New England mobster Ralph (Skippy) Byrnes died of natural causes recently in Rhode Island. He was in the mainly non-Italian Patriarca crime family crew ran by Gerard (The Frenchman) Ouimette, who passed away behind bars three years go. The 72-year old Irish wiseguy served over a decade in prison for his role in the notorious Bonded Vault Heist, which brazenly took place in Providence in the 1970s. Byrnes died of dementia in February.

The story of the well-documented Bonded Vault Heist is going to the big screen with a big name attached to shepherd the project in Hollywood. New York Times Best-Selling novelist Don Winslow has teamed with The Story Factory production company to option The Last Good Heist, a 2016 book chronicling the largest bank robbery in American history, for a movie (you can purchase a copy of the book here).

The heist, pulled off by a Patriarca robbery unit led by Gerard Ouimette’s younger brother, John, snared $30,000,000 worth of cash and valuables from a private bank storing mobsters’ safety-deposit boxes located inside a furrier. Raymond Patriarca, the New England mafia’s longtime Godfather, reportedly signed off on, encouraged and greatly profited from the infamous crime. Patriarca dropped dead of a heart attack in 1984. John Ouimette died of natural causes last year.

On the morning of August 14, 1975, Ouimette and seven of his men held up the Bonded Vault Company inside the Hudson Fur Storage building in the West End of Providence on Cranston Street. Their $30,000,000 score would equate to close to $150,000,000 today. Besides Ouimette, his son Walter and Skippy Byrnes, the robbery crew consisted of Bobby (The Deuce) Dussault, Joe (The Dancer) Danese, Chuckie Flynn, Gerry Tillinghast and Jake Tarzian.

Dussault and Danese gave them all up to the feds. The pair were the star witnesses at the flashbulb-crazed 1976 trial, the longest jury trial in Rhode Island history. Byrnes, Flynn and John Ouimette were convicted, while Walter Ouimette, Tarzian and Tillinghast were acquitted. It was Dussault who implicated Patriarca in blessing and helping formulate the caper.

Although the perpetually-snarling Patriarca was never charged in the case, Dussault told authorities the elderly don resented his troops for the way they treated him and his family during a stint of his as a guest of the federal government and prodded the Ouimette crew to plan the boosting of the Bonded Vault Company so he could essentially steal from his own men. Dussault died of a heart attack in a North Dakota federal halfway house in 1992. He claimed the men that actually carried out the heist received very little compensation compared to Patriarca and the elder Ouimette.


Leave a Reply