Pittsburgh Stealer

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In February 2012, a greedy Guarda armored truck driver stole $2.3 million in casino money and murdered his co-worker in the process. The trail of stashed cash he left for the FBI to find eventually became his undoing.

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Episode Transcript

For a lot of us, the only thing we know about our coworkers is that we somehow ended up on the same career path and spend a few hours together every day.

As the workweek ticks by, we each chug along with our tasks and chit-chat in break rooms over microwaved lunches…but how often do you stop and think, how well do I really know these people?

Envision the folks you sit next to every day…the people you bump into on the elevator…the person who’s always in line behind you at the copier…

Do you know anything beyond what they eat for lunch, if they’re married, if they have kids, or where they went to college?

More than likely your answer is probably, no. You don’t know the nitty gritty of their lives.

You don’t know, for example, what lengths they’d go to to obtain an immeasurable level of wealth?

If you could know, would you be willing to bet your life that whatever means they were willing to go to wouldn’t involve you?

Most of us would hope we’re never forced to find out.

This is Armored… the untold stories of murder, mayhem, and million-dollar heists.

Today’s episode takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2012.

It’s the tale of two men. One who took advantage of his coworker’s trust to carry out a multi-million-dollar robbery, and the other who paid the ultimate price while punched in on the clock.

On the morning of Tuesday, February 28th, 2012, 31-year-old Michael Haines and 22-year-old Ken Konias Jr. were working together inside of a Garda armored truck in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.

Some news outlets pronounce Ken’s last name as (Kuh-NYE-AS) but after consulting with the FBI for this episode, they tell us the most common pronunciation is CONE-ee-US. So, we’re going to go with CONE-ee-US.

The area of Steel City in Pennsylvania where Ken and Michael were working is made up of converted warehouses, old-style grocery stores, gourmet food shops, produce stands, bars, and eateries. Across from this part of town, along the Ohio River, is the Rivers Casino…a premier attraction in downtown Pittsburgh.

According to KDNA news, Michael and Ken were slated to start their shift and leave the Garda truck depot in the strip district just before 8:00 am. Their route for the day entailed picking up large sums of money from a PNC bank, a Macy’s department store, and a JC Penney’s store. The most sizeable cash deposit of the route was supposed to come from the Rivers Casino.

News reports state that the casino pickup was one of the pair’s first stops of the morning.

Around 9:00 AM Michael and Ken picked up more than $2.1 million in cash from the gambling hall and like usual, stored it in bags inside of their armored truck. For three more hours they continued driving around Pittsburgh collecting cash deposits from other retailers.

Around noon, the two guards made a stop at a Crate and Barrel store in Ross township, a community just north of Pittsburgh. There, they picked up several bags of cash…but this stop was slightly more memorable than the others.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, staff members inside Crate and Barrel recalled that the courier, Michael Haines, seemed pretty nervous while interacting with them. An employee told the newspaper quote— “he was nearly perspiring and seemed somewhat shaky” –end quote.

This employee was so distracted by Michael’s behavior that they ended up asking him if he needed any help. Michael didn’t really reply and seemed distracted throughout the entire encounter. In a matter of minutes, he moved the money out of the store’s vault and into the back of the armored truck waiting in the parking lot.

Sales associates inside of Crate and Barrel told reporters that they never saw Michael’s coworker. It was just him who’d come inside.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that about 45 minutes after leaving Crate and Barrel, just before 1:00 pm, Michael and Ken’s truck made a final stop at a Home Depot store in the same large shopping center that the Crate and Barrel was located.

According to multiple news outlets, the armored truck sat in the Home Depot parking lot for a few minutes, then it just took off, headed in the direction of the Garda truck depot in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.

Shortly after one o’clock, a Garda employee driving a different armored truck noticed the truck parked a few blocks away from the Garda facility. At the time, the truck was sitting idle with its flashers on near a bridge at the intersection of 31st and Railroad Street.

When this Garda employee passed Ken and Michael’s truck, they didn’t stop. They told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review that it was common practice for guards to take quick lunch breaks or to rest after making back-to-back stops all morning.

