Frankly, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. I almost didn’t believe the catch.

Sean Murphy on the Patriots’ defeat in Super Bowl XLII
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It’s a story about crafts. The story of a thief so clever that even the police call him brilliant. The story of a criminal who was so well informed that even the judge once admitted that he knew more than most lawyers before him.

And just as important, it’s the story of a group of detectives, cops, and officers who use their intelligence and skills to stop him.

The story begins 13 years ago on Super Bowl Sunday in 2008. Leading up to the game, there’s really only one story to tell: Can the Patriots stay undefeated?

New England has been intrigued by the Pats for months. Costello never misses a game from his bench. Zani works in protective gear on game night in case the Pats win and fans take to the streets to party. He goes on patrol through Boylston Street, looking through the windows of bars and restaurants to see what’s going on.

Just outside the city, in Lynn, Massachusetts, another dead person, Sean Murphy, is similarly incarcerated. Murphy, then a 42-year-old Pats fan, looks back on the nostalgic years of Sam Bama Cunningham. He personally attended the Pats’ last two playoff games and was also close to getting tickets to the Super Bowl. When they fall into the water at the last minute, he decides to spend the day with his buddy, Rob Doucet. He was my weed dealer, Murphy said, and we sat at his house all day eating ribs, smoking weed and watching the Super Bowl.

For much of the evening, it looked like the Patriots could end their perfect season. And then: David Tyree makes his incredible catch, the ball somehow ends up in his helmet. Plaxico Citizens makes a touchdown pass to Eli Manning who wins the game. Tom Brady’s Hail Mary is coming up. The perfect season is ruined.

There’s no party in Boston, no crowd to disturb Zani, after all. He’s going home. The streets of the city are silent.

This is Lynn. Murphy can see that I was shocked. How could this happen? How could they lose? What about the giants? He can’t believe the season ended without a title.

I asked [jewelers] how much money they make. I put the big one up and went downstairs.

Sean Murphy on the search for possible targets
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A few weeks after the game, Murphy is at the local library doing research. Mostly he runs North Shore Movers, which does good business with a few hundred moves a year. But Murphy’s real passion is stealing. I’m a professional thief, a master thief, so someone can say without hesitation that they’re a pretty good golfer. That day, Murphy explored possible destinations in the library.

I was looking for a jeweler because the price of gold was going up, he recalls. As part of his research, Murphy Googled names of manufacturers to learn more about their inventory. Most of his findings are mundane – random reports or tax returns – but when he seeks information about a company called E.A. Dion Inc. based in nearby Attleboro, an article appears in the New York Post. Murphy says Tiffany’s has an agreement with E.A. Dion to make rings for the Giants Super Bowl.

Ф… Those giants! He remembers thinking. You don’t deserve a ring!

Understand it now: It’s not just about revenge. Murphy is too meticulous for that. Of course,the ring element makes it fancy…. I’ve got Eli Manning’s ring, I’ve got Strahan’s ring… — but he never does when it’s not right. That’s his rule.

So he’s industrious. He investigates what else E.A. Dion has in stock to see what the loot would be worth, and is pleased to learn that they have valuable coins, various trinkets, and raw precious metals in stock. Then he puts together a team: Murphy’s the boss. Joe Morgan, a car salesman who was then Murphy’s chief assistant, will accompany him inside. David Nassor, another assistant, will keep an eye on him while at his post at the entrance.

Murphy also spends a lot of time picking a date. After reading that E.A. Dion had received Super Bowl rings after the 2002 season, Murphy looked through previous newsletters to see exactly when the Bucks players had received their rings in 2003. That way, he thinks, he can determine the culmination of this move, the period when the Giants’ rings are ready but before they are sent to the team. He moved in for the day in early June.

The final factor for Murphy is geographical location, so he seeks out the E.A. Dion facility to make sure he is in an area where he can work without being seen or heard.

E.A. Dion meets a lot of requirements: It is located in an industrial area, on a long road that branches off from the main road. There are not many houses in the area. And just past the industrial park is I-95, a sprawling highway that makes constant noise. Saturday night… Murphy prefers to work at night because fewer people come to work on Sundays – the neighborhood is completely dead then.

