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Robbers stole techniques from Ben Affleck movie, feds say; film clips to be shown to jurors at trial

Posted Jul 31, 2013 2:25 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Image from Warner Bros.

They didn't dress as nuns. But a trio of alleged New York robbers are accused of taking other techniques from a Ben Affleck movie—including the use of masks to disguise their identities and committing a robbery while wearing police uniforms.

Now federal prosecutors are expected to show clips from the 2010 movie, The Town, to jurors hearing the case against Edward Byam, Derrick Dunkley and Akeem Monsalvatge, to demonstrate how it allegedly served as a road map for their claimed Valentine's Day heist of a check-cashing store last year in New York City, according to the New York Daily News.

“The check cashing robbery used techniques stolen straight out of Hollywood,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez on Tuesday in her opening statements in the Brooklyn trial.

Defense lawyers are expected to emphasize the difference between eyewitness descriptions of the white suspects and their clients, who are black.

Surveillance footage led police to suspect that the suspects were wearing high-end silicone masks during the $200,000 heist, the newspaper recounts. This is actually a variation of the Affleck movie, the Daily Mail notes, because in The Town, it was apparent that the masks were masks, while the masks worn by the suspects in this case were thought by witnesses to be their real faces.

A photo dropped at the scene of a worker's home—which had been used to show her that the suspects knew where she lived—reportedly had identifying information on it that was traced by authorities to a Walgreens receipt in Byam's name. (In the film, robbers warn victims that accomplices are stationed outside their homes.)

But police say the big break in the real-life case came when, after the robbery had occurred, investigators discovered an email from Byam to the mask seller, Louisiana-based CFX Composite Effects, the New York Post reports in an article that relies on unidentified sourcing.

“I’m sending you this message to say I’m extremely pleased by CFX work on the mask,” it stated, according to police. “The realism of the mask is unbelievable.”

Additional and related coverage:

ABAJournal.com (2012): "Who Were Those Masked Men? Thank-You Note to Mask Maker Helps Cops ID Robbery Suspects"

ABAJournal.com (2010): "‘Hyper-Realistic’ Mask Results in Arrest of Wrong Suspect; His Own Mom Was Fooled, Lawman Says"

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