This other guard figured that Michael and Ken were just killing time, so they didn’t stop to check on their truck. They did however mention to their trucking manager back at the Garda depot, a guy named Rodney Shockey, that they’d seen the truck idling alone underneath the 31st Street Bridge.

Rodney didn’t think much about the report and brushed it off, assuming the guards inside were on their lunch break.

No one thought about the truck again until 3:40 pm later that afternoon.

Around that time another Garda staff member driving in the direction of the company’s trucking depot noticed Michael and Ken’s truck sitting idle underneath the bridge and called its location into Rodney.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rodney was initially kind of irritated and thought that Michael and Ken were milking the clock. So, he drove the short distance from the Garda depot to where the truck was parked.

According to KDKA News and the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, the truck was several miles away from its last scheduled pickup, the Home Depot, and about two blocks away from the Garda facility.

When Rodney arrived and saw the truck still sitting idle, he took all of ten seconds to get out and start assessing the situation.

When he approached the truck, the engine was still running but no one was in the front cab. Rodney thought that was extremely odd. He fully expected to see two guards goofing around or sleeping on the job.

When he peaked through the bulletproof glass near the back door, he saw a horrific sight.

There, laying in the back of the cargo area was the body of a man. At first, Rodney couldn’t make out who exactly it was so he started banging on the window and yelling at the man to get some sort of response. The body didn’t move and no one yelled back.

Right away Rodney pulled out his cell phone and started to dial 911 but according to an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review a Pittsburgh police detective just happened to be driving by the 31st Street Bridge and stopped to assist the distraught trucking manager.

The officer asked Rodney to step back so he could take a look around. As he made his way towards the rear of the armored truck, he noticed blood seeping out from underneath the cargo area’s locked door and dripping onto the pavement.

According to the Deseret News, the police detective called in the situation and forced open the back of the truck. Inside he found the crumpled and bloodied body of 31-year-old Michael Haines. It was apparent right away that the guard was dead, killed by a single gunshot wound to the back of his head.

Other than the noticeable bullet wound, Michael didn’t have any bruising on his body and there were no signs that a struggle had occurred. Michael’s uniform was still tucked into his waist and a lanyard that held his ID badge was still intact around his neck. According to reports, that lanyard was designed to break apart if someone tugged on it or tried to pull it off.

When homicide investigators arrived on scene, the only things they found missing were Michael’s semi-automatic service pistol, $2.3 million in cash and Michael’s partner, Ken Konias Jr.

Finding Ken and the missing money became law enforcement’s top priority.

Thankfully, they had some eyes in the sky that would help them pinpoint what exactly had happened and when and how Ken had vanished from the armored truck, leaving his partner behind.

According to CNN, surveillance cameras at the Home Depot store in Ross Township along with others mounted near the 31st Street bridge captured images that got Pittsburgh police’s attention in the first few hours of their investigation.

Data from the Garda truck’s GPS and the company’s route records indicated that Michael and Ken’s last scheduled stop on that Tuesday was definitely the Home Depot store in Ross Township. So, the fact that the truck had been parked so far away from that location but only a few blocks away from the Garda depot stood out as a red flag to authorities.

Investigators’ first move was to backtrack to the Home Depot. When they got there, they found a wealth of surveillance cameras in the parking lot.

Video footage from those devices showed Michael and Ken’s armored truck had pulled into the parking lot at exactly 12:55 pm.

When detectives spoke with people who’d been working at or near the hardware store, they found a witness who told them that around 1:00 pm they’d heard what they thought sounded like a muffled gunshot come from inside the armored truck. The witness said they didn’t report the strange sound at the time because mere seconds after hearing the noise the armored truck sped off.

They told law enforcement that they figured it wasn’t really a gunshot that they’d heard, but maybe just a bump or backfire from the vehicle itself.

When investigators reviewed the footage from a surveillance camera mounted near the 31st Street Bridge overlooking where the truck was found with Michael’s body inside, they discovered something very incriminating.

The video showed that shortly after 1:15 pm, Ken Konias Jr. parked the truck and jumped out carrying several bags. He then jogged off in the general direction of the Garda depot.

The video did not show Ken being roughed up by a band of robbers or in distress. It was clear from the footage that Ken was all by himself, casually striding away from the truck and his dead coworker.