In my line of work, they say: Space, space, space, Murphy says. E.A. Dion fits the profile perfectly.

strong SC

The story of the stolen Giants Super Bowl rings.

Sam Borden tells the story of a thief’s plan to steal the Giants’ Super Bowl XLII rings after they ruined the Patriots’ perfect season.

SC Featured investigates 27 stolen Super Bowl rings made for the Giants in 2008.

In an unpublished manuscript by Murphy (titled Master Thief: How To Be a Professional Burglar), he describes the intricacies of his art in a preface and 10 chapters. The titles of the chapters are simple: Security and safes, for example, or ATMs, and the text is just as straightforward. For example, in the chapter on locating a target, Murphy devotes several pages to explaining how to identify the phone lines leading to a building’s alarm system.

The proper procedure, he writes, is to find the row of telephone poles closest to your account and look for lines running down the pole and underground closest to the building you want to reach. Those will be your phone lines.

Murphy hates thieves who just break in unprepared and steal from people. Why take the risk? A little footwork before the punt, he writes, can make the difference between a punt for half a million dollars or for $20 million.

In this case, Murphy’s careful planning encountered a problem when, in the week before work, he was stunned to see the Giants receive their ring on television at a ceremony in New York City. We felt like we missed the train, he says. And then we said: Well, f… We could have done it anyway. Because we need the money, and it will be a good result.

Everything is going according to plan. The evening of the 7th. June 2008, Murphy and his team meet in the warehouse of a moving company in Lynn. Murphy used one of his fake ID cards to rent a white van from Budget, and had already finished his usual routine of wiping his tools with Simple Green, a cleaner that removes fingerprints.

Murphy loves his tools. He calls them doo-dads and likes to list them. It’s an electromagnetic steel drill that cuts a 15-cm hole in the hard steel we use for the vault, he says. I have a core hole, which is a hydraulic core that drills an 18-inch hole through the reinforced concrete in the port storage … He can go further. Once you get to my level, the right equipment is the key to getting the big points, he says.

Murphy and his team in the trial. They are always dressed the same way: black overalls, black rubber boots, overshoes on the shoes, black ninja style gloves and masks. The suit has two zipped pockets on the chest. In the right pocket is a police scanner with earphones plugged into the right ear, so everyone can hear when the police receive a call; on the left is a radio with earphones plugged into the left ear, so crew members can communicate with each other. On each man’s forehead is a pit lantern, and around his waist is a fan-shaped backpack filled with screwdrivers and other hand tools.

The men leave for Attleboro shortly after 4:00. They park in many places near the E.A. Dion facility and keep an eye on the building, drinking water in plastic bottles and smoking marijuana to pass the time. As night falls, Murphy and Morgan climb to the roof of a one-story building. Murphy finds an air-conditioning outlet and plugs in his favorite tool: a cell phone signal jammer he bought overseas. Once it lights up, Morgan uses a phone to check for a signal, then Murphy reaches out and cuts the cable from a nearby telephone pole.

Suddenly, the building was defenseless. There is no phone service to use the alarm, and the backup cellular system is now disabled as well. To make sure their work doesn’t reveal anything that could alert the police, Murphy, Morgan and Nassor waited about 45 minutes in a nearby wooded area.

When no one comes, Murphy and Morgan go back to the roof. Murphy takes out a drill and a chainsaw and starts sawing. Metal on metal is noisy, but there’s no one around to hear it. It doesn’t take Murphy long to make a three-foot-wide hole in the roof.

He and Morgan are going in.

The moment you entered the building, we realized that… a large amount of product had been stolen from the factory.

Rich Campion, Attleboro Police Sergeant, on scene at E.A. Dion
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The first thing Murphy and Morgan do when they land on the E.A. Dion floor is open the doors to every room in the building. As each man sweeps the loot into one of two 50-gallon rubber containers and opens the doors, it becomes easier to move the cans from room to room.

