Idiots Guide: Lucky #7 Biggest Bank Robberies in History

For the vast majority of reasonable people, the idea of robbing banks are the fantasies of post lunch break afternoon daydreaming. It’s a perversion of the lottery system, the difference being that you decide to forcible remove millions of dollars from the place where they keep it (the bank) in lieu of the unspeakable odds of an actual lottery win. Crazy right? Let’s for the sake of ‘shits and giggles’ entertain the notion of robbing a bank.  Putting aside the very real danger of death by misadventure (being shot by police), and perhaps having to take hostages and/or harm innocent people, statistics actually favor a successful attempt. Hear me out. The odds of successfully robbing a bank are much, much greater than winning the ‘Powerball’ lottery. It just is, the odds of winning the power ball jackpot are 1 in 292,201,338.00. The odds for winning a Fantasy 5 jackpot are 1 in 575,757. The odds for winning a Pick 3 jackpot are 1 in 1,000. However, according to FBI crime statistics, the odds of a successful bank robbery are 1 in 5. As reletively appealing as those odds are, most people prefer to earn their money with zero risk of decades long incarceration and/or potential for family shaming infamy. But for those who choose to venture down that road, the odds aren’t too bad. To be clear we at Idiots Guide are in no way endorsing or advising robbing finical institutions, as that would be a highly felonious activity, which is throughly illegal in all 50 states, including Puerto Rico. What we do advise is reading our list of the 7 biggest (most lucrative) bank robberies in history. It’s good copy, and these are all very true stories. So if for no other reason, except perhaps to live vicariously in exploit, Idiots Guide presents the largest bank robberies, ever…


7. Dunbar Armored Heist  / Location: Los Angeles, California  (1997)  $19 million

Dunbar Bank Truck

An Inside Job – The Dunbar Armored Facility robbery is the largest cash robbery of it’s kind in United States history. This notorious theft was masterminded by Allen Pace, who was employed at the time as a regional safety inspector for the company. On the night of September 12th 1997, Pace and 5 accomplices (childhood friends) made off with approximately $19 million or $28 million in today’s money, from Dunbar’s Los Angeles Armored Car Depo. It was a carefully planned caper with Pace using his insider access to monitor, plan, photograph and strategize. Access was easy enough for Pace as he simply used his work keys to enter the facility. Pace knew how to avoid the security cameras and once they were inside they huddled in the staff cafeteria, before quietly disabling the guards on break. Friday nights were when the vaults had the largest amounts of cash scheduled to be transported. Within a half an hour, Pace and his accomplices had secured the guards and loaded tens of millions of dollars into a U-Haul truck. The Pace gang would have gotten away with it, and they did for a long awhile until Eugene Lamar Hill, one of the 5 accomplices, paid a real estate broker ‘friend’ with a stack of bills wrapped in the original Dunbar cash straps. I know, what a moron. The ‘friend’ went to the police, and soon after that Hill dropped dime on everyone else in the gang. Mastermind Allen Pace was sentenced to twenty-four years in prison. Probably rueing the day that he brought Eugene Hill in on the caper. To this day there is still $14 million of the original heist unaccounted for.

6.  Banco Central Heist  /  Location: Fortaleza, Brazil  (2006) $69.8 Million

Banco Central (2006) – $69.8 Million

Instant Karma (Bad) – Considered one of the biggest bank heists in the world, the Banco Central heist was extremely profitable in terms of money. However, the fallout and/or aftermath was fraught with peril, including kidnapping and murder. Then again, when your heist has 25 co-conspirators, one can expect that something, if not many things will go wrong. The heist at Fortaleza netted approximately R$ 160 million ($45 million in USD) from the Banco Central branch. On the night of August 6th 2005, the relatively large gang tunneled into the bank underground, they helped themselves to five containers filled with R$50-Real bank notes, valued at R$164,755,150 ($72 million USD in 2005). The problem and most likely the reason for the extra man power was that the containers weighed over 3.5 tons! (7,000 pounds). Of the original 25 participants, only 8 of them have been arrested, with only approximately R$20 million ($6 million USD) recovered, as of 2005. The bad karma transpired with the kidnapping of several members of the gang by other criminal interests who wanted to muscle in their cut. The reputed mastermind, Luis Fernando Ribeiro, was murdered by his kidnappers even after the ransom was paid in full. Apparently, the criminal underworld in Brazil do not operate with honor. Most of the co-conspirators and a majority of the cash has never been recovered. Was this heist a success? Kind of, maybe? I guess it depends on whom you ask…who survived, etc.

