March 21, 2013 / 7:55 PM / in 5 years

Would-be thieves camped out above Toronto-area bank

TORONTO, March 21 (Reuters) - Toronto-area police say they have foiled a Hollywood-style heist, arresting five men they say camped out in vacant office space above a bank branch and, under cover of night, cut through a thick concrete ceiling to gain access to the vault below.

Halton Regional Police arrested the men with C$300,000 ($293,000) jammed into two hockey bags after discovering them hiding in a field not far from a Toronto-Dominion Bank branch in Burlington, Ontario.

Police spokesman Sgt Dave Cross said the elaborate caper - in which the men allegedly covered the office windows to make it look like they were doing renovations - was likely a first for the bedroom community of 175,000, a few miles west of Toronto.

“It’s extremely unusual and the first one that comes to mind for me in my 26 years of policing,” he told Reuters.

He said police responded to alarms at the bank early on Monday, but found the exterior doors locked when they arrived and saw no signs of disturbance.

As they looked around the immediate area, a police dog led them to the five suspects, who were hiding in a wooded area with more than C$300,000 ($293,000) in cash, rare coins, and jewelry.

When police entered the bank, they found a gaping hole in the ceiling. They later found three vehicles nearby containing sledge hammers, concrete cutting saws, rappelling equipment and an acetylene torch, which police say were used in the robbery.

“Evidence would indicate that the individuals involved in this had been on site there for at least two days working away at getting into the vault area,” Cross said.

Police said the alleged thieves managed to bypass the bank’s alarm system, but tripped a secondary alarm as they were leaving.

John Hickey, 44, Aldo Simoni, 31, Alexander Papic, 48, Mentor Vishjay, 36, and Besim Rugova, 32, all face charges of break, enter and commit, and possession of break-in instruments, police said.

TD Bank spokesman Mohammed Nakhooda said the bank was working to contact affected customers and said it has robust security procedures with multiple layers and backstops.

“As a result, these suspects were caught,” he said.

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