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New Yorkers plead guilty to 'movie-like' bank heists

[NEW YORK] Four New Yorkers have pleaded guilty to blow-torching their way into bank vaults and making off with more than US$5 million in burglaries likened to a Hollywood movie, US officials said Friday.

Michael Mazzara, 45, Charles Kerrigan, 42, and Anthony Mascuzzio, 38, assisted by Christopher Kerrigan, 40, stole more than US$5 million in cash, jewelry, collectables, and other valuables from bank vaults and safe boxes, prosecutors said.

The burglaries took place in Brooklyn and Queens in April and May last year. All four pleaded guilty at separate Manhattan federal court hearings and will be sentenced next year, prosecutors said. They face the prospect of years behind bars.

"Like a scene from a movie, these defendants used blow torches to cut into bank roofs, and subsequently vaults and safe deposit boxes, to steal more than US$5 million in cash and customer valuables," said acting Manhattan US attorney Joon Kim.

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The defendants cut through the banks' roofs and vaults with acetylene torches - targeting an HSBC bank in Brooklyn and a Maspeth Federal Savings Bank branch in Queens. In Queens, they hid their crimes by building a plywood shed on the roof.

Breaking open deposit boxes, they snatched more than US$600,000 in cash and more than US$4.3 million in diamonds, jewelry and other valuables, prosecutors said.

At the time of their arrest in July 2016, New York's then police commissioner Bill Bratton likened the burglaries to scenes from the movie "Heat", calling their work "well organised, meticulous and elusive to law enforcement".

The 1995 film, starring Robert de Niro and Al Pacino, follows a group of hardened bank robbers who mistakenly leave behind a clue.


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