The 1997 Dunbar Armored Heist
When an inside job led to the largest cash robbery in U.S. history.
Just after midnight on September 13, 1997, a robbery was committed that would become the most significant theft of cash in United States history.
In the time before the theft, Allen Pace, 30, the mastermind behind it, got a position at Dunbar as a regional safety inspector. While on the job, he photographed and examined the company’s Los Angeles armored car depot. For the crime, Pace recruited five of his childhood friends.
Interestingly, just a day before the heist, Pace was fired from his post, the reasons for it were undisclosed. Though, this hardly dissuaded him from continuing with the holdup.
So, after hanging out for a few hours at a house party in Long Beach to establish their alibis, it was time for zero hour. Slipping away, changing into black clothes and masks, they headed for their prize. So, just after midnight, the crew hit the depot. Since Pace knew that the vault was left open due to the massive amounts of money was going to be moved, he used his keys to gain admittance to the facility. During this time Pace timed the security cameras and determined how could avoid their detection. Once inside the facility, the team waited within the staff cafeteria, where they ambushed the guards one by one as they took their lunch breaks at precisely 12:30 a.m., preventing any of them from sounding the alarm. In 30 minutes, the thieves loaded millions (i.e., US$18.9 million) of dollars into a waiting U-Haul. Knowing which bags contained the highest denominations, and non-sequential bills, he also knew where the recording devices of the security camera were located and took those as well.
Unsurprisingly, the heist immediately was suspected of being an inside job. As such, the police closely monitored Pace, though they could not find anything. Meanwhile, Pace and his crew worked hard to conceal their new wealth, laundering it through property deals and phony businesses.
However, their scheme eventually got exposed after one of the crew members, Eugene Lamar Hill, 29, gave a real estate broker friend a stack of cash bound with the original currency straps; upon noticing this, his friend went to the police. Once arrested, Hill soon confessed and named his co-conspirators.
Subsequently, Pace himself was arrested and sentenced to 24 years in prison on April 23, and currently remains incarcerated at a Federal Correctional Institution in Safford. Three others were later handed out sentences for their part in the heist. Although with the thieves now caught, much of the money (US$5 million) never was recovered.
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Nicole Henley is a freelance writer and storyteller. An East-coast girl whose obsessed with shows like The X-Files, Buffy and almost every crime procedural series under the sun. Writing the story is merely half the journey. When she’s not covering cold cases or mysteries, she’s watching movies or writing poetry, short stories, and flash fiction that may or may not be based on horror.