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Famous American Banks Heists: The United California Bank Robbery

by on May 30, 2013

United California Bank Robbery

Committing the heist of the century requires expert planning, and in 1972, master thief Amil Dinsio conceived a plan that would allow him to do just that. He and his team would be unbelievably rich just as soon as they successfully robbed the United California Bank. The plan was mapped out and timed to perfection, and the gang did walk away with millions in cash, bonds and jewelry. But the irony of the greatest bank heist in history is that it was ruined by a dirty kitchen.

Amil Dinsio grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, and started robbing banks in the 1960s. Because he knew his trade well, he got away with hundreds of robberies over the years, and when it came time for the job of a lifetime, he had a team already in mind: his family.

His brother James Dinsio was an expert in explosives and tool fabrication, his brother-in-law Charles Mulligan was the best driver in the biz, and his nephews Ronald and Harry Barber were trusted collaborators. When Amil recruited Charles Broeckel and Phil Christopher (a couple of men who were friends with the mob associate that had told Amil of the UCB job), the team was set.

The United California Bank was situated in Laguna Niguel, an area known for its elderly and wealthy citizens. The bank had more than $30 million on hand at the time, some of which reportedly belonged to President Nixon. Amil’s plan was airtight, and the heist went down on the night of March 24, 1972. It was a work of art.

The first thing Amil’s team did was cut through the bank’s roof with an electric saw. Next they disabled the alarms by spraying them with liquid Styrofoam. Now things were rolling. Now it was time to blow their way through the vault’s ceiling with 16 sticks of dynamite placed into 16 carefully drilled holes. Bang. All they had to do now was saw through a few steel rebar rods, load up on the loot and walk away. Check, check and check.

The next morning, when UCB personnel were unable to open the vault, they called in the police. Overriding the time lock, the cops discovered piles of rubble, dust, bonds and a single cotton glove. But Amil didn’t exactly ride off into the sunset and spend the rest of his life soaking up the sun on a Mexican beach. While the plan itself was flawless, these guys sucked at housekeeping.

Over weeks and days, the police manhunt grew from a small team of eight to a small army of 150. Bulletins were sent out across the country. When police in Ohio noted that similar heists had been pulled off in their own state, they were able to link the crimes. Some slick detective work revealed the crew’s flight from Ohio to Orange County.

The cops zeroed in on a rented townhouse, which the gang was using as a headquarters. Inside the house, police found a cotton glove that matched the one found in the vault, but that wasn’t the only evidence the thieves had left behind. The home’s dishwasher was full of dirty dishes. There were lots and lots of fingerprints. It was just what the cops needed to issue a warrant and put the gang behind bars.

How much loot did Amil and his gang make off with? It’s not precisely known, but with somewhere between $12 and $30 million in their bags, the robbery of the United California Bank became known as one of the greatest bank heists in history.

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