The Unperfect Crime

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The employees at Loomis Fargo, & Co. in Charlotte, North Carolina, joked about it all the time: what would it take to steal all that money stashed in the company vault and get away with it? In the Fall of 1997, some of them would find out.

Vault superintendent David Ghantt was tired of scraping by on $8.15 an hour. Kelly Campbell, David’s ex-girlfriend and a former armored-car driver for Loomis, was also fed up. It was Steve Chambers, Kelly’s old friend, who came up with the plan to rob Loomis Fargo. On October 4, 1997, David lingered in the vault at the end of his shift. Once alone, he loaded bundles of cash into an unmarked Loomis van, and drove to meet his accomplices. David took off for Mexico, while the others stashed the loot in a shack behind Steve Chambers’ house.

Loomis officials had to break into their own vault to determine just how much money had been stolen. The haul was over $17 million. David Ghantt, identified by a video security tape inside the vault, had pulled off the second largest heist in U.S. history. Over the next two days, the FBI would interview everyone associated with David Ghantt. Large deposits of cash in the Chambers’ bank account triggered a “suspicious activities report” that wound up in the hands of the FBI. The Chambers’ new $635,000 home, purchased with cash, and Kelly Campbell’s suddenly extravagant lifestyle further suggested a new-found wealth. To protect himself from the only person who could link him to the crime, Steve Chambers hired a hit man to kill David in Mexico. Thanks to a tapped phone line, the FBI was on the heels of the criminals and the would-be murderer. On March 1, David Ghantt was arrested in Mexico City. Agents simultaneously surrounded the homes of the other thieves. All were taken into custody without incident.