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WestLand National Bank break-in

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The WestLand National Bank in Los Angeles was robbed over Labor Day weekend in September of 1991.

The bank vault was not invaded; only the safe-deposit boxes were robbed. The break-in was carried out by Vietnam War veterans Art Franklin, Billy Meadows, Gene Delgado, and John Rourke, though it was masterminded by Eleanor Wish. Franklin, Meadows, and Delgado used ATVs to enter major storm drains, then tunneled under the Bank vault during the weeks leading up to Labor Day weekend, setting off the Bank's alarm in the process, and causing the bank manager to disable to alarm on the Friday before the weekend so that he would not be called out. Once the team breached the safe-deposit box vault they drilled into the box owned by Ngo Van Binh, which was known to contain roughly $18-million in diamonds. They then proceeded to spend the three-day weekend drilling 463 additional boxes in order to obscure the fact that Binh's box had been their target. Unbeknowst to the team, Meadows pocketed a gold bracelet to keep for himself.

The case was assigned to Rourke and Wish, who were agents with the FBI Bank Robbery-Kidnap unit. They used their positions to divert attention from anything that could implicate them, but they had to go through the motions of conducting an investigation. They compiled a list of Vietnam vets who had served as "tunnel rats" during the War, and the names of Billy Meadows and Harry Bosch came up. Bosch was cleared when the FBI confirmed that he was in Mexico serving a twenty-two day suspension for shooting an unarmed suspect in the Dollmaker case. Meadows was never charged, and the investigation was called off after one month. It remained closed until Meadows pawned the bracelet he took in May of 1992 which threatened to expose the entire scheme. Rourke killed Meadows and recovered the bracelet from the pawnshop where Meadows had sold it, then discarded Meadows' body in a pipe near the Hollywood Reservoir, making his death appear to be the result of a heroin overdose. Unbeknowst to him, agent Wish broke one of Meadows' fingers so that whoever found the body might realize it was not a simple overdose.

Meadows's death was investigated by Bosch, who was by then a Detective III with the Los Angeles Police Department, who suspected foul play based on Meadows's broken fingers and other inconsistencies at the crime scene. In the course of investigating Meadows' murder, Bosch tied the man to the WestLand robbery, and ultimately discovered the truth about everyone involved.

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