as his colleagues, the supervisor did as he was told.
You would think that the crew would then retire down to the Caribbean or something like that, but of course being criminals, they then began to squabble and the alleged leader of the plot, James Burke, is said to have begun ordering the murders of other members of the gang. The FBI was never really able to secure any arrests, much less successful prosecutions, until 2014 when a member of the Bonanno crime family was charged based on wiretap recordings that include him complaining that he never got the money he was promised from the heist. And even he ended up getting acquitted.
Another interesting, and more recent heist, occurred in Germany in 2016 when wanted members of the defunct Red Army Faction attempted an armored car robbery, but failed to secure the estimated one million euros it was carrying. Fingerprints and DNA evidence left at the scene implicated three former Red Army Faction members, Ernst-Volker Staub, Daniela Klette, and Burkhard Garweg. Also known as the Baader-Meinhof, these German communists made for a sophisticated and dangerous crew that was responsible for dozens of murders during the 1970’s — including the assassination of a Deutsche Bank official with an IED that was initiated via a laser as a trip wire when his vehicle crossed its path.
At the time, law enforcement officials in Germany speculated that the aging radicals were looking for one final score to secure their retirement fund.
Spiegal Online did an interesting retrospective on the remaining Red Army Faction fugitives this year, who remain at large.