August 31, 1997 in Nation/World

Customs Nabs Suspect In Armored-Car Heist No Word On $22 Million Worker Allegedly Stole In March

Ron Word Associated Press

The man wanted for stealing $22 million in possibly the biggest armored car robbery in history was arrested Saturday at a border crossing in Texas, the FBI said.

Philip N. Johnson was apprehended by the U.S. Customs Service at an entry station in Brownsville and was turned over to the FBI, according to a statement.

It was not immediately clear if any money had been recovered.

Johnson had successfully eluded authorities since the March 29 heist in Jacksonville in which he kidnapped two fellow workers and made off with possibly the most money ever stolen in U.S. history.

Johnson, 33, was initially considered an amateur who would be nabbed in days. That was before authorities discovered he’d allegedly been painstakingly planning the robbery for years.

The crime had stumped the FBI and police. Some officials suspected Johnson had fled overseas.

Loomis, Fargo & Co. will not discuss the robbery. It has offered a $500,000 reward for an arrest and conviction.

Jacksonville Sheriff’s officials were planning an evening news conference to announce details of the arrest.

Johnson used fake IDs, some of which had been acquired in 1995, to avoid police, and had fake passports he could use to leave the country, the FBI said.

Investigators said earlier that he had spent a night or two in Mexico and might have moved on. Inside his Jacksonville home, police found a travel brochure for Brazil.

Authorities have said they do not know what Johnson did with the bags of cash. Some speculate he stashed the money in a self-service storage warehouse or shipped it out of the country.

He faces charges of armed robbery, kidnapping and interstate flight to avoid prosecution.

John DeLeon, FBI spokesman for south Texas, said Johnson was being held in the Cameron County Jail in Brownsville and would remain there until his arraignment.

“He’ll probably be arraigned here; then he’ll be extradited to Jacksonville,” DeLeon said.

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