Loomis Fargo Robbery
There is a vault reserved for only the most outrageous, preposterous, and far-fetched real life stories. Without question, 1997's Loomis Fargo robbery has a home in it.
On the night of October 4, 1997, a man named David Ghantt stole $17 million from the Charlotte-based Loomis Fargo & Company, his employer. An unhappily married Iraqi war vet, David had been working for the company for two and a half years as a vault supervisor when he hatched a plan to perform the heist. According to him, a blissful life was just one illegal act away. "Everything I needed was right in my lap," David later said during an on-camera interview with NBC Charlotte.
To complete the robbery, David involved Kelly Campbell, a former co-worker whom he was seeing, despite both of them being married. She recruited a childhood friend, drug dealer Steve Chambers, who was also a fence for stolen goods. The plan entailed David stealing the cash from the vault after sending his trainee home early, then leaving with Kelly for Mexico, while Steve (and his wife Michelle) hid the money. Steve also recruited a number of his friends.
But it seems that's all the premeditation that went into it. Called the largest robbery in U.S. history, the plan was full of faults.
For one thing, David only removed two of the tapes from the company's security cameras. His years spent working for Loomis Fargo apparently weren't enough to make him aware of a third camera that also caught him in the act.
The majority of the money David stole was in $20 bills. It took him an hour to load $20 million into the company truck he used to escape. Eight miles away, he met up with Kelly, Steve and Eric Scott Grant. They tranferred $17 million of the money into a van, leaving behind $3 million that didn't fit. David took $50,000, the maximum that could be taken across the border without filling out paperwork, and left the rest of the money with the others. Kelly drove him to South Carolina where David had planned to leave on a plane for Mexico (Kelly had never intended to leave with him), but upon arrival they realized the South Carolina airport didn't offer flights to Mexico. He eventually ended up on a bus bound for Atlanta, where he caught a flight for Mexico.
David's wife Tammy reported him missing the next day and the Charlotte police found his pickup in the Loomis Fargo parking lot, with his keys and wedding ring inside. He immediately became a suspect and after tracing his cell phone calls, they determined that there had to be at least one accomplice.
As for Steve and Michelle, they had trouble getting into the van to sort through the money. Apparently the key ring holding the key to the van also contained 200 others, and after having dropped the ring they didn't know which key unlocked the doors. They tried breaking the windows but were unsuccessful. The pair were forced to try out each key until they found the one that fit.
Steve and Michelle were foolishly unsubtle with their splurges after they got their hands on the cash. They bought a $635,000 mansion (using $20 bills) and purchased a custom BMW convertible for good measure. Steve also bought a black velvet painting of Elvis Presley and a diamond ring for Michelle. He asked several of his friends and family to take a portion of the money and hide it in safety deposit boxes.
As Dave was partying in Cancun, Michelle made the error that did the crew in. With a briefcase full of $9,500 in cash, she walked into a bank and asked how much of her money she could deposit at once. The teller she dealt with was alerted the FBI. By January 1998, the FBI were onto Michelle, Steve and Kelly and the minor accomplices and were in the process of tracking down David in Mexico.
David, who was running out of money, kept asking Steve for more money, but in a double-crossing twist that bolsters the whole story's almost unbelievable nature, Steve devised a plan to hire a hitman to kill David in order to put a stop to his requests. As David caught wind of the idea, he feared for his safety and later, in the NBC Charlotte interview, said, "I was concerned for my life. I was afraid I'd have to do something terrible [to defend myself]."
The FBI was alerted to the plan and found David in Cancun. They arrested him, but vowed to protect him. As they apprehended David and brought him back to the U.S., he confessed to the entire ordeal and admitted to his undying love for Kelly. While they were transporting him north, Kelly, Steve and Michelle were arrested in North Carolina.
The Loomis Fargo heist led to a total of 21 arrests. Over 95 per cent of the stolen cash was located and recovered. But at least the act itself gave David a rush he hadn't experienced. In the NBC Charlotte interview, he said, "I had never felt so alive."
Also called the Hillbilly Heist, the Loomis Fargo robbery is the basis of the comedy Masterminds. The film stars Zach Galifianakis as David, Kristen Wiig as Kelly, Owen Wilson as Steve and Mary Elizabeth Ellis as Michelle. Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre) directs. It was shot in North Carolina.