That’s right, the largest bank heist in U.S history, of $30m (the equivalent of $100m today), happened in our own Monarch Beach in 1972, at the United California Bank located in the shopping center at the corner of Coast Hwy and Crown Valley. It is currently a vacant store next to Chase Bank.
The story has a whole cast of characters, from the mob to the President of the United States, very interrogate planning and execution and a quirky ending with the burglars being caught by dirty dishes.
In 1972 Monarch Beach was a sleepy, low key part of the OC Coast right next to South Laguna. Many of the current communities were just being built or not built at all at that time.
There was one patrol officer covering a 20 mile radius, and the banks weren’t open on the weekends like they are today.
Meanwhile, back East, in Youngstown, OH, which was the cradle of the mafia at that time, a criminal mastermind, named Amil Dinsio, heard of a great opportunity to steal from what he thought was another crook.
Amil had heard, through his den of thieves, that President Nixon had a $10 million dollar campaign slush fund in a bank located near his summer White House in San Clemente. He was told that the dairy lobby was buying his influence, as the administration was considering discontinuing the cash subsidies to the dairy industry.
Amil assembled a gang of six proven specialist, put together a detailed plan, and flew off in March 1972 to LAX. He and his gang took a taxi to his sister’s house in South Gate and Amil tipped big with a $100 bill. This would later come back to haunt him.
They hired a realtor to find them a condo to rent in the East Nine just off the El Niguel golf course along Crown Valley that had a vantage point of the bank.
They were extremely meticulous in their planning, having previously done this type of robbery back home, and bought a used car and went throughout the county to buy their tools at different locations so they wouldn’t be to obvious.
They started their operation on Friday night by blowing a hole in the bank’s reinforced cement roof with dynamite. No one even reported the resulting loud boom. They compromised the alarm and dropped down into the bank.
What they found was a room of safe deposit boxes which they opened with great glee in hopes of finding Nixon’s private box.
But they didn’t find it since Nixon’s money was at Bank of America in San Clemente.
Since they didn’t find it they decided to come back the following night. They put a mirror on the covered hole that reflected light up to the condo. Only after seeing the mirror’s reflection the next day did they go back on Saturday night and then again on Sunday night till just before opening on Monday.
When bank employees tried opening the vault on Monday morning, they were unable to. The bank called for the police, who called for the vault experts to get the door open. Upon examining it, it was found that the timing mechanism of the vault necessary to open it was jammed from the inside. Upon opening the vault door was a mount of cement and gray dust; safety deposit boxes, stocks and bonds, bonds, and photographs were scattered all over the floor.
While it’s hard to say exactly how much they got since it was undeclared jewels and cash, it is estimated at about $30 million (100 million by today’s standard).
They did a magnificent job of trying to make a clean get-away. They scrubbed the condo in great detail with the exception of one thing – they forgot to wash the dishes and their finger prints were found. The car with their robbery tools in the trunk was also found.
But the thing that put the huge team of FBI agents in the right direction was they interviewed all the taxi drivers at LAX and the driver remembered them due to the $100 tip and took them to the sister’s house.
For his role in the crime, Dinsio is sentenced to 10 years in prison.