Seven Arrested in Miami Airport Heist; Most Money Still Missing

March 10, 2006
After the Nov. 6 robbery, the FBI spent months searching for the culprits who had pulled off one of the biggest heists in the nation's history.

Mar. 9--It was a robbery lifted from the pages of a Hollywood script: Two masked men leaped out of a truck at a warehouse near Miami International airport, brandished a gun, ordered everyone to the ground and then sped away with $7.4 million in cash that had just arrived on an international flight.

It was over in minutes.

The Nov. 6 robbery quickly spun into a major whodunit. The FBI and police agencies spent months searching for the culprits who had pulled off seamlessly one of the biggest heists in the nation's history.

On Wednesday, the U.S. attorney's office in Miami announced a major break in the case: the indictment of four people on robbery charges and three others on kidnapping charges. But most of the money, packed into five bags, is still missing.

The investigation languished for weeks. But when the FBI offered up to a $150,000 reward, tips began pouring into the agency.

One tip led to a key player in the alleged heist, the FBI said. "He knew all the procedures, knew there were no cameras, knew guards weren't allowed to bring guns into the warehouse and knew that plane came in daily with that kind of money," said FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela.

Arrested in the alleged armed robbery scheme: Karls Monzon, 34, and his wife Cinnamon Monzon, 30, Jeffrey Boatwright, 32, and Onelio Diaz, 28, a security guard with Brinks security system -- the company hired to transport the cash to the bank. If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison.

Arrested in the alleged kidnapping of robbery suspect Jeffrey Boatwright: Michael Sanfiel, 33, Manuel A. Palacio, 28, and Guillermo Del-Regato, 28. The three kidnapped Boatwright and demanded a $500,000 payment from his robbery cohorts for his release, authorities said.

The money reportedly stolen was a fraction of the $80 million in cash that had just arrived on a Lufthansa Airlines flight from Frankfurt, Germany. The cash, packed neatly in 42 bags that each weighed 38 pounds, was awaiting Customs' clearance at a warehouse before it was to be delivered to the Federal Reserve Bank in Miami.

In the end, law enforcement officers say the loose-lipped chatter of the alleged amateur robbers did them in.

Confidential informants told investigators they overheard Monzon "telling others that he was planning to or already had commit[ed] the robbery at the airport warehouse," and that they had an insider assisting on the robbery, according to court records.

"The brazenness of the crime is the stuff of Hollywood movies," said U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta.

The robbery mirrors one of the most infamous heists in U.S. history: the Dec. 11, 1978, robbery of $5.85 million from the Lufthansa Airlines cargo terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport. That robbery was the plot for the 1990 movie Goodfellas.

Law enforcement officials in Miami said they have recovered only a fraction of the $7.4 million taken at MIA: $80,000 found in sealed packets in the attic of the Monzons and $85,000 recovered from Diaz. The missing cash remains a mystery, but "we expect to be making more arrests soon," Orihuela said.

There may be no need for a Hollywood sequel, but the layers to this case have been simply "incredible," she said.

All the defendants -- except Cinnamon Monzon, who was granted a $100,000 bond -- are being held without bail.

Miami Herald staff writer Chuck Rabin and Miami Herald research editor Monika Leal contributed to this report.