These details are important to Murphy, as is the belief that this work should not be rushed. We stayed there all night, mostly talking about Dion’s work in the emergency room. Murphy starts in the vault. Morgan is going to control the other offices.

Murphy finds a lot before he even enters the massive two-meter-high steel vault: Boxes with bags of five-pound beads of gold and silver on tables; sets of plastic trays with small drawers, the kind you might use to hold loose screws or bolts on a workbench, that contain only gold in various carats; stacks of gold plates against the wall, about 30 or 40 pounds, Murphy says. He shakes it in his barrel.

The burglars go from room to room, carefully emptying E.A. Dion’s warehouse. Old coins. The rings. Necklaces and bracelets. The estimated value of everything they take is over $2 million.

When Murphy is finally ready to open the safe, he goes into the hallway to tell Morgan to take the truck so they can unload the heavier tools needed to open the safe.

Morgan emerges from the office with shining eyes. The Super Bowl rings are here! Murphy is stunned. What do you mean?

They’re not even locked up, not even in a box, Morgan says. There are over 50 of them. Morgan has one in his hand. Look, he weighs about 20 pounds!

Oh, my God. Murphy thinks. He thought the rings would disappear, but he wasn’t interested in analyzing the story at the moment. The rings go into the shelter.

The men are going to the vault. After several failed attempts to break the mechanism, Murphy tells Morgan and Nassor, who have been called for help, that he thinks it would be better to take the safe and run away with it. He says with more time and space, they could tear the storage vault to pieces.

Morgan looks at a safe that is the size of a refrigerator and weighs several thousand pounds. How the hell did you… Are you going to move that thing? he asks, and Murphy is suspicious.

Joe, what do I do for a living? If a client comes to me and says they want us to make a difference, what do I tell them? Can’t I do it? Of course I can.

Murphy grabs a pallet truck that E.A. Dion has in stock. The men slip under the vault. During the reconnaissance, Murphy noted that the loading dock at E.A. Dion had no ramp or bridge that could pass between the dock and the replacement truck, so he brought his own. He throws it on the ground, and he and the crew turn the jack and safe right into the trunk of the truck.

When the sun comes up, they clean up. The men go back through the facility, and Murphy goes up on the roof to get his bang pot. Morgan slides the door of the truck closed. The radios have been silent all night.

The men are going back to Lynn’s warehouse. They take off their overalls and boots. They unload and dive into the muff. Murphy gets 50% of everything, Morgan 40%, Nassor gets 10.

They sift through all the gold. Murphy sends an employee to get some sandwiches for breakfast.

She looked at me and said: Sean finds out I testified against him? … I want him to know that I killed him.

Al Zani, Lieutenant of the State Police, for key questioning
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Jimmy Breslin once said that the number one rule of thieves is that nothing is too small to be stolen, and police reports in the days and weeks following the robbery of E.A. Dion confirm that: Murphy and his team have everything. Cash. Jewelry. Raw materials. Even the dark green handcart with the shipping and receiving marks that E.A. Dion employees used to transport the boxes.

The apartment has been cleared out.

Richard Campion, the detective in charge of the case, arrives shortly after an employee discovers a break-in and calls 911. Campion speaks with Ted and Dennis Dion, who took over the business their father started in 1968. The Dion brothers, according to Mr Campion, are in shock and devastated as they consider the impact this could have on their business.

Campion and his partner, Jimmy Coate, are conducting a preliminary investigation. The burglars, they found, were clearly of high class, but far from perfect. The police found an extension cord on the roof. You’ll find tracks. At the loading dock, they find a Milwaukee electromagnetic drill with a zipper that holds the drill head in place.

They also surveyed neighbors and employees of other businesses located in the industrial park. At first they were unlucky – no one was at work that early on a Sunday. But then they get a tip from the police. The caller said he was out walking with his young son on a Sunday morning and was near the industrial park because his son likes to look at all the trucks that are always parked in a nearby warehouse.

As they walked, the father told Campion that he remembered seeing a car drive away from E.A. Dion; it stood out, the father said, because it was going the wrong way when leaving the parking lot.

Campion asks: What kind of truck was it?

