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Robbers Net $10.8 Million In Armored Car Heist With BC-Robbery-List

June 27, 1990 GMT

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ Robbers with a shotgun ambushed an armored car whose crew had stopped to buy sandwiches and stole more than $10 million cash Tuesday in one of the largest heists in U.S. history, authorities said.

The Armored Motor Service of America Inc. truck was headed to the Federal Reserve Bank branch in Buffalo when the robbery occurred, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department said. The truck’s driver and guard were bound and gagged but were not injured.

″We don’t have an exact amount,″ Sheriff Andrew P. Meloni said. ″It’s in the neighborhood of $10.8 million.″ He said authorities have no suspects.

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Meloni said officials have not yet determined where the money came from.

The largest reported robbery from a U.S. armored car company was in 1982, when $11 million was taken from the Sentry Armored Car Courier Co. in New York City. But authorities have since said much of the missing money may have been previously embezzled.

In 1985, nearly $8 million was stolen from a Wells Fargo depot in Manhattan. In 1983, robbers took gold estimated to be worth up to $11 million from a smelting firm and jewelry wholesaler in North Miami, Fla.

FBI spokesman Bill Carter said armored car robberies are usually larger than bank robberies.

The AMSA truck left the company’s offices in the Rochester suburb of Chili about 7 a.m. Tuesday with a male driver and a female guard aboard, sheriff’s department spokesman Tom Ryan said. The employees’ names have not been released.

They stopped at a store nearby and the guard left the truck to buy coffee and sandwiches, Ryan said.

While the woman was in the store, a man stuck a shotgun in the slot of the armored car and took control of the vehicle, Meloni said. When the woman returned to the car, she also was placed under the gunman’s control.

Ryan said investigators believe at least one other person was involved in the robbery. The employees said they could not give a good description of the robbers because they were told not to turn around, he said.

The employees were ordered to drive to a wooded area in the town of Henrietta, about half a mile from the convenience store, where they were tied up, blindfolded and gagged.

The robbers transferred the money bags, weighing at least 1,600 pounds, from the armored car to another vehicle and drove off, Ryan said.

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The AMSA employees were able to free themselves within 15 minutes, drove back to the company headquarters and reported the robbery.

It was the second multimillion-dollar heist AMSA has suffered in the past 13 months.

In May 1989, $2.9 million was stolen from an AMSA truck in East Syracuse. Two men drove a one-ton truck through an overhead garage door and pistol- whipped two guards in that robbery.

Two suspects are now on trial in federal court in Syracuse. One of the security guards involved pleaded guilty last year to taking part in the robbery.

Meloni would not comment on whether Tuesday’s robbery could have been an inside job.

″There are a lot of questions, obviously, about the manner of the heist,″ Meloni said. ″It appeared to be well-planned.″

Meloni said sheriff’s officials and the FBI are looking for witnesses, reviewing the company’s records and questioning the two employees. He said he could not comment on whether the employees’ actions followed company policy.

He said one of the robbed employees had worked at AMSA for 6 months and the other for a year.

The Federal Reserve Bank branch in Buffalo supplies coin and currency to banks throughout the region. Banks in turn send surplus money to the Federal Reserve for storage.

The branch manager, James Aston, said loss or theft of money headed for the Federal Reserve would be covered under an agreement between the banks and the carrier, Aston said. ″Typically, the carrier is insured,″ he said.