On a freezing night in January 1993, masked gunmen walked through the laughably lax security at the Rochester Brink’s depot, tied up the guards, and unhurriedly made off with $7.4 million in one of the FBI’s top-five armored car heists in history. Suspicion quickly fell on a retired Rochester cop working security for Brinks at the time—as well it might. Officer Tom O’Connor had been previously suspected of everything from robbery to murder to complicity with the IRA. One ex-IRA soldier in particular was indebted to O’Connor for smuggling him and his girlfriend into the United States, and when he was caught in New York City with $2 million in cash from the Brink’s heist, prosecutors were certain they finally had enough to nail O’Connor. But they were wrong. In Seven Million, the reporter Gary Craig meticulously unwinds the long skein of leads, half-truths, false starts, and dead ends, taking us from the grim solitary pens of Northern Ireland’s Long Kesh prison to the illegal poker rooms of Manhattan to the cold lakeshore on the Canadian border where the body parts began washing up.
The story is populated by a colorful cast of characters, including
cops and FBI agents, prison snitches, a radical priest of the
Melkite order who ran a home for troubled teenagers on the Lower
East Side of Manhattan, and the IRA rebel who’d spent long years
jailed in one of Northern Ireland’s most brutal prisons and who was
living underground in New York posing as a comics dealer. Finally,
Craig investigates the strange, sad fate of Ronnie Gibbons, a
down-and-out boxer and muscle-for-hire in illegal New York City
card rooms, who was in on the early planning of the heist, and who
disappeared one day in 1995 after an ill-advised trip to Rochester
to see some men about getting what he felt he was owed. Instead, he
got was what was coming to him. Seven Million is a meticulous
re-creation of a complicated heist executed by a variegated and
unsavory crew, and of its many repercussions. Some of the suspects
are now dead, some went to jail; none of them are talking about the
robbery or what really happened to Ronnie Gibbons. And the money?
Only a fraction was recovered, meaning that most of the $7 million
is still out there somewhere.