United California Bank: One of the Biggest Bank Heists in American History

On Friday, March 24, 1972, $30 million was taken from the safety deposit boxes of the United California Bank in Laguna Niguel, Calif., by a group of masked men from Ohio. They were called the Dinsio crew, and they had landed at LAX just a month earlier. It was a well-planned heist — so practiced, so drama-filled, with so many stranger-than-fiction events that it’s hard to understand why it’s not a better known story. It is, after all, the stuff of which movies are made. The crew consisted of 5 men, who leased a condo a mile from the bank. There, they planned the heist with meticulous attention to detail. They stashed their tools — drills, ropes, lights, and pre-staged explosives — in the brush behind a grocery store near the bank. When the day arrived — with walkie-talkies in hand and spotters in place — the crew made their way to the bank’s roof, cut a hole in it, and lowered all their equipment onto the top of the bank vault above the false ceiling of the bank, a distance of about 8 feet. A ladder was needed to get to the roof, so the robbers snagged one from a nearby church. With explosives and sandbags over the site, the 18-inch cement vault roof was penetrated. For the next 2 nights, the robbers systematically punched out the locks on some 500 safety deposit boxes. The newspapers at the time touted the take as $30 million, but the actual dollar amount stolen is still unknown. The bankers didn’t know they had been robbed until Monday. For the robbers, however, the good times didn’t last long. By June, the crew of 5 had been arrested in Ohio. When authorities found the condo the men had lived in for a month, the dishwasher revealed unwashed dishes that led to fingerprints. Only some of the money was recovered.