Learn How Detectives Solved Brink's Blowtorch Burglary


It was a burglary case that was unmatched by any other in the city's history.

The crime was so sophisticated that it even took the FBI by surprise.

On Jan. 17, 2009, a debris field of burnt money filled the Brink's warehouse, located at 1362 Essex Ave., on the north side.

"It's an extraordinary case," said Harry Trombitis, who recently retired from the FBI.  "It looked like a tornado had gone through."

A fire occurred in the vault that was caused by a plasma torch that is designed to dismantle ships, 10TV's Kevin Landers reported.

"We determined right away that this was committed by someone who really knew what they were doing," Trombitis said.

Photos taken at the crime scene and used as evidence showed that the crooks cut holes in the roof, destroyed the video security system and then shimmied down the walls into the warehouse.

"There was money - coins - things were in complete disarray," Trombitis said.

Someone cut a huge hole in the vault that was stuffed with roughly $92 million in cash.

The torch was so hot that agents said that some of it caught fire.  According to investigators, the crooks then grabbed a forklift and went after pallets of coins, weighing more than 8,000 pounds.

Brink's employees who were arriving for work the next day noticed that the doors were stuck and figured they were frozen.

It turned out that the doors were glued shut with epoxy, Landers reported.

The FBI questioned some Brink's workers, thinking that the burglary came from someone on the inside.

"There were five or six that we polygraphed," Trombitis said.

Every Brink's employee passed the test and people from the area were later eliminated as suspects, Landers reported.

In March 2009, two months after the burglary occurred, David Nassor, was arrested after investigators found some loot from another burglary at his home near Boston.  He told investigators that he was sent to case the Brink's warehouse in Columbus.

Trombitis said that he was in disbelief and tried to convince the Massachusetts FBI agent that he was mistaken.

Nassor gave the names of two others, Robert Doucette and Sean Murphy.  The three burglars were known as the Lynn Breakers since Murphy was from Lynn, Mass.

"There's more burglars in Lynn, per capita, than anywhere else, supposedly," Trombitis said.

Agents determined that Murphy was the mastermind behind the Brink's burglary.  In all, $2.5 million was stolen from the warehouse, Landers reported.

During the FBI's interrogation of Doucette, Trombitis learned about the blueprint to the Brink's heist.

"(Doucette) knew better not to tell us the truth," Trombitis said.  "Basically, we told him that if we find out that you're not telling us the truth, all bets are off."

He told agents that Murphy bought a cell phone jammer to prevent the security alarm from reaching police and how Murphy used satellite imagery to scope out the warehouse's layout.

"They wore gloves," said Sal Dominquez, an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case.  "They were very conscious about leaving DNA behind."

The crime scene was so clean that the FBI's evidence team and Columbus crime scene investigators could not find a fingerprint.

According to the FBI, Murphy purchased cigarettes and beer before the burglary and gave them to people at what was believed to be a homeless shelter near the Brink's warehouse.

Once the residents finished smoking and drinking, agents said that Murphy took the cigarette butts and bottles and scattered them around the crime scene to make it look like it was committed by local residents.

Meanwhile, Doucette took agents to storage facilities in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania where the Lynn Breakers kept their tools and the money they took in coins and cash.

It was there where Murphy's DNA was found on a mask that was taken during the seizure, Dominquez said.

Agents also discovered a manuscript written by Murphy, Master Thief:  How To Be a Professional Burglar.

Murphy was arrested, brought to Columbus and later represented himself at his trial, Landers reported.

"Murphy attempted to persuade the jury that he didn't commit the burglary," said U.S. District Judge George C. Smith, who sentenced Murphy to 20 years in prison.  "He wanted to give the impressions that he had actually taught the culprits to actually commit the crime."

According to Smith, Murphy's credibility began to crumble during about five hours of him cross-examining Doucette.

"(Doucette said,) 'Why are you asking me these questions?  You were right there with me,'" Smith said.

Murphy was convicted in October of the burglary, with the jury finding him guilty of conspiracy to transport stolen goods, racketeering and interstate transportation of stolen goods.

Doucette and another co-conspirator, Joseph M. Morgan, pleaded guilty in April 2011.  Murphy received the longest sentence with 20 years, Landers reported.

Agents said that Murphy never planned on his accomplices turning on him after his sophisticated planning.  It turned out that the testimony in his trial put the so-called master thief behind bars.

According to Brink's, about $5 million in damage was caused to the warehouse.  The company repaid their customers $2.3 million from the cash that was stolen.

Brink's has since increased its security, Landers reported.

Stay with 10TV News and 10TV.com for continuing coverage.

Previous Stories:

January 25, 2012:  'Mastermind' In Brink's Burglary Sentenced To 20 Years, $1.3 Million Payment
April 7, 2011:  2 Plead Guilty To Using Blowtorch To Break Into Brink's Facility
January 21, 2011:  3 Indicted In Connection With Brink's Burglary
February 6, 2009:  Reward Up To $52,000 In Brink's Theft
February 5, 2009:  Reward Increased In Brink's Coin Theft