This image was seared into investigators’ minds.

It convinced law enforcement that Ken was more than likely their prime suspect and behind the events that had led up to Michael’s murder and the robbery.

Police theorized that it was highly probable that Ken had shot and killed Michael in the Home Depot parking lot at 1:00 pm, then sped off and parked the Garda truck beneath the 31st Street Bridge.

From there, authorities believed Ken had swiped the stolen cash and walked back to the Garda depot to get away in his personal SUV.

According to KDKA news, part of their theory was confirmed when they checked to see if Ken’s tan Ford Explorer was at the Garda facility…

And you probably guessed, it wasn’t.

Ken, his car and $2.3 million in cash were gone.

Even worse news for investigators was that he had a two and a half hour head start on them.

Pittsburgh police’s robbery and homicide division spent the first 10 or 12 hours of their investigation gathering evidence and beginning a widespread search in the Pittsburgh area for Ken. They knew their chances of finding him were going to be slim though because so much time had passed between when he’d abandoned the Garda truck and when Michael’s body was discovered.

Somewhere in the ballpark of two and a half to three hours.

The authorities knew Ken could have gotten on several interstates and been hours away from Pittsburgh by the time they arrived on scene.

In a press conference shortly after the investigation launched, a Pittsburgh police commander remarked quote—“He had at least a two-hour head start from the time he left work until the time Mr. Haines was discovered. We’re not sure if he’s in the state.”–end quote.

Another hurdle for the investigation was the fact that most of the stolen money was nearly untraceable. It was made up of mostly unmarked small denomination bills like 20’s, 10’s and 5’s.

According to Deseret News, the cash was also shrink-wrapped and could reportedly fit into a space as small as a footlocker.

A day after the crime, on February 29th, law enforcement in Pittsburgh officially announced they intended to charge Ken with Michael’s murder and the Garda truck robbery. Two days later, a federal judge issued a warrant for his arrest.

By that point, Pittsburgh’s homicide and robbery division had called in the FBI to assist them in tracking down their prime suspect and recovering the stolen money.

Garda offered up a $100,000 reward for information about Ken’s whereabouts.

Hours dragged on though, and no credible sightings of Ken or his tan SUV popped up anywhere.

The first real lead came when authorities were able to locate Ken’s cell phone. Using several investigative methods, the FBI was able to trace the phone to the side of Route 51, a road near Pittsburgh’s Century III Mall.

Pittsburgh police investigators had been calling it sporadically for 24 hours attempting to locate Ken. The research material isn’t very clear…but I think it’s safe to assume that the primary way the FBI found the phone is because it was turned on and calls were pinging to it.

As authorities worked the case, FBI agents fanned out across Pittsburgh and started interviewing Ken and Michael’s family and friends. They also sat down with Garda employees to gather as much information as they could about the two men.

While that was happening, techs began trying to crack into Ken’s cell phone data. They needed to know if he’d spoken with anyone or had kept any kind of digital records leading up to the robbery.

Throughout the interviewing process, agents really took deep dives into Ken and Michael’s backgrounds.

They needed to find out everything they could about both men in order to be able to piece together WHY this had happened.

What they learned was that Michael and Ken had only worked together a handful of times leading up to February 28th.

They were not career-long partners.

In fact, employment records reported by ABC news state that Ken had only worked for Garda for about a year prior to the incident. Michael was hired by Garda at the end of 2011 and was only on the job for a few months before he was killed.

On that Tuesday Michael wasn’t even supposed to be partners with Ken. It was reported that Ken’s normal co-worker was on vacation that week, so Michael filled in.

According to ABC News, Michael often told his roommates that he didn’t like filling in as a courier for younger guards because they didn’t know what they were doing and would often cut corners that they shouldn’t.

On several occasions, Michael expressed that he preferred being partnered up with veteran guards whenever possible. After all, Michael was a courier. He was the more vulnerable of the two-man team. So, I kind of get why he wanted his assigned driver to be more experienced in the field.

Despite his aversion to working with younger employees, Michael never reported any problems with Ken prior to the robbery. He never mentioned to anyone that he was afraid of the 22-year-old or uncomfortable working with him.

