CHAPTER FOUR

The Bonded Vault Heist

Located in Federal Hill, Hudson Fur Storage was once the home of a secret mob bank. This is a 2015 photo of the company, still in business at 101 Cranston Street. Courtesy of John Villella.

Located in Federal Hill, Hudson Fur Storage was once the home of a secret mob bank. This is a 2015 photo of the company, still in business at 101 Cranston Street. Courtesy of John Villella.

August 14, 1975. A ragtag crew of crooks holds up a fur company. But it’s not just a fur company. It’s the Patriarca crime family’s secret bank. And now, the thieves not only have to run from the law—they have to run for their lives.

 More on this episode from the Providence Journal →

LISTEN TO CHAPTER FOUR


Robert Dussault, one of the robbers in the Bonded Vault heist, at the Rhode Island State Police headquarters. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

Robert Dussault, one of the robbers in the Bonded Vault heist, at the Rhode Island State Police headquarters. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

It was one of the scores of the century. I went from rags to riches.
— Robert "Deuce" Dussault
Friends called Dussault by his nickname, "Deuce." It was a mispronunciation of the Italian word "duce," meaning "leader," which he had tattooed on his right arm. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

Friends called Dussault by his nickname, "Deuce." It was a mispronunciation of the Italian word "duce," meaning "leader," which he had tattooed on his right arm. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.


An excerpt from "The Last Good Heist"

Cranston Street is still quiet. Deuce tries to roll the tension out of his shoulders. He rocks his head from side to side, like a boxer loosening up. From behind blue-tinted sunglasses, he surveys the street then walks straight toward the Bonded Vault. He's wearing a light-gray suit and carrying a leather valise under his right arm, tightly, because the revolver Chucky gave him is inside. Deuce doesn't look threatening, just intent, all business; but as he walks toward the building, he is nervous, his mind racing, running through everything that has brought him to this, the unlikeliest of places, looking to score big. He's thinking that maybe, just maybe, this is the job, the one every crook longs for but never gets. His mind races. What if...? What if, when all is said and done, he has been born just for this one gig and it turns out to be gigantic? Why not dream a little?

Read more of the "The Last Good Heist," by Tim White, Randall Richard, and Wayne Worcester→


An excerpt of WPRI reporter Tim White's TV special about the heist, which includes exclusive video of Robert Dussault's speech to the Rhode Island state police academy. Courtesy of WPRI.


Who would ever rob from the Patriarca crime family? That is a death sentence.
— Tim White, WPRI reporter
Reporter Tim White next to the door of the Bonded Vault. Courtesy of John Villella/WPRI-TV.

Reporter Tim White next to the door of the Bonded Vault. Courtesy of John Villella/WPRI-TV.


Police mugshots of Dussault from a few years before the Bonded Vault heist. He was in and out of jail frequently. Courtesy of "The Last Good Heist," Publisher Globe Pequot.

Police mugshots of Dussault from a few years before the Bonded Vault heist. He was in and out of jail frequently. Courtesy of "The Last Good Heist," Publisher Globe Pequot.

Charles "Chucky" Flynn, Dussault's best friend, was arrested in connection with the Bonded Vault heist in January 1976. Tipped off by Dussault and another robber, Joe Danese, police arrested Chucky and five other men. Courtesy of the Providence Journal. 

Charles "Chucky" Flynn, Dussault's best friend, was arrested in connection with the Bonded Vault heist in January 1976. Tipped off by Dussault and another robber, Joe Danese, police arrested Chucky and five other men. Courtesy of the Providence Journal. 


A police mugshot of Joe "The Dancer" Danese taken at Wapole prison in Massachusetts. Courtesy of "The Last Good Heist," Publisher Globe Pequot.

A police mugshot of Joe "The Dancer" Danese taken at Wapole prison in Massachusetts. Courtesy of "The Last Good Heist," Publisher Globe Pequot.

A voice-over recreation of Joe Danese's phone call from jail with reporter Tim White. Danese, one of the Bonded Vault robbers, flew to Las Vegas with Chucky Flynn to make sure Chucky killed Robert Dussault. Original audio courtesy of Tim White. Recreation by Pete Sloane.

If he rats, I’m not going to jail over this f***ing mother******.
— Joe "The Dancer" Danese

Left to right: trial transcripts of lead prosecutor Al DeRobbio's examination of his witness, Robert Dussault. The "Q" is DeRobbio and the "A" is Dussault. The transcripts reveal why Dussault decided to turn himself in to the police and name the other robbers.


A police mugshot from Jerry Tillinghast's January 1976 arrest in connection with the Bonded Vault robbery. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

A police mugshot from Jerry Tillinghast's January 1976 arrest in connection with the Bonded Vault robbery. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

A note dated May 20, 1976, from John Murphy, one of the prosecutors for the Bonded Vault trial. He says the note reflects something that police detectives told Murphy and his boss, Al DeRobbio, during the pre-trial proceedings. "They repeated a statement, made by Tillinghast, and heard only by those near him at the time," says Murphy. "I wrote it down on a file folder, and from there it made it into my notes."

A note dated May 20, 1976, from John Murphy, one of the prosecutors for the Bonded Vault trial. He says the note reflects something that police detectives told Murphy and his boss, Al DeRobbio, during the pre-trial proceedings. "They repeated a statement, made by Tillinghast, and heard only by those near him at the time," says Murphy. "I wrote it down on a file folder, and from there it made it into my notes."


In July 1976, just a few months into the trial, armed guards accompany Robert Dussault into the Franklin County Courthouse in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

In July 1976, just a few months into the trial, armed guards accompany Robert Dussault into the Franklin County Courthouse in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.


FROM THE ARCHIVES

CLICk to READ ARTICLES FROM ThE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL about the bonded vault heist AND trial


EPISODE CREDITS

Crimetown is Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling. It is produced by Drew Nelles, Austin Mitchell and Mike Plunkett, with additional production by Laura Sim. It is edited by Alex Blumberg and Caitlin Kenney. Fact-checking by Mick Rouse. This episode of Crimetown was mixed and scored by Matthew Boll. Sound design by Ted Robinson at Silver Sound. Our title track is “Run To Your Mama” by Goat. This episode’s credit song is “Why” by Nick Gillette, courtesy of Jack Fleischer. Original music by John Kusiak, Jon Ivans, Edwin and Bienart. Our ad music is by Matthew Boll. Additional mixing by Enoch Kim and Martin Peralta. Additional sound design by Julienne Guffain. Our digital editor is Kate Parkinson-Morgan. 

 

Casting for this episode by Shelly Shenoy. Pete Sloane recreated the phone call with Joe Danese. Our design director is Ale Lariu. Archival research by Brennan Rees. This season of Crimetown is dedicated to the memory of Zachary Malinowski. Special thanks to Tim White at WPRI. Check out the book he co-authored with Randall Richards and Wayne Worcester, called The Last Good Heist. Thanks to the Providence Journal, Lisa Newby, WPRI, Andy Chmelko, Adam Griffin, Jeff Riberdy, Julia Heymans, Emily Wiedemann, Dan Barry, Mike Stanton, Paul DiMaio, Mary Murphy and everyone who shared their stories with us. Providence is a special place and we are honored to tell a part of its story.


Ale LariuEpisode Four