$7.4 Million in 38-pound bags
It reads like a movie script: a daring, carefully planned armed robbery, a high-speed car chase, a surprise plot twist, and a happy ending for the “good guys.” Only this was no blockbuster action film. It was a real-life crime drama straight from the streets of Miami.
Here’s the story: On November 6, an overseas flight arrived at Miami International Airport carrying hundreds of passengers…and $80 million in cash bound for the city’s branch Federal Reserve Bank. The money was taken to a bonded warehouse to be cleared by U.S. Customs. As warehouse employees processed the cash, three masked men pulled up to the building in a pick-up truck. Two of the men entered the warehouse through one of its bay doors and ordered the security guards and workers to the ground, then grabbed six bags of money and made a run for it.
Their total take, even after dropping one of the 38-pound bags? $7.4 million, making it one of the largest robberies in the state’s history.
The Miami-Dade Police Department quickly arrived at the scene, followed by agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and our Miami office. Together, we identified likely suspects and put them under surveillance. To strengthen our efforts, we offered a $150,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the money and the capture of the criminals.
A good idea, it turns out, because the criminals had been talking—bragging, actually—about their audacious crime. One person who heard their story stepped forward and provided law enforcement with a list of four suspects. On that list was a proverbial “insider”—in this case, a security guard who was to transport the money from the airport to the bank for his company.
The plot twist. Our source agreed to wear a wire so we could listen to his conversations with the suspects, and we learned they were planning a new robbery. Our Miami office then placed a wiretap on the ringleader’s cell phone to learn more about it. But before we could get the details, a rival crime gang—much to our surprise—kidnapped one of the thieves and held him for ransom. (It’s rare for law enforcement to learn about a kidnapping as it happens.)
We quickly moved in on both sets of suspects. On February 17, Miami agents—assisted by the Miami SWAT team, the Miami-Dade Police Department and an ICE agent—arrested the robbery ringleader and his wife, later finding some $80,000 in their attic. That night, our SWAT team also arrested the security guard as he arrived home. He, too, had plenty of cash—some $5,000 in his pockets and another $80,000 in three vacuum-packed bags.
The investigation continued the next day as we went after the kidnappers. By tracking their cell phones, Miami-Dade technical staff tracked the three kidnappers to a hotel near the airport. When agents and detectives arrived, we saw an SUV speeding out of the parking lot and another man running away. Agents caught the runner, while detectives drove after and stopped the SUV and arrested two suspects inside. Later, in the hotel garage, we found the kidnap victim—a suspect in the original robbery—in the backseat of a pick-up truck bound with tape. We exchanged his tape with a set of handcuffs.
The payoff. In March, the four conspirators were charged with armed robbery and the three kidnappers charged with hostage-taking . In mid-May, we dug up over $1 million of the missing money on the property of one of the conspirators and we’re still searching for the rest. If you have any information regarding the remaining missing money, please call our Miami office or submit a tip on this website.
The case is yet another example of how intelligence, technology, public support, and seamless law enforcement partnerships come together to solve crimes.
Resources: Miami Press Release