NEW YORK — An armed gang subdued a lone security guard at a Brooklyn-based armored car company and made off with more than $8.2 million, most of it in brand-new $100 bills, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported Monday.
The robbery, the second largest cash theft in the city's history, occurred when the guard was surprised at about 11:30 p.m. Sunday in the command room of the Hudson Armored Car Courier Co. as he was watching television. He felt a gun at the back of his head and was ordered to lie on the floor, FBI officials said.
Two of the gang members then bound the guard's wrists and ankles with wire. He managed to free his ankles after about 20 minutes and succeeded in pushing an alarm, which brought police, the officials said.
Police from Brooklyn's 94th Precinct responded almost immediately, but the robbers were gone and the vault had been cleaned out. The guard was uninjured, the officials added.
James Fox, the FBI's assistant director in New York, said the guard told investigators he was unable to see any of the robbers but that, judging from their voices, he believed there were perhaps five or six of them.
Fox declined to say how the robbers managed to bypass the company's security system, which includes video cameras, a buzzer entry and an elaborate alarm mechanism. But, he said, the system had been "neutralized" and, thus, raised the possibility of complicity inside the company.
"Any time you see a system thwarted, suspicion turns to complicity from inside," he said.
Fox added: "We do have a sizable amount of evidence (from the scene) which we will be investigating around the clock until this robbery is solved."
The investigation was launched by a joint task force made up of FBI agents and New York City police detectives.
Company officials refused to speak to reporters.
Federal investigators declined to release many details about the holdup for fear of jeopardizing their investigation, but Fox said shipping manifests at the company showed the robbers got four bags of cash totaling $8,268,280.07 and weighing more than 120 pounds.
Fox, who spoke with reporters at a news conference Monday afternoon, said the new $100 bills with the sequential serial numbers will pose a big problem for the robbers.
"I suppose they could try to use it in small amounts or try to fence it," he said, but "the numbers have been entered into law enforcement computers around the world."
The armored car company's building is a windowless, one-story structure with no identifying signs outside and only one entrance visible from the street. It is located in a bleak industrial neighborhood of warehouses and small factories in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, near the waterfront.
Ray Christian, who owns a neighboring business, Christian and Sons Uniforms, told the Associated Press that it was common knowledge in the area what Hudson's business was because "you see guys with drawn guns when they transport money in or out."
Fox noted that December traditionally is a big month for robberies in New York because of the large amounts of cash banks and businesses usually have on hand during the Christmas holiday season.
About a dozen armored car robberies a year take place during each December, he said.
The city's largest cash heist took place in December of 1982 when $11 million was stolen from the Sentry Armored Car Courier Co. However, authorities later said a large portion of the money had been stolen over time by insiders.