Rensselaer County Bank Robbery2018-10-12T03:05:26+00:00

FBI photo of the Bank looking back toward Rensselaer.

Rensselaer County Bank Robbery
May 29, 1933

It is thought the kidnappers robbed the Rensselaer County Bank and Trust Company on May 29, 1933 to finance the O’Connell kidnapping, after failing at the Morris “Mush” Trachneir kidnapping. It’s presumed the robbers were targeting the railroad payroll deposit. Fearing they would be easily recognized, John Oley and Manny Strewl “subbed out” the actual robbery to Leonard “Big Charlie” Scarnici and his cronies — a fatal mistake from both sides of the law. Charlie Scarnici was a top killer for the Dutch Schultz mob with an estimated fifty bodies to his name. Since Scarnici was a lieutenant in the Dutch Schultz mob, his association with the bank robbery, and with Oley and Strewl plus the kidnapping, led police to believe Dutch Schultz therefore was involved with the kidnappers. Being accused of something “HE DIDN’T DO” and taking unwanted heat from the police, the bank robbers, Tony Reino and Charles Shori were acquitted at the trial in Troy, New York. They were transferred to jail in New York City while awaiting trial on other bank robbery charges. A Dutch Schultz lawyer bailed them out, but they were found assassinated several days later.

Bank Robbers

  • Tony Reino (left) — Found Assassinated in 1934
  • Leonard “Big Charlie” Scarnici — Executed 1935 in Sing Sing
  • Charles Shori (alias Herzog and Fred Plentl) — Found assassinated in 1934
  • Phil Zeigler
  • Max Parkin and Marcel Poffo (not shown)

The 1928 Nash Sedan getaway car outside the garage where it was found after the robbery at 148 Morton Avenue. (Nash Motors was founded in 1916 by former General Motors president Charles W. Nash.)

Bullet holes in the back of the Nash (rear fender, the back and shattered window).

Pleated back seat of the 1928 Nash with bullet hole.

Interior photo shows that the bullet was shot from inside the vehicle.

Bank Robbery Details (May 29, 1933)

Railroad representative, William Card, had been out running errands when he decided to make the railroad’s usual payroll deposit at a branch bank. He stopped by the main branch to let bankers know the deposit already had been handled.

A flower lady (Edna Jamell) set up shop of the steps of the bank on the day and time of the robbery. What happened to her is unknown.

The robbers were Max Parkin (NYPD#B73978), Marcel Poffo also known as “Big Joe” (NYPD#B73977), Leonard “Big Charlie” Scarnici, Tony Reino, and Charlie Shori nicknamed “Little Charlie.”

The following Bank Tellers identified Max Poffo who forced them back against the wall while waving a machine gun at them.

  • Herbert Buchans – Head Teller
  • Glades Ivceson
  • Mary Kirsch
  • Agnes Babcock
  • Austin Riley

The machine gun was never fired during the robbery.

Scarnici jumped in behind the teller cages and left a palm print on the counter.

Both Mr. Buchans and clerk Nicholas Walters claimed they stepped on the floor alarm.

Since there had been numerous false alarms since the bank installed a silent alarms in the weeks before the robbery, Detective Stevens and Patrolman Rabe did not think they were headed to investigate a real robbery when the alarm sounded at the police station, located a mile away from the bank.

Max Parkin and Marcel Poffo’s bodies were found on Purchase Street, in Harrison New York ten days after the robbery. Officer Arthur Olsen (Badge #20) filed the report. In their pockets, Poffo had $860 and Parkin $221.

The medical reports indicated that Max Parkin was shot multiple times. One bullet entered from the back of the right ear and exited over the right eye. One bullet entered the back of neck and exited above the right eye. One bullet from the back entered the stomach. One bullet entered the left nipple. One bullet entered the right hand and made exit on the palm. He was about twenty years old.

Marcel Poffo received shots in the head and abdomen both of which were fatal in addition to experiencing shock and hemorrhage. His widow wanted nothing to do with him and his friends had to chip in for his burial.

The robbers got away with $2,000, which had to be split among the five robbers plus the “finger man” Manny Strewl and John Oley who provided logistical support and did not take part in the actual robbery.

Detective James Stevens (72 years old) was wounded in the head and was killed. Officer Rabe was wounded in the leg.

Police recovered two bullets from the 1928 Nash getaway car when it was found at 148 Morton Avenue, Albany (a garage). It was determined one bullet came from Detective Stevens revolver. Forensic Expert Sergeant Butts determined the bullet had shattered the rear window and had blood on it, which demonstrated that someone in the back seat had been wounded.

The Big Con

Scarnici was not granted bail, but Rensselaer County District Attorney Henry Clinton granted Scarnici immunity on kidnapping and bank robbery charges, in return for Scarnici’s information about the O’Connell kidnapping. Once the district attorney’s office had their information, the DA’s office charged Scarnici with murdering Detective Stevens who was shot and killed during the robbery. Scarnici essentially traded getting out of jail time for kidnapping and bank robbery for being charged with a crime that carried the death penalty.

Police records state that Tony Reino, who was the guard at the bank’s front door during the robbery, said he “thought” he was the one who had killed Detective Stephens. In early 1934 Reino was assassinated, leaving Scarnici the last of the living robbers — at least until 1935, when Scarnici was executed at Sing Sing for the murder.