CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It was a crime so outlandish that Hollywood just released a major movie based on it.
Masterminds hit theatres Friday and is based on the 17-million-dollar bank heist that happened in Charlotte during the 90’s.
Iraqi war vet, David Ghantt, was a guard at the Loomis Fargo cash vault in Charlotte in October 1997 when he decided to steal 17-million-dollars.
“They were short staffed and I noticed a lot of times come the weekend I was all by myself with the master key.”
Ghantt came up with a plan to steal what literally amounted to a ton of cash.
“It’s a crazy story,” says John Wydra, one of the lead FBI agents on the case
As for the movie remake, Wydra says, “I get to be the case agent that caught the stupidest criminals that ever existed so much so that it’s a comedy.”
The plot revolves around Ghantt who teamed up with his former loomis co-worker Kelly Campbell. She recruited an old friend, Steve Chambers, a convicted criminal who was once an FBI informant.
Their plan was Ghantt would grab the cash and Campbell would help him get out of town. Steve Chambers and his wife Michelle, who lived in Gastonia, would hide the money.
However, the initial problem arose when Ghantt stole too much cash, forcing him to ditch some of it.
“I had these big tall cowboy boots and I stuffed money down them thank god I got big feet and walked right on to the bus.”
As it was before September 11, Ghantt had no trouble jetting to Cancun.
His first stop was at a Wal-Mart, “I went to the wal-mart and it dawned on me I’ve got 60 grand, I’ve got cash money, I’m in Walmart, I go I don’t have to shop here anymore, I got a cab and said take me to the mall.”
Back in Gaston County, the Chambers were a little loose with their loot. They moved from a mobile home to a mansion, showing up to purchase the house with a duffel full of cash.
“She went in there, bragging showing cash to teller and asked how much can I deposit before you fill out one of those government forms," Wyndra said.
The FBI caught on, checking safety deposit boxes across the area – uncovering millions of the stolen loot. But they still hadn’t found David Ghantt.
“We had no idea whether David Ghantt was alive or dead," Wyndra said.
He was out of money and starving in Mexico and the FBI intercepted a call about a plan to send an assassin to hunt him down.
So in a carefully coordinated takedown, agents arrested 23 people in all – including nabbing ghantt just across the border.
On the flight home he confessed, admitting the single kiss he’d had with Kelly had a big part in his planning of the second biggest heist of all time.
“Was that really what it was about? Nah, it was always about the money," Ghantt said.
Ghantt spent 15 years in prison and is now out and working in construction, living a quiet life in Florida. He was on set when they shot the movie in Asheville, although he stayed home the day FBI agents visited the set.