Basically, authorities determined that Michael was just in the wrong place at the wrong time…with the wrong person.

In the wake of Michael’s death, his friends and family were devastated.

Michael was from a tight-knit family and grew up in an eastern suburb of Pittsburgh. He was a college graduate who had his mindset on working in the communications field. While he looked for a place to use his degree he applied with Garda and enjoyed being an armored truck courier. His loved ones described him as a nice and honorable guy who was always willing to help someone in need.

Ken on the other hand had a bit of a sorted job history and reputation.

In 2012 he still lived at home with his parents in the Pittsburgh suburb of Dravosburg.

After graduating high school, he’d struggled to hold down steady work and eventually became a volunteer firefighter with the Dravosburg Volunteer Fire Department.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that role was short-lived though. Ken only worked for the department a few months before being asked to leave.

After Michael’s murder and the Garda robbery, the fire department’s chief told reporters that Ken just didn’t fit in at the firehouse and there were a number of things and red flags that built up to him having to ask Ken to leave.

The resource material isn’t super specific about what those red flags were, but according to lead FBI agent Scott Argiro who we consulted with for this case, Ken was considered untrustworthy and people at the fire department didn’t get along with him.

When Garda hired Ken in early 2011, he reportedly passed all of the background checks. Even though Garda has never publicly revealed any details regarding Ken’s employment record, it was assumed that Ken went through the normal hiring process that all armored car companies require new employees endure.

When Ken’s wanted poster was first released by the FBI in early March of 2012, people close to him and his family were shocked to learn that the feds and Pittsburgh police believed he was the mastermind behind a brutal robbery and murder.

Many of his neighbors said they just didn’t think it was in his nature.

One of his parent’s neighbors, a woman named Brenda Baker, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review quote— “His mother was just bragging about him and his car. She was telling my daughter he had a great job. This is insane. I would never expect this.”

Looking closely at Ken’s family and friends proved to be an incredibly useful avenue of investigation for authorities.

A day after the crime, agents went and talked with Ken’s parents. They learned that shortly after Ken was seen on surveillance video sprinting away from the Garda truck, he driven roughly ten miles to his parent’s house and arrived between 1:30 pm and two o’clock.

His father told police that Ken was only inside his room for a few minutes before jumping back into his SUV and taking off. While he was there, Ken didn’t indicate to his parents that anything was wrong.

A few hours later, Ken’s mother said her son called her from his cell phone and was very jumpy on the phone. She said he told her to quote— “Go see grandma”–end quote. At the time, Ken’s mom had no idea what he meant and before she could ask him to explain, he hung up.

His mom and dad said all they remembered from the day of the crime was that Ken came inside their house to change his clothes and hang up his work jacket in his closet.

According to WTAE News, investigators searched Ken’s room and found his Garda uniform hanging up. Inside one of the pockets was a spent shell casing from a pistol. They immediately sent the jacket off to the lab for testing and the results indicated that it had flecks of human blood on it.

Around that same time, FBI agents were also able to retrieve phone records from Ken’s cell phone. Those records revealed that during the few minutes he’d been inside his parents’ house, he’d made several phone calls to friends and family.

According to a criminal complaint in this case, one of those calls was to a friend known as Witness #1. This witness told authorities that Ken had made some pretty incriminating statements to them on the day of the murder and robbery.

ABC News reported that Ken told this friend something to the effect of, “I effed up. My life is over.”

The witness said at first, they joked with Ken and asked him some light-hearted questions like if he’d gotten someone pregnant or had hit a pedestrian while driving Garda’s armored truck.

The friend said Ken responded by saying quote— “Worse than that.”–end quote.

When Witness #1 asked Ken if he’d killed someone, he didn’t respond right away. He just paused and grunted indicating the affirmative.

Witness #1 said that Ken actually asked them to run away with him and live off the money he’d stolen. Ken had allegedly promised this friend that they could live off the cash for the rest of their lives.

How desperate the FBI and Pittsburgh Police were to find Ken at that point can’t be understated. Law enforcement was seriously worried that Ken was unpredictable and would kill again to avoid capture.

