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Friday, March 9, 2012

The Pittsburgh Armored Truck Robbery/Murder Case

     One would think that stealing a large sum of money from an armored truck--a bullet-proof vault on wheels protected by at least two armed security officers--would be extremely difficult, and rare. They are not. While some armored car heists feature a lot of planning, and several accomplices, most are committed by one or two people. A high percentage of armored car robberies are inside jobs committed by security personnel. According to the FBI, there were 48 of these heists in 2010. While the police solve a high percentage of these cases, most of the loot is never recovered. In 2010, the authorities only got back 13 percent of the stolen cash. In the infamous 1950 Brinks job in Boston, the police didn't recover one cent of the stolen $2.7 million in bills, checks, and money orders. By the time the suspects were identified and rounded up, the checks and money orders had been destroyed, and the cash spent.

     The Brinks case robbers had carefully planned the heist, but had been careless with the money, calling attention to themselves by wildly spending it. The first suspects taken into custody, to make deals for lighter sentences, informed on the others. To have any chance of getting away with an armored car heist, the robbery crew has to have a get-a-way plan, a way to handle the cash, and a place to hide out for months. Fake identification is also helpful. And the fewer the accomplices, the better. All of this criminal preparation and planning is necessary because the police and the FBI put a lot of effort into these investigations.

     An armored van or truck makes between ten and twenty pickups and deliveries a day. The most secure vehicles are equipped with tracking devices, and are staffed by a crew of three armed officers. The driver never leaves the truck. At the delivery and pickup stops, the guard is positioned near the vehicle, and the messenger handles the cargo. Occasionally the guard will accompany the messenger to and from the truck. To cut costs, armored car companies often use 2-person crews in which the driver is also the messenger.

     To reduce the risk of an inside job, Armored car firms should thoroughly investigate all employees, and subject them to periodic polygraph testing. No one should be hired with financial problems, or histories of drug use. Because of the stiff competition for clients, armored car companies take shortcuts, and only pay guards, messengers, and drivers $10 to $15 per hour. And there are no job benefits. Compared to police officers, prison guards, and parole agents, armored car positions, while just as dangerous, are extremely low pay. All of this contributes to the risk of an inside job.

The Pittsburgh Armored Truck Robbery/Murder Case

     Kenneth John Konias, a 2008 graduate of Serra Catholic High School in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, lived in nearby Dravosburg, a town of 2,000 on the Monongahela River. The 22-year-old, an only child, lived in his parents' house. Upon graduation, Konias began work as a security guard in a shopping mall. After a year with the Dravosburg Voluntary Fire Department, Konias joined the volunteer fire department in Duquesne. Six months later, the Duquesne fire chief dismissed him because he "didn't fit in." He had failed the test to become an Allegheny County police officer.

     Early in 2011, following a background check, some psychological testing, and a little firearms training, Kenneth Konias became a driver-messenger with the Garda Cash Logistics Armored Transport Company. Several months later Konias' fellow employees found lottery tickets from a grocery store on his route, in the back of the truck. Konias said he must have carried the tickets out of the store on the bottom of his cash satchel. His supervisor accepted the explanation, and the matte was closed.

     On February 28, 2012, Konias was paired with 31-year-old Michael Haines, a guard who had been on the job a few months. After graduating from Pittsburgh's Robert Morris University with a degree in communications, Haines, from East McKeesport, had previously sold Verizon cell phones. Until getting the job with Garda, Haines had struggled finding full time work. On this Tuesday, with Konias behind the wheel, and Haines in the cargo area of the truck, the men pulled away from the Garda office in downtown Pittsburgh a few minutes before eight o'clock in the morning.

     Just before one in the afternoon, after making a pickup at the Home Depot store north of town in Ross Township, Home Depot employees thought they heard a gun go off inside the Garda truck. Thirty minutes later, Konias parked the armored vehicle under a bridge two blocks from the Garda office. He climbed out of the truck, walked to the employee parking lot, and drove off in his tan Ford Explorer.

     After stopping at places where he had stashed bags of cash, Konias drove to his parents' house in Dravosburg where he greeted his father. After putting his bloody Garda jacket on a hanger, and stashing $200,000 in cash in the house, Konias left the dwelling in his Ford Explorer.

     At 3:45 that afternoon, a Garda employee came upon the idling truck under the bridge. Blood seeped from the back of the vehicle, and inside Michael Haines lay dead from a bullet fired into the back of his head. The guard's 9 mm Glock semiautomatic pistol was missing along with $2.3 million in cash. (This is enough money to fill two trash bags.)

     Konias, after leaving Dravosburg that afternoon, called several people on his cell phone. He spoke to his mother Renee, telling her that he had stashed $25,000 at his grandmother's grave site at St. Mary Magdalene Cemetery in Munhall. (Mr. Konias retrieved the money, and a relative notified the police.) Konias called a friend and asked him to run off with him. He said he would never have to work again. To another friend he said he had messed up, and that his life was over. The friend asked him if he had killed someone. Konias paused, then said yes. In one of the conversations Konias asked about extradition laws in Canada and Mexico. After making these calls, Konias tossed his cell phone out his car window. It was found along Route 51 south of downtown Pittsburgh.

     On Tuesday night, Police searched the Konias house in Dravosburg. They recovered the bloody Garda jacket, and the $200,000. Hoping to catch Konias before he got too far, the police alerted U.S. border authorities, airports, bus depots, and train stations.

     On March 1, the Allegheny County district attorney charged Kenneth Konia with criminal homicide, robbery, and theft. The FBI issued a wanted poster, and added Konias to the FBI's Most Wanted List. The bureau also posted information regarding the fugitive on its Facebook page.

     On Friday, March 16, the police-hunt for the 6 foot one, 165 pound fugitive was featured on Lifetime TV's "America's Most Wanted" show.

     As of this writing, Konias is still at large.

(The material in this account is based upon reportage in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.)
  

   
     

4 comments:

  1. Do you think may be someone found Konias out and killed him, destroyed all that evidence, and took the money? That would explain why he hasn't been found yet!

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    1. Yes, it is possible. Thank you for the interesting idea.

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  2. Wow...is this going to be a DB Cooper case? as this guy is still missing I presume.

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  3. you might've updated this in another post but he has been arrested and is in custody in pittsburgh now. he was arrested in south florida with $1 million cash still on him, supposedly. he was turned in by a pimp/prostitute (who didn't rob him?). supposedly konias was doing a lot of drugs in florida, where there is also a considerable amount of sex trafficking. he looked horrible. there have been strange rumors that konias is bisexual and was prostituting around pittsburgh...

    here is a link to another blog about another homicide that happened at serra catholic, where konias went to school.

    http://www.awuerlofhurt.com/2012/05/attempted-murder-of-adam-ference.html

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