A white van, the man says. With the budget logo.

Campion includes it in his file, which is constantly growing, thanks in particular to cooperation between local police and a multi-agency task force in Boston. Zani, Costello and O’Neil are part of the group working on the case.

Initially, there was speculation that it was an inside job – Dions stated that it was disgruntled former officers – but Zani, a state police lieutenant, does not believe in this theory. As soon as I heard of E.A. Dion, he said the only person I could think of who was capable of making such a breakthrough was Sean Murphy.

Zani had seen a number of burglars come out of Lynn over the years. He tells the group what he knows about Murphy and doesn’t hesitate to call him the best dog in the collection of thugs Zani calls Lynn Breakers. According to him, Zani has been chasing the burglars for a long time and this case might be his best chance to stop them.

Murphy’s criminal record will remain forever, Zani told officers. The jobs – proven and expected – range from pharmacies to big-box stores. Murphy worked in electronics for a while and then in ATMs. Most recently, he was looking for prescription pills to sell on the black market. The common thread in all of this, and the element in Dion’s work that ZANI recognizes, is methodology. Murphy doesn’t like brute force; he always prefers a precisely chiseled hole in the roof to a broken door or window.

Knowing Murphy’s attention to detail, Zani thinks it’s unlikely they can charge him based solely on the evidence at the crime scene. This evidence – the footprints, the drill – will help build the case. But they will need more. That means the best way to catch Murphy, Zani thinks, is to shake the trees around him.

Costello and Dzani spend hours tracking down Murphy’s friends and acquaintances, trying to find a way in. They find out that Murphy has regular criminal partners and that he also spends time with several young girlfriends – mostly female drug addicts. Murphy openly classifies women by publicly labeling them as Top Girl or #3.

The girls were a start, Costello said. Because when you commit a crime that takes a few people… and then you brag about it, you increase the number of people who know about it.

Zanie and Costello made a breakthrough when one night in October 2008, four months after working at E.A. Dion’s house, police called Lynn Murphy’s house to investigate a domestic dispute between Murphy and one of his longtime girlfriends, Riccile (pronounced Ricki-Lee) Brown. Brown and Murphy came at each other screaming, and Brown threw his wallet at Murphy. Another woman, Jordain Hartman, is named as a witness in the police report.

It turns out Hartman has an outstanding arrest warrant for an unrelated crime. When Zani and Costello see the report on Murphy, they ask the officer to arrest Hartman as well. After Hartman’s trial, Zani and Costello approach him about Murphy.

They are careful and expect to remove the brush. But Hartman is furious. She had a fight with Murphy, she told me, and she’s not holding back.

She explains how she and her boyfriend met Murphy shortly after she got out of rehab and how Murphy provided them with heroin in exchange for sex, Zani said. Hartman describes Murphy’s hierarchical system of officers towards women, and how he sometimes gives women a share of the spoils of the job.

Hartman also describes the circumstances and characteristics that investigators can directly relate to the E.A. Dion case. For example, Murphy talked about his cell phone scrambler, or how shortly after E.A. Dion’s accident, he came into the house and put jewelry on the bed to show women. Hartman said there were big rings in the pile.

Many of the women at Murphy’s got valuables – Brown even got one of the Giants’ rings. But Hartman told investigators that she wasn’t at Murphy’s mercy-she wasn’t the best girl anymore. So she got the remains: a ring with the Radio Shack logo on it, according to court documents. Eventually, his relationship with Murphy fell apart completely.

At one point, Hartman asked Zani if Murphy knew she was going to testify against him. A little nervous, Zani tells him he’ll do it.

Hartman doesn’t blink.

Okay, she’s talking. I want him to know I did it.

It was an interesting and somewhat chaotic scene when they entered.

Jason Costello, retired FBI detective with the Murphy arrest
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Long before dawn on Friday the 23rd. In January 2009, several dozen police officers gathered at the Lynn City Police Department. It’s cold in Massachusetts, but there’s energy in the air. Detectives and officers from the FBI, DEA, ATF and State Police are at the scene, as well as officers from the Lynn, Peabody, Wellesley, Swamp and Mansfield police departments. Everyone drinks coffee. Everyone listen to the briefing.

