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Security questioned in $2 million Purolator heist

PITTSBURGH -- A Purolator Armored Inc. office where two men posing as FBI agents stole $2.5 million was the 'perfect setup for a holdup,' police said.

Police investigators noted Friday the money assembly terminal was situated beneath several commercial establishments in suburban Brentwood in an area with minimal security advantages, such as clear visibility around the building.

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'The perfect setup for a holdup,' said Brentwood Police Chief Robert Hartshorn.

Hartshorn, who had his entire 15-member force working on the robbery, said he had no idea such large sums of money were kept in the Purolator facility, which included a vault area, office and garage.

The FBI, which had 10 to 15 agents on the case, said it had no firm leads.

'We've had lots of calls and we're sorting them out,' said Tony Daniels, assistant special agent in the FBI's Pittsburgh office. 'But we've basically got nothing.'

The two robbers who pulled off the Wednesday night heist ducked under a descending garage door after a Purolator van had left the installation, catching a security officer off guard. They flashed 'credentials,' told him they had a tip the place would be 'hit' and quickly overpowered him, taking his shotgun and revolver.

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They took the money, in 26 to 30 bags, from an open vault.

'Leaving a vault door open when a garage door is open stretches credulity,' said James Ewalt, a past president of the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Insurance Agents.

'I'm certain we felt the building was secure until Wednesday,' said John Coleman, chief of security for the company.

Purolator, which offered a $100,000 reward, said an audit was being made to determine the exact amount of money taken, but Purolator president John Pratt said $2.5 million was 'a good ballpark figure.'

The currency was in denominations ranging from $5 to $100 with an insignificant number of $1 bills, and Pratt estimated it weighed betweend 400 and 500 pounds.

Police and the FBI said at least one other person was involved in the robbery -- the operator of a vehicle that was summoned by the inside robbers via walkie-talkie and driven into the Purolator garage to take away the loot.

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