Late one night last week, a slight, balding man with a hawklike nose, wearing a sharp gabardine suit and the air of an English butler, emerged from the jailer's office at the East Cambridge, Mass, jail and barked, "Gimme an aspirin, will you?" He was Joseph James ("Specs") O'Keefe, 47, and he had been talking almost continuously for three days. Outside, on the streets of Boston and all over the U.S., newspapers repeated Specs' story in huge headlines and minute detail; after six years, the $2,775,395 Brink's Inc. robbery, the largest cash haul in U.S. history, was solved.
Eleven Hoods. O'Keefe's disclosures were just as fantastic as the known details of the robbery. The near-perfect crime had been committed by eleven Boston hoods, all of them veteran criminals. It had been painstakingly planned for 18 months, carefully rehearsed in several "dry runs" at the scene of the big crime. By the evening of the big heist, each member of the gang was letter-perfect in his role.
The scenario had been carefully prepared by the gang leader, fat Anthony Pino, 48, an alien from Sicily whose criminal record ranges from molesting a young girl to stealing a dozen golf balls, and whose oafish manner covers a keen intelligence. Before he was ready to stage the robbery, Pino carefully picked his cast and cased the North Terminal Garage (the Brink's headquarters) many times, figuring escape routes and systematically noting schedules and shipments of money. He learned exactly where the big money was stored, went over every foot of the establishment after closing hours. Under the noses of lax Brink's watchmen, he and his henchmen padded about the place in stocking feet, learning which way each door swung, locating the main vaults, honing their strategy. In their exacting research, the gang broke into a burglar-alarm company one night, and carefully studied the Brink's alarm system. Every lock barrel on every door along their route through the Brink's building was removed by the gang during their nightly visits, fitted with keys, and reinstalled in the doors before morning with such skill and skulduggery that nothing was suspected. An awed detective who listened to Specs O'Keefe's story said that the planning of the crime reminded him "of those people on The $64,000 Question who know all there is to know about something."
After one final dry run on D-minus-one, the gang was ready. "During the early evening of Jan. 17, 1950," said the FBI's announcement, "members of the gang met in the Roxbury section of Boston and entered the rear of a Ford stake-body truck, which had been stolen in Boston in November 1949 to be used in the robbery. Including the driver, this truck carried nine members of the gang to the scene. During the trip, seven of the men donned
Navy-type peacoats and chauffeurs' caps, which were in the truck. Each also was given a pistol and a Halloween-type mask; each had gloves and wore either crepe-sole shoes or rubbers so their footsteps would be muffled.