Zani prepared an affidavit, and a judge issued a search warrant for Murphy’s home and car and for the North Shore Movers warehouse. Rickyll Brown’s apartment and car are also targets. The group will be divided into teams. A little before 6:00 in the morning, they come out.

It’s easy to get started at North Shore Movers. Campion and Cote find a cell phone scrambler and a receipt for its purchase with Murphy’s signature on the receipt. They find a ring on the floor. On the table, Cote discovers a handwritten list of companies with names like Jostens (jeweller) and Stern Leach (manufacturer of precious metals). E.A. Dion is in the middle of the list, the notes in the margin next to it refer to the construction of the telephone line and antenna. The agents take pictures of everything, including the collection of devils in the space under the hallway stairs. One of the devils is dark green. She says she delivers and receives.

About a mile outside of town, a group of cops broke into Murphy’s house. It’s an old two-bedroom house, built in 1850, and it’s cold inside, as if the oil bill hadn’t been paid.

Officers are at work dismantling the house. They confiscate fake documents and several coins. You look at the receipts from the company that buys the gold. They take $9,000 in cash from behind the radiator. You pull another $3,000 out of the firm. You’ll find two keys that look like they’re for lockers. In a black handbag, they find the Giants Super Bowl ring.

They find Murphy in bed with a woman. They arrest him in his underwear.

As soon as she handed me the box, I knew we had made it.

Zani on the discovery of the Super Bowl rings in closet
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Murphy doesn’t let the arrest stand in the way. Later that morning, in his cell, he scoffs as Campion and Costello fill him in on the charges against him. Burglary and robbery? Says Murphy. Good luck proving it.

But the police know they finally have the goods, and the evidence is piling up. A few days after his arrest, Zani, Costello and O’Neil go to Eastern Bank in Saugus and open the Super Bowl ring box with one of the two keys they found in Murphy’s house. The other key opens a box in the other bank. It houses a collection of coins from the Dion family.

Later, photos of evidence from the 2004 case against Murphy in Pennsylvania – a Costco robbery that was dismissed on points of legal detail – landed on Campion’s desk, showing a Milwaukee drill with a zipper around the cartridge. Detectives also found black overshoes.

Even more important than physical evidence: Police are still looking for someone to talk to about Murphy.

First, Hartman (and to a lesser extent Brown) helps agents obtain search warrants. But after the arrest, Murphy’s team started talking.

It’s not just Dion’s work in the emergency room. What police didn’t know at the time of Murphy’s arrest was that he had just returned to Lynn from Ohio, where he and Joe Morgan and Rob Doucet (a hash dealer from Super Bowl night a year earlier) had broken into the Brinks’ armored car complex and attempted to steal more than $90 million.

This work, learned by the authorities, includes many similar strategies: long preparations, cell phone jamming, and a hole in the roof. But it’s not that easy: When Murphy sets fire to the safe with a powerful flashlight, he accidentally sets fire to most of the money in the safe. In the end, he and his team only took home a few million dollars, most of it in coins.

Nonetheless, much attention has been paid to this case. Nassor, who is investigating the E.A. Dion case, has already made a deal to talk about what he knows (he was a snitch in the case, Murphy says), and if Morgan and Doucette agree to plead guilty to the Brinks theft, the case against Murphy for the theft is assured by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Justice charges Murphy and brings him to Ohio for trial. He was convicted in 2011. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, which was reduced to 13 years on appeal. But before he was sent to federal prison, he returned to Massachusetts to stand trial in the E.A. Dion case.

As in Ohio, Murphy is representing himself in the E.A. Dion case. He files motion after motion, asking for prorogation after prorogation, even though he’s staying in state prison while he waits. It wasn’t until December 2019 – nearly 11 years after his arrest – that Murphy finally pleaded guilty, resulting in a two-year prison sentence for the state.

Later in the year, when that time has already been served, Murphy believes he will be released – fully in November, he says. But federal prosecutors say Murphy’s 11 years in prison don’t count toward his federal sentence, a controversy likely to come to court in the coming months.