5. Great Train Robbery  / Location: Buckinghamshire, U.K. (1963) $74 Million

Great Train Robbery 33

The Great Train Robbery –  Became part of world-wide criminal lore in the morning hours of August 8th 1963. The Royal Mail train traveling from Glasgow to London was robbed of it’s significant high value cash packets and bank note cargo, at the Bridego Railway Bridge junction, in Buckinghamshire, England. A motley criminal crew of 15 (+) conspirators attacked the train using the tampering of train line signals, cunning and brute force. The gang was led by Bruce Reynolds, along with notable members Gordon Goody, Buster Edwards, and  Charlie Wilson. The manifest train was called ‘The Night Flyer’ and was a postal train headed for various regional banks. The gang made their move by boarding the  train while at it sat at the rigged stop position, at Sears Crossing. They neutralized train staff inside the High Value carriage and made off with between 125 – 140 mailbag of cold hard bank cash. It is estimated that they haul netted $74 million. Many of the gang were eventually captured, the first was Roger Cordrey. However not all of them, some were captured but never charged due to the lack of evidence. There are still tens of millions of dollars that have never been recovered (officially).

4. Securitas Depot Heist / Location: Tonbridge, U.K. (2006) $92.5 Million

Securitas Depot (2006) – $92.5 million

Strong Armed Robbery – The Securitas Depot Heist became the largest cash robbery in the history of the United Kingdom. Beginning on the evening of February 21st 2006 and ending in the early hours of February 22nd 2006, a group of armed felons ( AK-47s) invaded the Securitas Cash Management Depot, abducted the manager and terrorized approximately a dozen innocent staff members for the purpose of stealing £53,116,760 ($92 million USD) in bank notes. They used a clever ruse to abduct the manager, posing as undercover police officers they pulled him over and took him into ‘custody’. The manager was then told that his wife and eight-year-old son were being held hostage.  After cleaning up, the gang locked the hostages in the bank cages and then bounced. This group didn’t turn out to be the brightest, as they were all caught within a week. Police simply traced the license plates on the getaway vans and vehicles. They actually found one of the vans abandoned with  £1.3 million left inside along with some of the guns used in the heist. Like I said, not too bright. I know if I was involved, the last thing I would do is leave a million dollars of felonious cash laying around for the cops to find. That’s just me.

3. Knightsbridge Heist / Location: Knightsbridge, England (1987) $200 Million

Knightsbridge Deposit Heist  (1987)

The Italian Job – The Knightsbridge Security Deposit heist was the brain child of master thief and Italian playboy Valerio Viccei. Viccei was the son of a lawyer who funded his notorious players lifestyle with the proceeds from his robberies. Viccei was wanted and/or suspected in some 50 armed robberies before this one. In many ways a modern version of a 1920’s American outlaw. The heist happened on July 12th 1987 in the City of Westminster, London. This heist immediately became one of the biggest in the history of the world, behind only the $900 million stolen from the Central Bank of Iraq in 2003 (we’ll get to that in a minute) In a diabolically cunning move, Viccei enlisted inside help from the managing director, Parvez Latif, who was a degenerate cocaine abuser, heavily in debt. The conspirators entered the Knightsbridge Safe Deposit Centre, requested a rent safe deposit box rental, and pulled out their guns once inside the actual vault space. They incapacitated the security guards and hung a ‘closed’ sign on the front door, only letting in accomplices.  They proceeded to break open a litany of safe deposit boxes and walked away with an estimated haul said to be worth £60 million ($98 million USD in 1987). Later upgraded to over $200 million once all items were tallied. A fingerprint at the scene was later traced back to Valerio Viccei, who initially fled to South America, then returned only to be captured in a violent police takedown using their cars to smash into him. He was sentenced to 22 years in the hoosegow. Several other accomplices also went down.

2. Dar Es Salaam Heist / Location: Baghdad, Iraq  (2007) $282 Million   

Dar Es Salaam Heist   (2007)

Hazy Shade of Winter – The specifics about this brazen and monumental bank heist are hazy to say the least, we are talking about war-torn Iraq after all. What we do know is that on July 11th 2007 this bank heist was accomplished during the overnight and very, very quietly. Allegedly perpetrated by the bank security guards who had slept inside the bank. The guards walked, and/or drove, and/or airlifted away with well over $250,000,000 reportedly $282 million according to Iraq’s Interior Ministry. Dar Es Salaam bank is a private financial institution with a reputation for secrecy. Bottom line is that the money disappeared overnight and nobody has been arrested or charged or even massaged. Inside job?  You be the judge…But this one was as shady as they come.

1. Central Bank of Iraq Heist /  Location: Baghdad, Iraq  (2003) $920 Million

Embezzler in Chief – It would seem that in addition to Saddam Hussein’s legendary reputation as one of the most evil, and despised dictator’s of all-time, that you can add record breaking bank robber to his mind-boggling horrendous criminal dossier. In what is considered the largest, most lucrative bank robbery in world history, close to $1 Billion (USD) was stolen from Iraq’s Central Bank….by the ‘leader’ of it’s country, one Saddam Hussein. In a move that would be comparable to our current President Barack Obama personally looting the Federal Reserve, Hussein brazenly ordered one of his sons ‘Qusay’ to the national bank to withdraw all of the money on the premises. This occurred the day before the imminent U.S. invasion of Iraq. After his capture U.S. troops recovered approximately $650 million inside Saddam’s palace, the location of the additional $300 (+) million is anybody’s guess. Apparently, Saddam went to his grave with that secret. Anybody have a shovel and plane ticket to Iraq?