Producer Of The Irishman To Debut Film On Bonded Vault Heist Next Month

The Bonded Vault Company was a commercial safe-deposit business that occupied a vault inside Hudson Fur Storage in Providence, Rhode Island. It was an unofficial "bank" for members and associates of the Patriarca crime family.

Located at 101 Cranston St., the bank consisted of 146 safe-deposit boxes (each of which was 2 feet high, 2 feet wide and 4 feet deep).

Patriarca allowed his bookies, associates, and amici to store their valuables there. And they did, putting everything and anything -- cash, guns, gold bars, and jewelry -- in the Patriarca family's "bank."

A film dramatizing the story of the infamous Bonded Vault robbery is hitting theaters next month.

Partially filmed in Providence, Rhode Island, the film stars Theo Rossi (Marvel’s Luke Cage, Sons Of Anarchy), Clive Standen (Taken, Vikings, Everest), Emmy winner Samira Wiley (Handmaid’s Tale), Oscar nominee Chazz Palminteri as mob boss Raymond Patriarca, and Golden Globe winner Don Johnson (Django Unchained, Miami Vice).

VAULT is one of six pending projects from producer Chad A. Verdi. (Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, coming to Netflix this fall, is another.)....

The value of the loot for obvious reasons is difficult to estimate. The historically cited figures have hovered at around a conservative $4 million (in cash and valuables). More recently Rhode Island's Target 12 reported that, all along, law enforcement had actually believed the take was far greater – pegging the value of the robbery at more than $30 million.

Mob bank in Federal Hill
Hudson Fur Storage was once the home of a mob bank. The photo is from 2015, and the company is reportedly still in business at 101 Cranston Street. 

On Aug. 14, 1975, eight men in  a nondescript van pulled up to 101 Cranston St. at around 8 am. One of the eight, a career criminal named Robert J. Dussault, hopped out of the van. He wore a suit and carried a briefcase as he entered the building. (And he had no clue what twists awaited him. Consider just one of them: A few years after the robbery, Dussault would address a graduating class of the Providence police academy. In a videotape recording of the speech he can be seen sporting long-ass sideburns, a mustache and big dark sunglasses. As he speaks he’s also chain-smoking, twirling the cigarette for emphasis....he survived at least.)

But in August 1975, his objective was to simply enter the building and find Sam Levine’s office. Levine was one of Hudson Fur’s owners. After reaching the office and saying whatever to get within, Dussault pulled his gun and ordered five employees to get into  one of the other rooms. They were made to put pillowcases over their heads.

Dussault’s accomplices — wearing masks and carrying drills, crowbars, and at least seven duffle bugs — then made it inside the office.  (One of them remained in the van to serve as look-out.)

The men then went to work inside the Hudson Fur office, focusing on smashing open the safety deposit boxes. The problem was the boxes proved to be worthy opponents: they withstood the drills. A little ingenuity then came into play: using crowbars (and elbow grease), they popped the steel doors off the hinges.

The thieves were professionals and knew what they were doing. They called one another “Harry” to shield their identities.  But as the spoils became evident they seemed to lose a degree of their professionalism. Screams of joy had been heard by witnesses, for example. The five employees wearing pillowcases reported  hearing the robbers cry out joyfully after they popped the boxes open.

“I could hear them drilling,” one witness later said while she discussed the day's events, as per Target 12 reporting. “Then I could hear the doors, the big, heavy doors, falling to the floor, and it sounded just like sewer caps.”

“They were yelling, ‘Oh, Harry, you gotta come! You would not believe what’s in here! You just won’t believe!’” she recalled. “They were taking turns going back and forth, and they were going, ‘Holy Christ, look at all this stuff – we’ll never be able to carry it all outta here.’ ”

More than an hour after they arrived, the robbers departed, hefting seven bulging duffel bags, which they stuffed into the van and a nearby Chevy Monte Carlo that had been strategically parked there earlier.

The bags were so heavy the car scraped the street when they drove off.

After the loot was gone, Dussault led the hostages to the back of Hudson Fur at gunpoint.

“I said, ‘Uh oh, here we go – execution,’” the witness later recalled. “I said, ‘I’m never going to see my babies again.’”

But instead of ruthlessly executing the five, Dussault crammed them into a small bathroom and jammed a chair against the door.

He warned them to wait five minutes before trying to get out. Under pain of death...

But after just a few minutes, the wfitness recalled getting claustrophobic. She pushed against the door and jarred the chair loose, freeing the captives.

Following a brief debate, she pressed the alarm button and the police arrived at Hudson Fur in moments....

Knee-Deep In Loot, Literally
Truth be told, law enforcement’s estimates likely shortchanged the robbers, at least considering the loot the crooks left behind that day...

The same day of the heist a detective brought the witness, a woman named Oliva, into a room to show her something, first ordering her not to touch anything. She was shocked to find herself standing “knee-deep in money, silver bars, gold bars, raw gems, guns, machine guns, chalices,” as Oliva recalled. “It was unbelievable.” NOTE: THIS WAS THE LOOT THEY LEFT BEHIND!

Our bandits meanwhile regrouped at 5 Golf Avenue in East Providence, where Charles “Chucky” Flynn – one of them — had rented a house. There they divied up part of the loot, and each man grabbed a bag of cash (this later was estimated at being about $64,000 per man).

