Well, not really a money train heist, but a heist on the room the money from the money train ended up. But that’s not nearly as snappy.
As anyone who visited New York City before the turn of the century and used the subway knows, instead of cash subway tokens had to be purchased (they were phased out in 2003). I have one somewhere from my trip back in 1998. This meant every station took in a lot of cash daily, which was duly collected (by guards who had to wear pocketless clothing whilst on shift), placed onto secretive money trains, and taken to the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) headquarters at 370 Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn. The secure money room inside the HQ was accessed through a shuttered doorway on the far side of the tracks and contained a secure vault where the cash was stored before being delivered to the bank.
The Money Room entrance at 370 Jay Street (@spoilednyc.com)
In July 1979, $600,000 disappeared from the money room.
Hilariously, the supposedly impregnable vault which required one person to remain inside at all times, was accessible through a hole in the wall shared with the women’s toilets. One night two workers were stuck outside and had to break through the wall to get back in. Instead of repairing the wall, the hole was left covered with a sheet of plywood.
One weekend it was announced that maintenance would be carried out on the building and the power would be switched off for the duration. So when management duly arrived on Monday morning, a huge block of neatly counted $10 dollar bills, weighing 120 pounds in total, was gone. The thieves had left far more money behind.
Money Room Warning Sign (@Untapped Cities)
The main theory was that whomever got into the vault through the thinly-covered wall took bags stuffed full of cash to a window to throw to an accomplice waiting on the street below. Knowing about the plywood board, the loss of power, and taking only the $10 notes indicated an inside job. Employees were interrogated and one failed a polygraph test, but apart from that no clues were found and no one was ever charged.
MTA logo-branded bags were found in a hotel room in New Jersey, but the money, untraceable anyway, was never recovered. This perfect crime would appear to be as memorable as the Lufthansa heist, but instead was quickly forgotten, probably because of the embarrassment it caused to the MTA (and Martin Scorsese didn’t make a classic film about it).
There are dissenting opinions on what happened however, mostly on Reddit from people who claim to be knowledgeable of transport administration (it’s Reddit, of course there’s an expert for everything). It’s thought that the $600,000 was basically skimmed by all the employees over months or years until it was realised the shortfall was so huge there would be no way to cover it up, so the heist was invented as cover. Probable, but not quire as exciting.
Further reading/listening about the heist:
Trace Evidence Podcast: The New York Transit Authority Heist
Take care and have a profitable day, everyone!