Allegheny County’s District Attorney at the time issued a warning to the public and told reporters, quote— “Our belief is that he planned to rob the company, and if he had to kill a guard, he planned to do that. He shot the guy from close range in the back of the head. That’s pretty cold-blooded.” —end quote.

To make matters worse, investigators believed Ken was carrying at least three firearms with him while on the lam.

By that point in the investigation, the FBI had determined that Ken owned a personal firearm, plus he had a Garda service weapon that was still missing, and he was more than likely also in possession of Michael Haines’ service pistol.

What also weighed on investigators’ minds was that Ken would try and take off and head out of the country.

They thought this because Witness #1 told authorities that Ken had asked them if they knew what kinds of extradition laws Mexico and Canada had. That indicated to police that Ken was at least contemplating fleeing the United States.

Finding Ken and pinning down where he might be headed proved daunting for law enforcement.

Even though the FBI pushed out Ken’s wanted poster everywhere, tips with useful information didn’t materialize.

The next significant update in the case didn’t come until a little over a week after Ken vanished.

That’s when out of the blue, the authorities announced that they’d caught a major break.

They’d recovered roughly a quarter-million dollars of the stolen money in the unlikeliest of places…

On March 9th, 2012, ten days after the FBI and Pittsburgh police released an all points bullet and arrest warrant for Ken Konias Jr., investigators announced that $250,000 of the missing money he was suspected of stealing had been found.

According to the FBI, a few days after agents first interviewed Ken’s parents at their home and seized his work jacket with the shell casing in it, his mom and dad called investigators back.

They called to report that they’d found more than $100,000 in cash hidden in their garage underneath one of their vehicles. They said because Ken had told his mom to quote– “Go see Grandma” —they’d also decided to visit his grandmother’s headstone in a nearby cemetery. There, they found several more stacks of cash placed on the granite slab.

According to CBS Pittsburgh, around the time that the FBI received that second call from Ken’s parents and took the money into evidence…Witness #1, who Ken had called before taking off, contacted investigators a second time to tell agents that they’d found $10,000 in cash tucked into one of their work boots on their front porch.

The fact that Ken had left so much money for his family and friends indicated to the FBI that he’d likely not thought the crime through and was far from being a criminal mastermind.

Investigators publicly released that they felt certain the robbery and murder of Michael Haines had likely been a spur-of-the-moment, greed-driven decision on Ken’s part. They dubbed him somewhat of an amateur who didn’t really have a solid plan on how he was going to get away with the crime.

That assessment, though accurate, came back to bite the FBI, because for weeks Ken somehow always seemed to be one step ahead of them.

He was capable of eluding detection and evading all the tools and tactics the feds used to try and catch him.

According to WPXI News, after one month of being on the run, Ken’s family appeared with their lawyer in a press conference and pleaded with Ken to come home and face justice.

That cry for their son to turn himself in fell on deaf ears though because Ken continued to remain off police’s radar.

According to the FBI, there was little progress in the case until mid-April, roughly a month and a half after the crime.

Around that time, a sex worker in Pompano Beach, Florida contacted law enforcement in Pittsburgh to report she’d been living with Ken Konias Jr.

This woman told investigators that Ken was using drugs and held up in a rundown house. She said he’d bragged about stealing more than $2 million from his employer up North.

The sex worker said after a few weeks of staying with Ken, she started to grow suspicious of him when she saw his wanted poster on TV. She was worried about her safety because he was being accused of murder.

She also told investigators that they’d better hurry if they wanted to grab Ken because he was making plans to flee to Jamaica in a matter of days.

In a coordinated effort, Florida law enforcement teams along with FBI field agents converged on the house Ken was said to be living in and found him inside.

On April 24th, 2012 officials arrested him. Inside his house, they found cocaine, several bands of stolen cash, Michael Haines’ service weapon, and keys to a storage locker.

When they went and opened the storage unit, FBI agents found more than a million dollars stashed in a duffle bag sitting alone on the floor. Nothing else was inside the locker.

In a press conference a few days after the arrest, FBI officials announced that between the bust in Florida and what Ken had left with is friends and family, approximately $1.7 million of the missing money had been recovered.

