ByRedmond Bacon, writer at
Have realised my dream of finally living in Berlin. I like movies, techno, and talking too much in bars.

It has been nearly two years now since Zack Galifianakis gave his last and arguably most accomplished performance in the Best Picture-winning Birdman. You will be happy to know that he returns to cinemas in just three days for the crime-comedy Masterminds. Check out the hilarious trailer below:

Mixing slapstick comedy with seemingly-improvised dialogue, this Jared Hess-directed movie also co-stars Owen Wilson and Kristen Wiig, and promises to be a rip-roaring crash course in how not to rob a bank. Nevertheless, as outlandish as the trailer looks, the true story behind what was then the second largest cash-robbery in American history is just as insane. Check out the true story behind some of the most blunder-prone bank robbers of all time:

The Inside Man

David Scott Ghantt (Zack Galifianakis) was a Gulf War veteran, who worked at Loomis Fargo in Charlotte, South Carolina, a cash-handling company formed in 1997. Stuck in a loveless marriage, he found himself falling for fellow employee Kelly Campbell (Kristin Wiig). They struck up a friendship together, even after she changed jobs, often joking about how easily they could rob the place of millions of dollars.

Ghantt had noticed how he had been left alone mostly on the weekends, and that he had all the keys to the building right there in his lap, a huge level of trust was bestowed upon him despite the fact that the same company had already been robbed a mere seven months before. Soon the jokes turned into serious discussions once Campbell mentioned a high school friend that could help them out - Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson). Once he was involved, they formulated:

The Plan

It all looked so easy. Ghantt would wait until late on the Saturday of October 4th 1997 until everyone else was gone, before loading up a van with as much money as he could. Then he would meet up with the others and they would switch cars. Seeming as Ghantt would be the only suspect, he planned to escape to Mexico, whilst leaving the majority of the money with Campbell. As only $50,000 dollars could be taken with him across the border, Ghantt would rely on Campbell to wire him more money, before eventually, when the FBI would for some reason lose interest, re-crossing the border and getting everyone to split it up equally. Sadly, it wasn't all that easy...

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How It Went Wrong

David Scott Ghantt's Blunders;

Once Ghantt stole and drove off with the money, he describes feeling euphoric:

"I'm sweating, my heart's going... I've never felt so alive... I've just stolen $17 million dollars"

Yet, when he finally met the others at a Printing Facility in Northwest Carolina, they realised that the private vehicles they had brought with them weren't big enough for the amount of money they had stolen. A blunder in figuring out the right denominations to sort — i.e. the one hundred dollar bills from the one dollar bills — led to them losing a total of $3.3 million, which was later found in the van by the FBI. At one point Ghantt dropped the ring of 200 keys in to the van, and they couldn't reopen it, moving into the realm of farce as they tried to break into it, a fact rendered impossible by the fact it was heavily armoured. Eventually they went through each key individually, before eventually finding the right one.

Ghantt's plan was to take a flight to Cancun from Columbia, South Carolina, only to find out when he got there that there were no flights in that direction, leading him to take a bus all the way to New Orleans airport, where he found the next flight. Ecstatic to find himself with so much money, he immediately lived like a king in an expensive Mexican hotel, quickly burning through his money. When he phoned Chambers for more, he was sent just $8,000, as Chambers wasn't planning to give him much of the spoils. Instead, he was planning to kill him...

The Stupidity of Steve Chambers

The plan was to keep a low profile, and not spend a lot of money. Chambers had no concept of this, not only staying in the exact same county of Gastonia, but raising serious eyebrows when he paid over $600,000 in cash for a nearby mansion. If this wasn't enough to invite suspicion from the family who previously lived in a trailer park, this payment was almost completely in twenty dollar bills. Him and his wife decked it out in garish finery: including cheetah carpeting, a custom convertible BMW and an infamous velvet Elvis. His wife Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) also bought breast implants.

It wasn't long before the FBI cottoned onto the family, especially as they were running a money laundering operation which implicated over 21 people. The biggest red flag in their piss-poor scheme was when Michelle Chambers went to the bank with a briefcase full of cash and asked:

"How much can I deposit before I have to fill out one of those government forms? Don't worry, its not drug money"

All the FBI had to do then was track down where they were depositing their money, and had soon tracked down all the safety deposit boxes. Around 95 percent of the cash could be accounted for. They knew that Ghantt had hidden out in Mexico by tracking their calls — and that's how they also knew that Campbell was involved. What they also found out was that Steve Chambers wasn't planning to help Ghantt out, but was discussing ways to take him out by hiring a hitman.

Alarmed that Ghantt's death could be imminent, they had to act fast, leading to his:

Capture and Imprisonment

Ghantt was arrested at the Playa Del Carmen on March 1st 1998 by the FBI and the Mexican police after his calls were traced. The next day Steve and Michelle Chambers, as well as Campbell and others were arrested. The case soon went to court. Whilst some money-laundering friends and relatives got away with only probation, Steve had the harshest sentence of 11 years and three months and his wife got seven years and eight months.

Ghantt himself was sentenced to seven and a half years. In court he stood up and said:

"I'm sorry for what I did. I was stuck in a go-nowhere job... I was unhappy with my life. I worked a lot of hours. It's no excuse for what I did. I'm sorry"

Chambers's lawyer, Jeff Guller, who helped him launder the money, got eight years; more than Ghantt who actually stole it. Guller testified in court:

"I'm not a money launderer. Nor would I ever conspire with a thief like him"

Campbell tried to have her charges dropped after saying she would testify against the others. She claimed frequent marijuana use as a defence, saying in court:

"It got to a point where I was smoking pot like most people smoke cigarettes... When I'd get up in the morning, I would smoke a joint. If I was going to go shopping, I had to smoke a joint. I felt like I couldn't function unless I was stoned"

It didn't work, and she also served hard time. Everyone connected with the heist is now out of prison.


The heist became famous in the state, especially due to how much money had been stolen, leading local reporter Jeff Diamant to write Heist!: The $17 Million Loomis Fargo Theft. Due to those involved all coming from small towns, the bank job was dubbed "the hillbilly heist". It suits well for a comedy as nobody was murdered, being able to keep the tone quite light and farcical. Ghantt says that the five months spent on the lam were the most enjoyable in his life.

When an FBI agent asked him what had occurred romantically between him and Kelly Campbell, Ghantt responded:

"I know you're not going to believe this, but it was only just one kiss. Honestly I've only kissed her once."

To which the FBI agent quipped:

"Turns out to be a pretty expensive kiss doesn't it?"

Now that sounds like a line from a movie! Let's hope that the film is just as good.


Are You Excited For Masterminds?

Sources: WCNC, Heist!: The $17 Million Loomis Fargo Theft (Book).


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