Real Heist Stories: The United California Bank Heist

Perfect Burglary or Not Even Close?

Making money is never easy, but if you want to live a comfortable life without worrying about what you did or are doing, make sure you keep your income sources clean and morally correct. 

Otherwise, do you think it is actually worth spending years in prison when you are caught or going around with your conscience not clean at all? Well, the answer is “no” for us, but we don’t know about you. 

Also, some people decide that it is easier to go for illegal actions and activities to make money, and of course, this is more common than anyone would think. 

As a result, many bank robberies have taken place worldwide, and many of them in the United States (besides other illegal activities). 

The United California Bank Heist is one of the most known and infamous robberies in the United States history due to the amount of money stole and how the authorities were able to track the criminals… were they able to? That’s the question you won’t be able to know unless you keep reading. 

Recapping a Heist: About the United California Bank Heist

Where should we start? With how much money they stole, or maybe we the people involved in the robbery? 

There are several parts to cover, but we decided to keep it simple by reviewing most of the situation, and the public knows details that we can synthesize for you. 

Our story starts in March 1972, when Amil Dinsio and his Dinsio crew robbed the safety deposit vault at the United California Bank in Laguna Niguel.

This is the simple part of the robbery, but what happens with how it took place?

Dinsio’s accomplices included his brother James Dinsio and his nephews Harry and Ronald Barber. 

Charles Mulligan was his brother-in-law, alarm expert Phil Christopher and Charles Broeckel were also among them. 

The Dinsio crew was from Youngstown, Ohio, and Christopher and Broeckel are from Cleveland. 

Amil Dinsio was responsible for the operation, but he also worked closely with James, who is an explosives expert and designer and fabricator of burglary tools. 

Charles Mulligan, his brother-in-law, was the driver and watchman. Dinsio was told by someone who knew the score and forced him to include Charles Broeckel and Phil Christopher. 

Dinsio reluctantly accepted Broeckel as muscle, which was a fatal mistake. As a petty criminal thief, he had no skills to help in the robbery. 

Broeckel was able to get into the vault and open safe deposit boxes. Christopher was a crucial part of disarming the alarm. The theft was near to $30 million.

The United California Bank Heist #3 -

But, How Did It Take Place? 

With the basics about what the United California Bank Heist is about and the specific occasion, we can enter into a deeper overview: the background of the people involved and how they made it possible. 

For this, we will need to go over some little history and sometime before the heist itself. 

Before the United California Bank Heist, his crew had previously robbed 30 banks in East Asia for an estimated $20 million. 

Each job was meticulously executed, and there was little to no evidence linking Dinsio with the crimes. 

Dinsio was not fond of pointing guns at people, so he only struck during closed hours. 

What brought Dinsio and his crew to Laguna Niguel? First, a little bit of back story 

Keith Sharon, Orange County Register journalist, said that millions of dollars of President Nixon’s dirty campaign money were hidden in safe deposit boxes at a small bank located on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Crown Valley Parkway.

Sharon was looking through the Orange County Register archives in the early 2000s for interesting crimes to investigate when a colleague informed him of the bank heist. 

Sharon found Harry Barber, Dinsio’s nephew, and getaway driver, and was a former FBI “10 Most Wanted” alumni. 

Sharon offered to buy Barber dinner so that he could learn more about the robbery. Barber was initially reluctant to speak with Sharon, but he encouraged Sharon to go to Denny’s restaurant in Diamond Bar, CA. Barber then explained to Sharon the Nixon connection.

Sharon’s podcast reveals that before the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, almost anything was possible regarding politicians getting cash from lobbyists.

It was a mad rush to get as much money as possible, as the deadline for this new law was fast approaching, and President Richard Nixon was open to it.

The United California Bank Heist #2 -

One of Nixon’s cash grabs came from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Jimmy Hoffa led this powerful union. Hoffa was serving a 13-year sentence for jury tampering, bribery, and other crimes. 

Nixon offered to pardon Hoffa for $3 million cash and the endorsement of Teamster, a Democratic Party candidate. 

Tricky Dick’s deal also included Hoffa being banned from union activities for eight-year. He was really upset by this, and when he was released from prison in 1971, he used his mob connections as a way to discover where Nixon had hidden Teamster’s cash. Then reached out to Dinsio in order to get it back.

Hoffa discovered that the $3 million Teamster was not the only money in the vault. According to Hoffa, Nixon’s dirty campaign contributions totaled $30 million, which included his notorious “Milk Money” stash.

Dinsio and his team poured expandable foam into a bank’s exterior alarm in order to disable it that night. 

On a radio show, Sharon described the foam as the same kind used to repair surfboard dings.

The alarm’s clapper stopped ringing once the foam had hardened. The blast of 16 sticks of dynamite echoed throughout the night as Dinsio tore the concrete roof from the vault. 

They were not even noticed by the blast, and Dinsio was able to melt the vault’s reinforcements with a blowtorch, and the crew quickly moved inside. 

It was Friday night so that no one would be there until Monday morning. With customized sledgehammers, the crew opened nearly 500 safe deposit boxes over three nights.

The United California Bank Heist #4 - didyousaymoney

Investigating the Bank Heist: Arrests & Aftermath

Was it the perfect crime, or maybe not?

The burglary was successful, but the thieves did make the mistake of committing a similar crime in Ohio just a few months later. 

The FBI linked the two burglaries. Their investigation of transportation records was able to reveal that five of the gang members had traveled to California on a single flight using their original names (yes, without trying to fake them, at least). 

James Dinsio was the sixth person involved in the crime in Ohio as he arrived on a separate flight one day before it took place.

They also learned of the townhouse used as an HQ that had been rented by one of the members involved. 

The initial search found nothing until authorities checked the dishwasher.

The criminals had forgotten to run the dishwasher before returning to Ohio, and the recovered fingerprints permitted federal arrest warrants to be made. 

Thanks to this, all the burglars were convicted and arrested, and most of the money was recovered without too many losses in terms of the loot and its use. 

There aren’t many records about what they used a part of the money for, but some believe they just covered their tracks before being able to spend it on a specific goal.

The United California Bank Heist #5 -

Harold Dawson offered Earl Dawson, his brother, money to influence the testimony he gave.

Earl Dawson was placed in the witness protection program, as was Charles Broeckel. The latter testified against his co-conspirators in exchange for immunity from prosecution when the trial was taking place. 

In total, there were eight people involved, and while one of them wasn’t arrested when the police found the gang, he was then arrested and convicted in 1980 and sentenced to 12 years in prison, while the rest met their time in jail for over a decade. 

4 Facts You Should Know About the United California Bank Heist

  • The crew wanted to steal Richard Nixon’s dirty millions only due to their beliefs about what he was using the money for and how he obtained it in the first place. 
  • Investigation Discovery and truTV have covered the investigation and more detail of the burglary for viewers. 
  • Dinsio published a book, “Inside The Vault” in 2014, which was self-published. 
  • 2021 premiere of “Super Heist” on NBC featured the United California Bank heist, with Dinsio as a guest.

Here’s Our #1 Recommended Online Business Model:

1 - local lead gen vs other online business models - blog

Interested in starting an online business to build passive income? Check out the local lead gen business model. Click here to learn more.

Written by Dame Cash

The Dunbar Armored Robbery #1 - didyousaymoney

Real Heist Stories: The Dunbar Armored Robbery

The British Bank of the Middle East Robbery #1 - didyousaymoney

Real Heist Stories: The British Bank of the Middle East Robbery