NEW YORK — Gunmen hijacked an armored car in a suburb of Rochester, N.Y., Tuesday and escaped with $10.8 million in cash, the second largest amount ever taken in a U.S. armored car holdup, authorities said.
Law enforcement officials said the money was being transported to the Federal Reserve Bank in Buffalo, N.Y., when the vehicle's driver and a woman guard stopped for breakfast at a market near the campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology.
After the guard entered the store on East River Road in the Rochester suburb of Henrietta, the driver was accosted by several gunmen, one of whom brandished a shotgun. They reportedly entered the two-tone brown armored truck and when the woman guard returned, ordered both armored car employees to drive to a rural location about half a mile away.
The guards were bound and blindfolded while the cash was transferred to a getaway vehicle, believed to be a van. After the robbers had fled, both guards managed to free themselves after about 15 minutes and returned to the offices of Armored Motor Service of America, where they notified police and the FBI. Neither guard was injured.
Capt. Neil Flood of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office confirmed the amount of money stolen as $10.8 million. He said the money weighed between 1,500 and 1,700 pounds.
"Obviously, it was a well-planned job," Flood said.
The largest theft from an armored car in U.S. history occurred in 1982 when $11 million was taken from the offices of the Sentry Armored Car Courier Co. in the Bronx. But authorities have since said much of the missing money may have been previously embezzled.
Flood said that several robbers overpowered the guards after the armored car was parked outside the Bi-Rite Market between 7 a.m. and 7:10 a.m. Tuesday. The police were notified at 7:40 a.m.
Investigators said the cash appeared to be virtually untraceable. Police and FBI agents searched the armored car for fingerprints and questioned the driver and the guard, whose names were not immediately made public. Detectives examined records of the armored car company and questioned other employees who might have known the vehicle's route.
Investigators also questioned day shift workers at the Bi-Rite market, a small store serving coffee, sandwiches, subs and pizza.
It was the second multimillion-dollar heist AMSA has suffered in the last 13 months.
In May, 1989, $2.9 million was stolen from an AMSA truck in East Syracuse. Two men drove a one-ton truck through a garage door and pistol-whipped two guards in that robbery.
Two suspects are now on trial in federal court in Syracuse. One of the security guards involved pleaded guilty last year to taking part in the robbery.