Missing Cash, Missing Suspects: The Great Plymouth Mail Truck Robbery

Image of a newspaper headline reading "US Mail Truck Robbed By Gang: Loot May Reach $2 Million"
A newspaper from Fitchburg reporting on the crime

In the summer of 1962 on a Tuesday evening in Plymouth, Patrick Schena, a postal driver watched as a vehicle speed past him en route to Boston. Two police officers soon stopped Schena and his driving companion, the truck’s guard, William F. Barret, on Route 3 North. Other drivers passed on by, following the direction of the police officers providing traffic control. The officers then tied the two men up and overtook their mail truck. The police officers, as it  turned out, were to not the police, but rather thieves in disguise. Furthermore, the mail truck wasn’t carrying the standard fare of postcards sent by visitors to Cape, but instead $1.5 million in small bills to be transferred to the Federal Reserve in Boston – about $12.3 million in 2018. The postal driver and the truck’s guard were later found tied up and abandoned in Randolph off of Route 128.

The hijacking came to be known as the Great Plymouth Mail Truck Robbery, and it shook Eastern Massachusetts’ financial and postal industries to their cores. The Postmaster General offered a $50,000 dollar reward to anyone who identified the suspects. The reward was even offered to the those who killed the unknown suspects, making their deaths serve as the conviction for the crime.

As the 5 year statute of limitation was fast approaching, law enforcement began to scramble for answers and convictions. Unethical matters were taken, such as the extreme surveillance of all known armed robbers in Greater and Proper Boston. Just before the legally imposed deadline for convictions came around, the police charged 5 people for the robbery.

The Suspects

Image of the four male suspects' mug shots: John J. Kelly, George W. Agisotelis, Joseph C. Tripoli, and Thomas R. Richards
The four male suspects

The suspects of the crime included four men and one women, but the investigation focused on two men and the one woman. The men included Thomas R. Richards of Weymouth and John Kelley of Watertown. The two men were represented by the controversial defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey and were released on $25,000 bail.

John Kelley alleged that he was being mistreated by the police force, who were going so far as to even harass his pet cats.

Richards, an electrician, had his house searched after his arrest by the US Marshals. The Marshals had found $350 in cash stashed away in his house, which doesn’t sound like much until you realize that’s about $2,878 in 2018 terms. The investigators also found bullet proof vests, similar to the ones that police would wear, as well as a .45 caliber firearm. Not to mention, Weymouth is a town with convenient access to Route 3.

Image of Patricia Diaferio looking shocked.
Patricia Diaferio

The woman, Patricia Diaferio of Boston allegedly looked similar to a blonde woman seen on the overpass of route 3. She was released on $5,000 bail.

Just before the trail was set to begin, Richards went missing and has not been seen since. With his disappearance, all charges were dropped.

Even today, the case has yet to be solved. No one has ever been officially convicted, and the money is still missing. Kelley may have had a point about the unethical treatment he endured during the investigation, many believe that Kelley and his crew had committed the crime. Kelley was no stranger to crime, as he worked for the Patriarca Family, a family involved in Boston’s organized crime scene. According to Vincent “Fat Vinnie” Teresa, Kelley had committed the crime and received 80% of the money he laundered in the process. Kelley was later involved in a similar crime of holding up a Brinks armored vehicle carrying cash in December of 1968. In this case, he was once again represented by F. Lee Bailey.

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