There is no doubt that Murphy spent a long time in the Bristol County jail. He doesn’t mind, he says, mainly because he sees it as an occupational hazard. Her routine is static: workout in the morning, housework, a soap opera from 2 to 3 – I’ve been watching General Hospital for 35 years – and spending time at the law library in the evening. Most nights Star Trek airs on prison television (Murphy loves to travel), and on Saturdays he can listen to the three-hour music program Dee Snyder House on Hair. It reminds him of seeing bands like Poison and Kiss in the ’80s.

Murphy also follows the Patriots out of jail. Since the lockout, New England has played in five more Super Bowls. The Pats have lost twice, once to the Giants (honestly, I thought it was a curse), but they’ve won three titles, including a miraculous second consecutive 25-point comeback before beating Atlanta in February 2017.

Murphy watched it from start to finish, watching a television mounted on a concrete pole in the hallway outside his cell.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about a game, he says.

I’m sitting here watching the game on camera. And I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited about a game.

Sean Murphy watching Super Bowl LI in jail
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When Costello, a special agent with the FBI, first heard about Sean Murphy a few years ago, he had no children. Now he has two, the youngest is almost a high schooler… and he’s always talking about stealing Dion from the E.R. The investigation never stops: A book on Murphy’s life is in preparation. The same applies to the documentation. Sometimes someone asks him about the missing Super Bowl rings.

Costello has it. Murphy failed to steal Eli Manning’s ring – the stock he obtained was intended for Giants employees and their families (including reportedly a ring intended for actress Kate Mara, the team owner’s niece). But the story is still juicy: Do Patriots fans steal Giants rings? The Giants beat his team… and now he wants revenge? The fantasy of the fanatic comes to life.

Here’s another one: Fantasy. During several phone calls – which, according to prison rules, are conference calls of 20 minutes each – Murphy talks openly about everything. His methods and execution, his precision and skill, his lust and intimacy. And in the end he comes to the same conclusion as Costello, Zani and Campion:

Even if David Tyree drops the ball and the Patriots get their perfect season, the story will end the same way.

I’m a police dog, Murphy. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another.

For Murphy, it was never about the Giants, nor about getting revenge on Eli Manning, Michael Strahan or the Dion brothers. It wasn’t even about getting revenge on the police.

It was about crafts. About dominance. To believe in his talent and to want to show it again and again. On several occasions Murphy pretends to be his mother or the Saturday night bandit, but most of the time he pretends to be the master thief. Despite the novelty of what had been taken, E.A. Dion was just another job for Murphy, another evening donning his black suit and putting on his mask. Sometimes he stole pills or electronics at night. Some nights, he stole gold. One night, he stole the rings.

It was his job, just as it was the job of the police to stand in for him. Zani, Costello and Campion – they had nothing against Murphy. They didn’t think this case was more important because it contained the Super Bowl rings. They didn’t care that Murphy loved Tom Brady as much as she did. They saw someone trying to escape something and did what they’ve been doing their whole lives: They said no. In Zani’s garage, a box of Murphy’s work papers sits on a wooden shelf next to 50 other boxes.

After all, this case was not that important. It was inevitable.

Rings of patriots, rings of giants – it doesn’t really matter, Zani says. He was robbing people. He took what wasn’t his.

Zani’s shoulders.

He said we’re gonna get him. And we did.

frequently asked questions

Will Super Bowl losers get a Super Bowl ring?

The Super Bowl Ring is a National Football League award presented to the members of the winning team in the league’s annual championship game, the Super Bowl. … Rings will also be given to the team that finished second in the Super Bowl.

How much is a Super Bowl ring worth?

The NFL gives each team up to $5,000 per ring for 150 players and staff, all costs beyond those covered by the team. The winning team must decide who gets the rings.

Who has the most Super Bowl rings?

Brady has already won the record for the number of Super Bowl rings as a player. However, his former coach is still the record holder for the number of Super Bowl rings won by a player or coach. Bill Belichick got his six rings as head coach of the Patriots.

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