As per the agreement between them, later on they’d get their split from the other stuff, meaning the jewelry, silver ingots, and gold coins.

It wasn’t to be.

At this point readers unfamiliar with the story of the robbery (include your fearless author in that group. I never heard of any of this before this morning) probably would never be able to imagine who ended up with the truly valuable stuff from the heist — the stolen and transported gold bars, jewelry, rare gems. Did you guess Raymond Patriarca himself? If you did you’d be correct. According to interviews with retired FBI agents and others directly involved in the case, that’s exactly who ultimately benefited the most from this heist.... Raymond L.S. Patriarca (pic below).

Dussault himself would say that Patriarca himself was “the man” --  the brains behind the heist.

That revelation baffled investigators, who were stymied that Patriarca would rob men who paid him homage.

Wayne Worcester, a former Providence Journal reporter and current journalism professor at the University of Connecticut, offered insight here.

“Patriarca had just finished serving a prison sentence and came home to find the revenue that he should have made in his absence apparently was not quite what he thought it was,” Worcester said. “It either meant that someone was skimming from him while he was in jail, or his people were lying down – and either way he couldn’t let that happen. He wouldn’t let that happen.”

 Rhode Island State Police and Providence Police detectives investigated the robbery and sought to officially link it back to Patriarca.

Target 12 watched video of Dussault speaking to a class of cadets about organized crime while he was in the Witness Protection Program.

 "Dussault said that Patriarca not only gave the OK for the robbery – he even had a hand in the planning.

“[Patriarca] did do something for us,” Dussault told the cadets. “When I went in there to Bonded Vault that morning, that door wasn’t locked – that door was wide open, the safe … the vault, the room.”

Of Patriarca, he added: “Nobody does anything without his OK, his piece of the action.”

According to a retired FBI agent, Patriarca employed a Providence jewelry company executive as a fence. The executive would fly the jewelry overseas and sell it for millions of dollars in cash, the retired agent said.

In the weeks following the robbery, federal investigators sent inquiries to Switzerland and Germany to see whether any of the stolen goods were being stored there, according to an FBI file obtained by Target 12. The documents, which were heavily redacted by the Department of Justice, do not reveal whether anything was discovered.

No made member of the Rhode Island Mafia was ever charged in the Bonded Vault robbery.

“I think that’s the whole reason for paying attention to Bonded Vault,” Worcester said. “If you look at what was going on with [the heist], you can see this was the first major incident of the mob really starting to feed on itself.”

Dussault fled Rhode Island just days after the heist to spend his newfound wealth the same way he always did – on gambling and prostitutes. And he did that in Las Vegas. Dussault rented a suite at the MGM Grand and enlisted a concierge to help find him a prostitute. He eventually settled on the services of a 25-year-old beauty named Karyne Sponheim.

He quickly burned through the money.

“People wanted him dead,” Worcester said. “You’d have to have him dead, because of what he knew. He could implicate anybody.”

Three members of the Bonded Vault crew flew out to Las Vegas expressly to kill Dussault. One of the trio, Chuck Flynn, was best friends with Dussault.

“That was the idea: send the best friend so you can gain access to him, and take him out,” Worcester said.

Dussault later told the cadets he knew he was on the “hit parade.” He eluded his old friend for a while, but eventually they caught up to him.

"Dussault was able to talk his way out of his own murder. In fact, a year later he told The Providence Journal the conversation between the lifelong friends ended in tears."

“I knew they tried to kill me in Dallas, Texas, Las Vegas and Chicago. I knew that because I was the one that was running,” Dussault said in the video. “My name is on that bullet. I hope it never finds me.”

Eventually the cops, not the mob, caught up with Robert Dussault. Thanks to a high-level source inside the Patriarca crime family.

Not that the FBI needed a leak. They reportedly made Dussault and Flynn the day of the robbery.

“(Those pillowcases) were very thin and it was very bright in the room,” Oliva said. “I could see through the pillow case over to where the vault [was].”

Oliva described Dussault and Flynn.  She was the only hostage to describe the bandits to police, and she was the only one willing to testify at trial.

“She really put them away,” Worcester said. “Nobody else was forthcoming with any kind of information that was very helpful at all. She really was a hero.”

Dussault’s luck finally ran out when he was arrested by police in January 1976, five months after the heist.

Two Providence Police officers and two State Police detectives immediately flew to Vegas to question the man they believed had been the lead gunman.

“I had never ratted, I’ve never told,” Dussault said. “I was an enemy of the law for 25 years.”

Then one of the detectives who'd flown to Vegas, Det. Anthony Mancuso, handed him a cigarette and told Dussault something he didn't know.

” ‘Bob, they killed Chucky Flynn – your best friend – they killed him,’ ” Dussault recalled Mancuso telling him.

Las Vegas police loaned a video camera to their colleagues from Rhode Island and Dussault confessed. He named the members of the crew.

A couple of days later, Dussault was on a plane back to Rhode Island surrounded by detectives when Mancuso delivered another bit of news.

“Tony looks at me and says, ‘Bob, I’ve got to tell you something. Chucky Flynn isn’t dead. I lied,'” Dussault recalled in the video.

“The oldest trick in the game and it was pulled on me."