An armored car guard steals $7 million to fund terrorist group.
It was one of the most daring heists in U.S. history: one man single-handedly loaded
$7 million into a getaway car and vanished.
The robber was a 25-year old armored car guard named Victor Manuel Gerena, a trusted employee at the West Hartford, Connecticut, office of the Wells-Fargo Express Company.
Gerena arrived at work on September 12, 1983, as usual, but with a special request. He asked if he could park a car he had borrowed from a friend inside the building to keep it safe. Special Agent Jeff Rovelli with the New Haven FBI describes the car:
That day, Gerena and his partner made all their scheduled rounds, collecting more than three million dollars from local banks and businesses. The Wells-Fargo vaults already held more than four million dollars.
By 9:00 P.M., Gerena, his partner, and the supervisor were alone in the armored car terminal with more than $7 million in cash. Victor asked for his partner’s gun, saying that he would check it in for him. Instead, Gerena pointed his own gun at his supervisor and ordered both men to the floor. Special Agent Jeff Rovelli explains what happened next:
Gerena began to move the seven million bag by bag. It took the better part of an hour and a half to load his car with roughly a half-ton of cash. Special Agent Jeff Rovelli believes Gerena had an accomplice:
Gerena left the building without harming the guards. They soon worked themselves free and called the police.
The next day, Gerena’s car was found a short distance from the Wells-Fargo terminal. Victor Gerena had vanished, along with the seven million dollars.
Investigators soon learned that Victor Gerena was a member of a Puerto Rican terrorist group called Los Macheteros. They were fighting for the independence of Puerto Rico from the United States.
Flush with millions from the robbery, the terror group purchased a surface to air missile. On October 30, 1983, they launched it at the FBI headquarters in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Little damage was done and some of Gerena’s co-conspirators were quickly arrested.
Victor Gerena escaped again. He is now on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.