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Judge Convicts Men Who Tried to Tunnel to Post Office Vault

July 30, 1986

ROME (AP) _ A judge found six men guilty of trying to tunnel into a post ofice vault containing $65 million worth of loot, and sentenced them to prison terms of up to 3 1/2 years.

The six, dubbed ″the men of gold″ by a spellbound Italian media, were arrested Sunday when five of them, covered with sewer slime, popped out of manholes into the waiting arms of police.

A sixth was caught while still digging under the San Silvestro piazza toward Rome’s main post office and its vault rich with stamps and cash.

Italian media said the aborted burglary would have been the biggest in the nation’s history.

Judge Lucio Bochicchio found the six guilty of aggravated attempted robbery and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from three to 3 1/2 years. He also imposed fines of between $400 and $700.

Prosecutors had sought up to five years in prison for the men. But testimony during the three-hour court session indicated the men had been ready to abandon what their defense attorneys described variously as ″the impossible crime″ and ″a midsummer night’s dream.″

Defendant Sergio Bertoli told the court the men had concocted the scheme ″after years of hearing how much money there was in the post office.″

But he said that although they were tantalizingly close to the vault, they discovered that it was ringed by a meter-wide armored security wall and an alarm system that would have been tough to penetrate. Besides, he said, ″the work was too tiring.″

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