The Bonded Vault Company was an unofficial bank used by the Patriarca crime family and associates. It was a commercial safe-deposit business occupying a vault inside Hudson Fur Storage in Providence, Rhode Island.
The Bonded Vault Heist is a strange tale of lies and betrayal within the mob during the late 1970’s. The Mob Bank was hidden at the Hudson Fur Storage – the job is often regarded as the perfect heist, or the last great heist. The crime took place on August 14, 1975, and started with eight men stuffed into a nondescript van on a sweltering summer day.
Just after 8am, one of the men named Robert J. Dussault, casually stepped out of the van, dressed in a crisp light gray-checked suit and clutching a briefcase. He walked across a parking lot and through the front door of Hudson Fur Storage. Once inside, He strolled into the office of Sam Levine, one of Hudson Fur’s owners.
Barbara Oliva was nearby, moving a rack of furs through a massive vault door when she heard Levine call for his brother, Abraham. Thinking he wanted to meet with his brother, Oliva began to walk away. Dussault stopped her, pointed a gun in her face and moved her into the office. Dussault had Levine summon two other workers from their rooms, then sat all five inside Levine’s office and put pillowcases over their heads.
It was then that Dussault’s six accomplices lumbered out of the van and into Hudson Fur, leaving one man in the van to be a look-out. The masked men carried drills, crowbars and enormous duffle bugs. But the bandits weren’t interested in valuable furs. They were after a much bigger prize.
That’s because they knew something few others in Providence did: Hudson Fur Storage housed a secret room that contained 146 huge safe-deposit boxes, each measuring two feet high, two feet wide and four or five feet deep.
There was perhaps no safer place for someone to hide their wealth – not because of the room’s fancy alarm system, but because of the clientele that used it. Many of the 146 boxes contained the spoils collected by the powerful organized crime syndicate run by mob boss Raymond L.S. Patriarca, whose crime family ruled La Cosa Nostra in New England for more than three decades. He had an iron fist and a reputation built on violence and fear. His bookies, associates and wise guys used the boxes to hide everything from cash and guns to gold bars and jewelry.
That was the prize awaiting the thieves as they entered the room and went to work. Oliva could hear them drilling and popping off heavy doors from beneath her pillowcase in the office. As it turned out, the drills were worthless against the locks on the safe deposit boxes. The thieves quickly figured out they could pop the solid steel doors off their hinges using only a crowbar and a lot of muscle. They called each other “Harry” to shield their real identities. As they went from box to box, the workers could hear shouts of joy coming from the vault.
After more than an hour’s work, the man dragged out seven duffel bags literally bulging with loot. They stuffed them in the van and the trunk of a nearby Chevrolet Monte Carlo they had stationed there. The bags weighed down the back of the car so badly that it practically scraped the pavement. Once the other men were gone, Dussault gathered up his hostages and led them to the back of Hudson Fur at gunpoint. It was at this point that Oliva believed they would be executed.
Instead, Dussault crammed the five hostages into a small, dank bathroom and jammed a chair against the door. He warned them that if they didn’t wait five minutes before trying to get out, they would be gunned down in cold blood.
No one knows exactly how much was taken in the heist. The original report suggested $1 million, Public records from the trial claim around $4 million in cash and valuables were taken. The type of people who rented those safe deposit boxes were not about to file an insurance claim or a tax return, so the actual amount may never be known. Law enforcement for years have believed the take was far greater – probably at least $30 million, maybe more.
Upon being asked about the amount, Oliva said the large figure would not surprise her considering what the thieves didn’t bother taking. On the day of the robbery, a detective brought Oliva into the room to give her a look. She was ordered not touch anything. The vault was knee-deep in money, silver bars, gold bars, raw gems, guns, machine guns, and chalices. Again, that was what the men left behind.
Later the same day as the heist, the bandits regrouped at a rented home of one of the gunmen, Charles “Chucky” Flynn. They divvied up the loot and each took a bag full of cash. They decided they were going to split the take from jewelry and silver ingots and gold coins at a later date.
Raymond Loreda Salvatore Patriarca, Sr. was an Italian-American mobster from Providence, Rhode Island who became the longtime boss of the Patriarca crime family, whose control extended throughout New England for over three decades. It turned out that the really valuable loot – gold bars, top-quality jewelry and rare gems – was given to none other than the alleged mafia boss Patriarca himself.
At the time of the crime, that revelation surprised investigators because the people who lost valuables in the robbery were the same bookmakers, associates and wise guys who paid homage to Patriarca. Why would he move to punish his own men?
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. 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.
But no solid evidence that Mob boss Patriarca approved the heist of the secret Mob bank in Providence has ever been discovered.
On November of the same year, a story ran in the media that Dussault was going to turn himself in for $100,000. Flynn and two others were dispatched to kill him. However, in a face-to-face encounter, Dussault convinced Flynn that they were all being set up.
Then, on New Year’s Day of ’76, Dussault’s girlfriend called cops to have him removed from her Vegas home. The police recognized him as a wanted man. During an interrogation, officers lied to Dussault, saying that Flynn had been murdered by mobsters for not killing him. Perhaps figuring he had nothing to lose, Dussault agreed to turn state’s evidence.
His confession kicked off what was then the most expensive trial in Rhode Island history. Mob boss Patriarca got away scot-free and reportedly managed to have the jewels fenced in Europe.
Flynn was sentenced to life, but released after a decade or so. He died in 2001. Most of the gang members got off with time served, a few were acquitted and two more received life. Dussault entered the witness-protection program.
He worked for the Coors Brewing Company under an assumed name, but he continued to rob jewelry stores and collectible-coin shops. He went to jail and it is said he died of a heart attack while in jail in 1992.
With a story this bizarre, you really never know what is true.
Courtesy of John Villella/WPRI-TV.