Holy Heist: The Tangled Web Of A Priest, A Retired Cop, And An Armored Truck Robbery

A January 1993 heist started 10 years prior to the actual crime, according to the FBI agents who investigated the robbery of a Brink’s armored car depot.

From left to right: Thomas O’Connor, Sam Millar, and Rev. Patrick Moloney

From left to right: Thomas O’Connor, Sam Millar, and Rev. Patrick Moloney

Photo by: Discovery [screenshot via discovery+ Holy Heist]

Discovery [screenshot via discovery+ Holy Heist]

The story starts almost like a joke—with a priest, an Irish rebel, and a retired cop.

On January 5, 1993, Thomas O’Connor, a retired Rochester, New York, police officer, was working his evening shift as a Brink’s security guard when three masked gunmen burst into an armored car depot, forced two of his coworkers to the floor, and placed bags over their heads. O’Connor, then 53, told police the robbers covered his eyes and forced him into a van before he was later dropped off unharmed in a Rochester suburb.

The FBI quickly grew suspicious and believed O’Connor had organized an inside job to help the robbers make off with more than $7 million—most of it in $20 bills.

The Irish Rebel

O’Connor, who died in 2013, was of Irish descent and had gone on a trip to Ireland in 1983 as he sought out more information about his ancestry. At the time, Northern Ireland was still gripped by the Troubles, a 30-year conflict between protestant citizens who wished to remain under British rule and Catholics who wanted to be independent from the British monarchy and become part of Ireland.

While abroad, O’Connor met Sam Millar, an Irish Republican Army member who fought on the side of the Catholics during the Troubles. O’Connor also became involved in NORAID, a group that funneled money to the IRA.

According to the Washington Post, Millar had served six years in an Irish prison for his activities with the IRA and was denied a visa to enter the United States, but O’Connor helped smuggle him into the country after they met.

The Catholic Priest

The FBI’s investigation led them to surveil Millar, and that’s when they connected him to Pat Moloney, a Catholic priest running a youth shelter in the East Village in Manhattan. Moloney, who was 62 at the time of the heist, had been arrested with his brother in Ireland in 1980 because they were allegedly trying to bring weapons into the country for the IRA. His brother went to prison while the priest was released.

According to the New York Times, Moloney kept various apartments around New York City to serve as safe houses for Irish immigrants, and Millar was using one of the safe houses to count the cash from the robbery. Federal agents later recovered about $2 million that Millar had hidden in an apartment. Father Moloney has always maintained his innocence, saying he never benefited from the heist, but that leaves a big question: where is the $5.2 million the FBI could never find?

Moloney, who served four years in federal prison for receiving stolen property, is now in his 90s and says even if he knew where the money was, he wouldn’t give it back.

Hear him in his own words in "Holy Heist" streaming on discovery+.

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