The rest of the cash investigators believed Ken had spent on travel, transportation and adult entertainment.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Ken had spent tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars on drugs and sex workers in the Miami area.

Shortly after arriving in South Florida, he’d moved into the house in Pompano Beach. The neighborhood where he was living was reportedly known to be a haven for drugs and illegal activity. On several occasions, it was reported that Ken had been robbed by people in these circles who wanted a piece of the money he’d swiped in Pittsburgh.

The FBI announced that their investigation determined that Ken had talked openly about his role in the Garda truck robbery. He reportedly confessed to sex workers and drug dealers at various points in time.

Following his arrest, Ken opted to stand trial in Pittsburgh.

At first, prosecutors were prepared to pursue the death penalty but after consulting with Michael Haines’ family and realizing a capital murder trial would delay proceedings, the decision was made to only seek life in prison as the highest possible sentence for Ken.

When pretrial proceedings got underway, Ken’s attorney claimed that Ken killed Michael Haines in self-defense.

According to reporting by WTAE News, Ken claimed that he’d shot Michael while standing his ground after the pair had an altercation inside of the truck at Home Depot. Ken said in a fit of frustration Michael had thrown a handheld scanner at him that was mounted to the inside of their truck’s cab.

That argument quickly fell apart as pretrial hearings carried on though because the physical evidence in the case just didn’t support a scenario in which Ken acted in self-defense. For example, it was undisputed that Michael had been shot once in the back of the head…pretty much execution-style. It was difficult for anyone in the courtroom to believe that a physical fight ensued and somehow Michael had been shot facing AWAY from Ken.

There was also the fact that Michael didn’t have any bruising or cuts on him that indicated an altercation had in fact led up to the shooting. In addition to that, the handheld scanner inside the truck that Ken’s defense team claimed Michael had used as a weapon was found undamaged, still attached to the wall.

Lastly, there was testimony from witnesses and that Crate and Barrel employee who said Michael was acting nervous well before the two guards stopped at Home Depot. It was prosecutors’ belief that Ken had threatened Michael or something leading up to the Crate and Barrel and Home Depot stops.

In the months leading up to the actual trial, Ken was housed in a local jail and his physical appearance changed drastically.

According to multiple news reports, he ended up packing on anywhere between thirty and forty pounds before trial. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that officials called into question Ken’s frame of mind due to the fact that he’d received several tattoos in jail just weeks before his trial was set to begin.

The tattoos included images of money bags and money signs inked into the skin on his hands and knuckles. Mental health experts said the tattoos were indicative that Ken was identifying himself with his crimes.

Eventually, Ken faced a judge in a bench trial in the fall of 2013. That November, the court found Ken guilty of felony robbery and first-degree murder.

A few months later in February 2014, he was sentenced to life in prison plus 10 to 20 years.

During the hearing, the judge explained to Ken how his sentencing was going to work and according to CBS News, Ken interjected and coldly spouted off to the judge to not lecture him so they could all proceed.

In response, the judge chided Ken and told him that he should consider himself lucky to be alive because Michael Haines’ family had waived the possibility of a death penalty. The judge referred to Ken as quote– “Cowardly and a ruthless, soulless, calculated killer that would spend the rest of his life in a cell.” –end quote.

To this day, Ken remains behind bars.

After the trial, Michael Haines’ family expressed gratitude to law enforcement for bringing a swift end to their nightmare.

WTAE News reported that the family released this touching statement, and I think it’s important I leave it with you to end this episode.

It’s a reminder that the villains of these stories shouldn’t overshadow the lives of their victims.

The statement reads:

“Though the action of the court today brings us a valued sense of closure, and we now have a chance to look forward… the loss of Mike will be with us every day. He will be forever loved and deeply missed for the unique way he blessed our lives and those of so many around him. On behalf of Michael Haines and his father, we express our heartfelt gratitude to all of the authorities who worked tirelessly to bring us to this conclusion.”

Armored is an audiochuck original.

Hosted by Jake Brennan.

Research and writing by Micheal Whelan with writing assistance from executive

producer Delia D’Ambra

Editing by Eric Aaron.

So, what do you think Chuck, do you approve? *howl*