On this date in 1997, $17.3 million was stolen from the Loomis Fargo armored car company office in Charlotte, NC. At the time, it was the third largest cash robbery in US history.
The heist began just after 6 PM. After sending home a new employee he was supposed to be training, driver and vault supervisor David Ghantt loaded the cash into a company van and left the facility. He met up with former Loomis employee Kelly Campbell, her friend Steve Chambers, and several other accomplices. The money was transferred to other vehicles and the van was left behind.
The plan was for Ghantt to take $50 thousand in cash, then head to Mexico. Chambers would eventually wire him more money. But Chambers had other plans.
Kelly Campbell, at Chambers’s urging, manipulated Ghantt into carrying out the robbery. She had convinced Ghantt that she was in love with him. As the plan for the heist developed, she introduced him to Chambers, who she said could help in the heist. Once the theft was complete and Ghantt was in Mexico, Chambers planned to hire someone to kill him.
The morning after the theft, Loomis Fargo employees were unable to gain entry to the vault. It soon became apparent that they had been the victim of a theft. They called the police, who called the FBI. The van was soon found
Ghantt, who was the only employee who was not accounted for after the theft, emerged as an early suspect. The FBI quickly made the connection between Ghantt and Campbell and began surveillance of Campbell.
Two days later, the van was found with $3.3 million inside. The thieves had underestimated how much room the money would require (about $11 million was in $20 bills).
The FBI received a tip about Chambers, but could not connect him to Campbell or Ghantt. Their suspicions were confirmed when Chambers and his wife went on a spending spree. Mrs. Chambers even asked a local bank teller how large a deposit she could make before the bank was required to report it to the government.
The FBI eventually built cases on their suspects, but were missing one piece of the puzzle: the location of David Ghantt. That piece eventually fell into place when they traced a phone call Gantt made to Chambers asking for more money. Agent traveled to Mexico where, with the help of Mexican police, they arrested Ghantt.
The total number arrests came to eight: Ghantt, Steve Chambers and his wife, Kelly Campbell, and four friends and relatives (including Chambers’s lawyer). Steve Chambers was the only member of the gang not to plead guilty. He was convicted at trial and was sentenced to eleven years in prison, longer than any of his accomplices. He was released from prison on November 2006. According to the FBI, over 95% of the money was recovered.
The robbery inspired the 2016 movie Masterminds, starring Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig and Owen Wilson.
Creative Loafing Charlotte – The Imperfect Crime
Wikipedia – 1997 Loomis Fargo Robbery in North Carolina