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A Record Heist?

A Record Heist?

Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team secure an armored van in St. Louis. Four armed bandits clad from head to toe in black overpowered two workers at an ATM-servicing business, then used an armored vehicle to haul away possibly millions of dollars in

St. Louis Dispatch via YellowBrix

August 03, 2010

ST. LOUIS – There is no sign on the gray masonry building that houses ATM Solutions in the Grand Center area, but four heavily armed men knew what was inside when they overpowered two guards Monday morning and made off with possibly a record haul.

Nobody was hurt in the pre-dawn holdup, in which two employees of the ATM servicing company were locked in a vault and the loot was hauled about two miles in a stolen company armored car.

Neither St. Louis police nor the FBI would characterize the loss, and the Cincinnati-based company wasn’t talking. Unconfirmed media reports suggested it might be several million dollars.

A somewhat similar robbery of a Brinks truck driver inside a downtown St. Louis bank in 1992 is considered the city’s largest cash robbery, at $847,000. It was never solved.

ATM solutions, at 3721 Grandel Square, is festooned with surveillance cameras, but police weren’t saying what, if anything, they revealed.

Police said the four masked men were dressed all in black and armed with assault rifles and handguns when they forced their way in behind the first guard to arrive, about 5 a.m., and took his sidearm.

The robbers waited for and disarmed a second employee, who arrived about 5:30 a.m. The bandits apparently knew in advance that it takes two employees to punch in security codes to the vault, said police Capt. Mike Caruso, commander of the 9th District.

“It’s certainly alarming, to say the least,” Caruso told reporters. “It was carefully planned. They knew what they were doing.”

The thieves secured the guards with duct tape, locked them in the vault and left with several containers of money, using a marked, armored company van. The guards were rescued about 6 a.m., by a supervisor who arrived at work.

The van was found about 7:30 a.m., in an area of vacant lots and abandoned houses in the 4400 block of Evans Avenue. Some residents there told a reporter they didn’t see anything and doubted anyone who did would help police.

There was no immediate explanation for damage to at least one of the van’s windows.

At 475 U.S. bills per pound, a large sum would be quite heavy. As an example, an equal mix of $5 and $20 bills, denominations common in ATMs, would weigh about 263 pounds per $1 million.

Police also were investigating the possibility that a black Pontiac Grand Am, recovered in the 3700 block of Martin Luther King Driver about 10:15 a.m., might have been used in the crime.

ATM Solutions, founded in 1994, stocks, services and sells ATMs in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Janese Henry, who lives across the street and a few doors over from the robbery scene, said she awoke to the sound of several young men’s voices arguing outside for about 15 seconds but couldn’t tell where they were.

Henry, who has a mobile catering service, said she once tried to take a menu and some brownies to the ATM Solutions office and said the people inside “freaked out,” and “yelled” when she knocked on the door.

She said a restored mansion across the street from ATM Solutions is a bed-and-breakfast. “There were some people staying there from out of town that will have quite a story to tell when they get back home,” Henry suggested.

While unwilling to talk about the case, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Zack Lowe said these kinds of crimes are rare.

In 2009, there were 5,700 robberies nationwide at the counters of banking institutions but only 56 involving armored cars, he said. Robbers know that armored car workers, unlike bank tellers, are armed. “So that makes it more dangerous for everyone.”

According to published reports, gunmen abducted and robbed two ATM Solutions armored car employees in 2004 outside a shopping center in Ohio.

Anyone with information about Monday’s robbery is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 1-866-371-8477.

Robert Patrick of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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