NEW YORK (AP) — Bank burglars reminded New York's top police official of a Hollywood movie as they pulled off two nighttime heists, snatching about $5 million in cash, diamonds, jewelry, coins and baseball cards from safe deposit boxes before they were caught, authorities said Tuesday as they announced the arrest of three men.
New York Police Department Commissioner William J. Bratton credited "painstaking persistence" by investigators left with few clues as they probed a string of recent bank burglaries. He said they learned plywood was bought at a nearby Home Depot and torches from a Brooklyn welder helped poke through bank vaults.
Bratton said in a release that the burglaries resembled scenes from the movie "Heat" because they were well organized, meticulous and difficult for law enforcement to investigate. He later referenced the movie again, telling a news conference the heists "remind me of one of my favorite movies."
Evidence includes surveillance footage of the men preparing for and carrying out the burglaries, along with video surveillance of two defendants buying burglary supplies, authorities said.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the burglars used the darkness of night in an April attack against an HSBC Bank in Brooklyn and a May break-in at the Maspeth Federal Savings Bank in Queens to blowtorch their way through roofs and into the vaults of the banks.
"Through their brazen bank heists, the defendants allegedly stole not just people's money, but their memories too, leaving in their destructive wake gaping holes and looted vaults," Bharara said.
Bharara credited the NYPD and the FBI for teaming up on the arrests of Michael Mazzara, 44, Charles Kerrigan, 40, and Anthony Mascuzzio, 36, all of Brooklyn. They were charged with conspiracy to commit bank burglary and bank burglary.
At an initial appearance in Manhattan federal court, bail was set at $150,000 for Kerrigan and $2 million for Mazzara. Electronic monitoring was ordered for both. Bail was not immediately requested for Mascuzzio.
Mazzara's attorney, Sam Talkin, said Mazzara denies the charges and maintains his innocence. Kerrigan's lawyer, James Froccaro, said Kerrigan will plead not guilty and "looks forward to being vindicated or cleared after trial."
A lawyer for Mascuzzio declined to comment.
Prosecutors argued for detention without bail for Mazzara. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Denton said a search of the Brooklyn home where he resided turned up apparent proceeds of the crime and the crime itself was carried out "with an almost cinematic flair."
On a bank roof in Queens, the burglars left behind empty safe deposit boxes, grinding wheels and a fuel tank for a cutting torch. Near a hole in the roof was a black plywood structure that the burglars apparently built to shield themselves from view.
In Brooklyn, the burglars cut interior vault alarm wires along with phone wires a block away, authorities said. Investigators said they relied in part on telephone and financial records, cellphone data and a confidential source to build their case.
Associated Press Writer Kiley Armstrong contributed to this report