Bank Thieves Went Through Roofs and Walls to Steal Millions

Wielding torches, Shop Vacs, and plywood, three men are accused of breaking into vaults undetected and making off with cash, jewels, and more.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

A trio of burglars stole more than $5 million from two New York City banks by cutting their way through walls and roofs, law enforcement announced Tuesday.

Michael Mazzara, Charles Kerrigan, and Anthony Mascuzzio were all hit with conspiracy bank burglary charges by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Manhattan. The complaint filed by Preet Bharara’s office alleges the men were more like ghost carpenters who emptied banks of everything from pricey baubles, rare coins, and collector baseball cards to wads of cash.

“These burglaries...involve a crew of individuals who break or attempt to break into secured bank vaults and safety deposit boxes, generally by cutting through the roof or a wall from a space adjoining the bank,” the complaint, released Tuesday morning, states.

Beyond the meticulous handiwork and planning that went into fleecing the federally insured financial institutions, the complaint also shows law enforcement using their own tools to catch the crooks, including license plate scanners, surveillance cameras, and cell tower tracing methods.

The first hit took place between April 8 and April 9 at an HSBC bank in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn. It was so quiet it wasn’t discovered until the morning of Sunday, April 10.

The complaint suggests the accused trio of burglars “used a torch to cut through the roof and into the vault” as evidenced by the discarded oxygen and acetylene tanks left on the roof.

They made off with with $330,000 in cash “as well as the contents of the safe deposit boxes.”

The burglary was as sophisticated as it was stealthy.

Investigators said the men first snipped the phone lines running to the bank by cutting into a utility box a block away at around 1:50 p.m. on April 8. A nearby surveillance camera spotted Mazzara wearing gloves after being behind the wheel of a red Ford Taurus parked near an alleyway off of 45th Street at around the same time when the bank’s alarm was compromised.

Mazzara was seen wearing a black hoodie, gray sweatpants, and a light brown Kangol hat at the bank around 10:45 p.m. stepping out of a black Honda Pilot followed by Kerrigan, who was pulling “an industrial wet/dry vacuum cleaner” and the two tanks that were later discarded on the bank’s roof.

The heavy equipment was lugged into the vacant storefront adjacent to the bank by Mazzara, Kerrigan, and a “co-conspirator not named as a defendant” (who likely ratted the other two out). Once inside, the thieves allegedly cut their way through walls and into the vault.

Law enforcement later tracked down Mazzara and Kerrigan thanks to license plate scanners that picked up their vehicles and hits on cellphone towers in the area. What’s more, the feds had installed a “pole camera across the street” from a property “owned by relatives of Mazzara” in November 2014. That camera showed Mazzara’s crew loading and unloading the burglary gear and large duffel bags, the complaint stated.

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At least five days before the burglary Mazzara’s red Taurus was spotted there. Police also discovered a red F-250 pickup truck registered to Mazzara that he later used on shopping trips to buy the crew’s burglary tools.

Shortly after the first bank burglary the authorities managed to spot Mazzara and Kerrigan returning to Mazzara’s family property where they repackaged the alleged loot before driving out to Mazzara’s home on Staten Island.

The crew lay low for a month before moving onto a bigger score in Queens.

According to the feds, the thieves broke into the Maspeth Federal Savings Bank in Rego Park and made off with $4,340,000 in “diamonds, jewelry, coins, and baseball cards” and another $296,000 in cash.

This time the crooks allegedly built a miniature bunker out of plywood, painted it black, and hoisted it to the bank’s roof to conceal them as they used torches to rip off the riches.

It was bought and paid for at Home Depot on May 19 at 12:30 p.m. when Mazzara swiped his credit card for four sheets of plywood, several 2x4 pieces of wood, a gallon can of black paint, a can of black spray paint, and orange roller paint tray and a box of #8 1⅝-inch screws. All the materials were packed into the same red Ford F-250 truck he used running timber and tools back and forth to his relatives’ Brooklyn home only days leading up the HSBC burglary.

After a trip the next day to a welding supply company to fill up the tanks with acetylene and oxygen, they picked up two fire extinguishers at Home Depot “similar to the ones found in the Maspeth Branch vault,” according to the complaint.

Later that night upon returning to Mazzara’s residence (they arrived separately), Mascuzzio who was joined by Kerrigan, who was allegedly was driving a gray Nissan Altima. Mazzara and the unidentified co-conspirator arrived in a Toyota Sienna.

It wouldn’t be until after the second bank boost when they raked in the most riches yet that the pros turned against each other: at least two men become confidential sources and helped rat out the trio of burglars.

The first confidential source, the complaint notes, helped the cops nail the rooftop bank bandits by offering up a cellphone number that blew the case wide open. The complaint notes, “CS-1 was approached by law enforcement agents and began cooperating in hopes of avoiding prosecution or obtaining a cooperation agreement and more lenient treatment at sentencing.”