Freely spending robbers captured

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — After a five-month manhunt, an armored car driver suspected of stealing $17 million from his company’s vault was in custody Monday after being captured at a Mexican resort.
David Scott Ghantt, 28, was arrested Sunday at Playa de Carmen, Mexico, near the island resort of Cozumel, FBI spokesman William Perry said.
On Monday, he was returned to Charlotte, where he is charged with stealing a van stuffed with cash from the vault at Loomis, Fargo & Co. in Charlotte. The company reported the theft Oct. 5.
The van was later found with $3 million in it, but the rest of the money is still missing.
Also Monday, six people accused of plotting the heist and helping Ghantt flee were arrested in North Carolina.
They were identified as Steve and Michelle Chambers; Kelly Jane Campbell; Michael L. McKinney; Thomas Nathan Grant; and Eric Haley Payne.
All are charged with aiding, abetting and counseling the commission of a bank larceny, being accessories after the fact and hindering Ghantt’s apprehension. They were ordered held without bail Monday until a hearing on Thursday.
Campbell was a former Loomis employee who is the only person known to have contacted Ghantt in Mexico, while Chambers and McKinney conspired in recent days to kill Ghantt under the guise of bringing him more cash in Mexico, according to arrest affidavits.
The affidavits also alleged lavish spending by the six, including the Chambers who moved out of a trailer and paid cash for a $635,000 home shortly after the robbery. Chambers even got breast implants and paid cash for a BMW sports car, the affidavit said.
Cathy Biles, who handled the purchase of the Chambers house in Cramerton, told WSOC-TV in Charlotte that the cash deal aroused her suspicions.
“That’s always something that sends up a red flag,” she said.
Court documents said an informant who was not identified tipped off federal agents about the couple’s suspicious spending habits.
The informant “felt the timing of their sudden wealth certainly aroused suspicion in light of that theft,” the affidavit said.
Ghantt, a decorated Army veteran who served in the Persian Gulf war repairing helicopters, was charged in October with bank larceny, sparking an intense manhunt. Loomis, Fargo offered a $500,000 reward for his arrest and conviction.
The affidavit described Chambers as a former FBI informant who had provided information on another Loomis armored car robbery that never materialized.
Campbell worked at Loomis for 11 months, leaving in November 1996, according to court papers.
She denied ever being romantically involved with Ghantt, although she “expressed her love to him during their last intercepted conversation” last Monday, according to the affidavit.
Authorities seized several vehicles and the contents of nine safe deposit boxes. Search warrants also were executed at Ghantt’s home in North Carolina, federal officials said.
Ghantt was scheduled to work a shift at the armored car company Oct. 4. The company reported the theft the next day, saying one of its vans was missing. Ghantt’s wife also reported him missing the same day.
Authorities found Ghantt’s unlocked red pickup truck near the Loomis building.
There was no sign of forced entry into the building, but surveillance tapes and photographs showed a man believed by authorities to be Ghantt putting bags of money onto a cart in the vault at Loomis, Fargo’s offices in Charlotte, and then into the company van.
Last March, almost $19 million was taken from Loomis, Fargo in Jacksonville, Fla., in what was believed to be the largest heist in U.S. history. Authorities said a Loomis employee pulled a gun on two co-workers.
Philip Noel Johnson, 33, was arrested in August while crossing into the United States from Mexico. He pleaded guilty in January to charges of kidnapping, money laundering and interfering with interstate commerce. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in May.
All but $186,000 in that theft was recovered from a North Carolina storage building.