The incredible story of how the FBI chased an Irish priest over a $7.4m New York heist

The strangest Irish crime you'll ever hear - the Irish priest, the IRA blanket man, the FBI - and the $7.4m heist

Have you heard the one about the Irish priest of Manhattan, the IRA blanket-man-turned-comic book dealer, the ex-cop, and the fifth largest armoured car robbery in American history?

This week Documentary on Newstalk brings us “Father Hood: The Holy Man and the Heist”.

It tells the incredible story of the 1993 Rochester Brinks Heist, and the even more remarkable tale of Father Patrick Moloney - a Limerick-born priest whose life of charity in New York City is the stuff of local legend.

The Brinks Heist

“And then suddenly this Catholic priest shows up. We were like, who the hell is this guy? Well alright, if we have to lock up a Catholic priest then we have to lock up a Catholic priest.” - FBI Special Agent Paul Hawkins

On the night of January 5th, 1993, masked and armed men entered the Brinks depot in Rochester, upstate New York. They made away with $7.4m in cash – then the fifth largest armoured car robbery in US history.

The investigation would see the FBI hunt one of the most unusual group of suspects they had ever encountered – a former IRA blanket man who would become a New York City comic book dealer, a staunchly republican Irish priest famed for his work with the poor of New York City, and an ex-cop who had worked as a security guard in the Brinks depot on the night of the heist.

Fr Patrick Moloney

“The judge wanted $1m bail, in cash! He said, ‘it will take a miracle to get that kind of money'. I said, ‘Yes, your honour, but we’re in the business of miracles.’” - Father Patrick Moloney

As well as telling the story of the Brinks robbery and investigation, we also delve into Father Patrick Moloney's life – from battling the street gangs and drug dealers of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, to hiding political fugitives in his safe houses across the city, and his brushes with the law in Ireland over arms smuggling charges.

Alongside extensive interviews with Father Moloney, ‘Father Hood: The Holy Man and the Heist” features contributions from a wide range of characters, including the FBI Special Agent who hunted the Brinks robbers, security guards held up in the heist, Moloney's attorney at trial, and the people of New York’s Lower East Side, who for decades have turned to Father Moloney for everything from food and shelter to legal aid.

“Father Hood: The Holy Man and the Heist” is produced by Eoin Brennan. In 2015 Brennan's documentary work won a silver award at the New York Festivals and was shortlisted at the Celtic Media Awards.

"Father Hood: The Holy Man and the Heist" was produced with the support the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, through the Sound & Vision scheme, with the television licence fee.