THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Two banks, Brink’s trucks, and no sign of a jumbo load of coins

By Todd Wallack
Globe Staff / January 27, 2011

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

It’s the $64,000 question — or $64,500 to be exact: What happened to more than two tons of US coins a Fall River bank handed off to an armored car carrier last year?

BankFive regularly sells its extra coins to Eastern Bank of Boston, which exchanges currency for local small banks. But last February, two shipments of coins — 111 plastic bags of loose change — left BankFive in Brink’s armored trucks, bound for a company in Taunton that processes money for Eastern Bank.

“The money never reached us,’’ said Eastern Bank spokesman Andrew Ravens.

Where the money has gone is a mystery. It would seem pretty hard to misplace or have this amount of change stolen. It’s bulky, difficult to move, and inconvenient to exchange: 470,000 quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies. The coins weigh an estimated 4,317 pounds and, if stacked, would be three times the height of Boston’s Hancock Tower.

“It’s hard to believe all those coins would just be lost,’’ said Scott McConchie, a Boston lawyer representing BankFive. “How can you steal that many bags?’’

BankFive did not report the incident to law enforcement authorities. McConchie said BankFive believes Brink’s became responsible for the coins once its guards picked them up. “Accordingly, if Brink’s believed that there was a crime after it took possession of the coins, it was incumbent upon Brink’s to contact law enforcement,’’ McConchie said.

It’s not known if Brink’s has contacted police, as the company declined to comment. Police in Fall River and Taunton said they could not recall the coins being reported as misplaced or stolen, and the FBI would not say whether it was notified.

BankFive, meanwhile, has sued Brink’s, saying the armored carrier is on the hook for its loss.

A loss of this size involving coins is apparently so rare that officials in the banking and armored car industries said they could not think of a similar incident.

According to BankFive’s lawsuit, there is no dispute Brink’s guards loaded the bags into their trucks on Feb. 17 and Feb. 23 and left the Fall River bank. The lawsuit includes BankFive logs showing Brink’s guards had signed for the shipments. And Brink’s itself, in a letter to the bank, acknowledged it received the coins.

That’s where the trail ends.

McConchie said Brink’s never provided BankFive proof that it delivered the missing coins to the Taunton facility of Loomis Armored US, which processes the money for Eastern Bank. The lawsuit cites an e-mail a Brink’s employee sent to BankFive last May in which she said she was combing through the firm’s records for information, but warned that “a lot of them were lost in the flood’’ that swamped much of Eastern Massachusetts earlier that year.

The lawsuit did reveal that at one point Brink’s implied to BankFive that Loomis might be responsible. A Brink’s executive told BankFive that e-mail records “suggest that Loomis was not providing timely credit or proper accounting of items received. As a result, no affirmative loss has been established.’’

But Loomis looked into the matter and determined “we are in no way responsible for the alleged coin shortages,’’ said Danny Pack, a senior vice president. “It appears this is between Brink’s and their customer.’’

In December, BankFive sent Brink’s a demand letter asking for the missing coins, citing its contract that Brink’s is responsible for lost or missing shipments of up to $1 million. Brink’s rejected BankFive’s claim, telling the bank it waited too long to report the missing money and further, that it didn’t receive sufficient cooperation from BankFive or Loomis when it looked into the matter.

That led to the bank’s lawsuit. BankFive has also dismissed Brink’s as its armored car carrier after decades of service.

The missing money is small change for an institution the size of BankFive, which has $712 million in assets and was previously known as Fall River Five Cents Savings Bank.

Nonetheless, banking industry officials were mystified how 111 sacks of coins, weighing more than two tons, could go missing.

Quipped David Cotney, acting Massachusetts commissioner of banks: “The coins couldn’t float away.’’

Todd Wallack can be reached at twallack@globe.com.