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20 Years Later: ‘Masterminds’ of One of the Largest Bank Heists in U.S. History

20 years ago, on the night of October 4, 1997, David Scott Ghantt loaded $17.3 million of cash from the bank vault in Charlotte, North Carolina he was employed to supervise into a van. At the time it was the second largest bank heist in U.S. history.

“Back then all I really wanted to do was just, I wanted to change my life. I mean, that’s pretty much why I did it. Now looking back, with the life I have now, I’ve got a great family, got a great kid. Going to prison helped me grow up as a human being. I realized a lot of things that were wrong with me as a person. Philosophically, now looking back I wouldn’t be who I am now if I hadn’t gone through all that,” said David Scott Ghantt in an interview with the Observer. He would eventually be arrested in Mexico in March 1998 after one of his co-conspirators put out a hit on him under the false suspicion he was the only prime suspect authorities were aware of at the time. Ghantt plead guilty to his charges and served six years in prison, along with 21 other defendants who received charges ranging from money laundering to bank larceny. “A lot of people ask me, ‘Oh, do you have any regrets?’ No, not really. If I hadn’t of done that, I’d probably still be in North Carolina and I would not have got to meet a lot of the interesting people that I’ve got to meet. I got no real complaints, not at this point.”

The heist became the premise for the movie, Masterminds, released in September 2016. Zach Galifianakis played David Scott Ghantt, with other roles played by Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon. Ghantt added, “I really enjoyed the movie. I think Zach’s a hell of an actor. I did get to meet him. He’s a great person. He’s way smarter than you’d think he would be because he tends to play Bozos. They took a lot of liberty with the story here and there. They asked me how I felt about it and I said, ‘It’s my story, but it’s your movie so have at me.'”

He explained the glorification and glamour often associated with bank heists and bank robberies in Hollywood films is far from reality. “You take a movie like Ocean’s Eleven, the whole concept of that movie is so farfetched, it’s not even funny. The odds of you actually getting away with something these days is pretty damn slim. Then you end up in a eight by ten cube and you’re going to share that cube with two other people. That’s going to be your life for quite some time, typically. That usually takes the shine right off of it, when you start explaining that.” He continued, “You’d be wearing a lot of khaki brown and eating crappy food.”

Since the film’s release and it’s recent Netflix debut, Scott Ghent cited that the most common question he receives is about the missing $2 million never recovered by the FBI; “I’ve had people actually ask me that question. I’m like, ‘You need to understand that, that money has been missing for 20 years. Guess what? It’s gone! Where ever it was, it is long gone now. That’s the big thing. Don’t come to me for a treasure map, I’ll put it to you that way.”

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Michael Sainato’s writing has appeared in the Guardian, Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, Buffalo News, the Hill, Alternet, and several other publications . Follow him on twitter: @MSainat1

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