Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Loomis Fargo Heist

Story by Mark Washburn

   On Oct. 4, 1997, Loomis Fargo guard David Scott Ghantt found himself alone at the end of his shift. He had keys to the vault and loaded half a ton of bundled cash into an Econoline van. He snatched the tapes from two surveillance cameras, unaware that a third was watching his handiwork. 
FBI Surveillance photos of David Scott Ghantt stealing $17 million from Loomis Fargo armored car company in Charlotte.

   He drove to a parking lot in Gaston County, where he met accomplices. They stuffed cash into a rented Budget truck, then ditched the Econoline in the woods - with $3 million still inside. They'd taken $17 million from the vault, making it the third-largest bank job in U.S. history. 
 An FBI agent walks from the confiscated van used in the armored-car heist. The vehicle's door is covered with fingerprint dust. STEPHANIE GRACE LIM/Staff 

  Ghantt took off for Mexico, and the rest of the gang waited for things to settle down. They didn't wait very long. 
David Scott Ghantt walked down Avenida 5 when he left his room at the Hotel Tortuga in Playa del Carmen in the Yucatan peninsula. According to hotel workers, he smoked Marlboros, read comic books and went out daily for walks and a drink of cheap tequila. Ghantt, who is suspected of stealing $17 million from his employer, Loomis Fargo in October, was captured here Sunday night. KENT D. JOHNSON/STAFF

 Michele Chambers, for example, walked into a Mount Holly bank the following week and asked how much cash she could deposit without having to fill out IRS paperwork. She was told she could put in $10,000. She pulled $9,500 out of a briefcase. But the teller filled out the form anyway.
FBI surveillance photo of Michele Chambers as she entered the white BMW Z3 she bought with money stolen during the $17 million Loomis Fargo heist.

Later that month, Michele and her husband, Steve Chambers, moved out of their Lincolnton mobile home into a $635,000 mansion on Cramer Mountain. They put down $400,000 in cash. They later bought a furniture store, jewelry, a sports car and thousands of dollars in antiques. 
 Furniture movers push a large wardrobe, at the home of Steven and Michelle Chambers 503 Stuart Ridge onCramer Mountain, the Chambers are accused of being involved in the $17 million dollar armored car heist last October in Charlotte. 

 Movers from Advanced Bonded Warehouse of Charlotte pack up artwork and other furnishings -- including a grand piano and tiger print carpeting -- from the $635,000 Cramer Mountain home of Steven and Michelle Chambers. ROBERT LAHSER/Staff 

A mover with Advanced Bonded Warehouse Charlotte (instructed not to give name) smiles after looking at the six foot tall wooden Indian that was brought out of the game room downstairs at Steven and Michelle Chambers Cramer Mounatian home. The Chambers have been arrested in connection to the $17 million dollar Oct. 4 Loomis Fargo armored car heist. ROBERT LAHSER/STAFF

   Following the binge-spending trail, FBI agents eventually arrested more than 20 people and won convictions.
Robbery suspect David Scott Ghantt is led from a US Airways plane at Charlotte Douglass Airport Monday, March 2, 1998, in Charlotte, N.C., following his arrest in Mexico. He is charged with stealing a van stuffed with cash from the vault at Loomis, Fargo & Co. in Charlotte.  
Christopher A. Record/Staff

US Marshalls lead (front to back) Steve Chambers, Eric Payne, Thomas Grant and Michael McKinney through the back doors of the Federal Courthouse along with 2 others arrested in connection with the Loomis, Fargo & Co. heist by David Scott Ghantt in October 1997. L.MUELLER/STAFF

 Michelle Chambers (left) and Kelly Campbell leave the federal courthouse in Charlotte after their arrest Monday. The two women and six others are charged in connection with the Oct. 4 heist.


All prison sentences have been completed. - Maria