Sometimes, a headline says it all: Nuclear plant workers in hot water after alleged plot to rob armored car goes awry

 

That was the headline on an NBC News blog last Monday.

NBC Staff Writer Gil Aegerter reported:

The story reads like a movie script: A nuclear reactor operator recruits a co-worker for an armored car heist, gets caught hijacking a vehicle, then flees to South America only to be recaptured amid allegations of money laundering and gun and steroid smuggling.

But this story allegedly played out in real life.

Michael J. Buhrman, a senior reactor operator at the Dresden nuclear plant near Chicago, is the alleged mastermind of the wild scheme, which was supposedly inspired by the 2010 Ben Affleck movie “The Town,” in which a group of Boston buddies rob several banks and Fenway Park. He was extradited from Venezuela late last month after a year on the lam and is serving a 40-year sentence for the carjacking.

He may face additional charges in connection with his international flight and alleged smuggling.

The report elaborates:

According to court and Nuclear Regulatory Commission documents, Buhrman tried to recruit co-workers at the nuclear plant, about 45 miles south of Chicago, and eventually succeeded in persuading colleague Landon Brittain to participate in the robbery of an armored car.

On May 9, 2012, Buhrman accosted a woman in a parking lot outside a Kohl’s store in Woodridge, about 30 minutes west of Chicago. Police said he was disguised as an old man in an elaborate latex mask and threatened the woman with a .45-caliber Beretta semiautomatic handgun before speeding off in her  2000 Pontiac Grand Am. But a witness followed and called police, who corraled Buhrman less than a quarter mile away.

Police say Brittain, another senior reactor operator at the nuclear plant, acted as a lookout during the carjacking – though he wasn’t arrested at the time. According to NRC documents, the two men intended to use the stolen car in the armored car robbery.

And if that’s not weird enough for you, there’s this:

Buhrman was released on bond, but police said they were alerted by a girlfriend that he had access to offshore bank accounts, had purchased $100,000 in gold and intended to flee to Chile. In June 2012, a judge added conditions to his bail, including a GPS ankle monitor.

That proved insufficient to keep Buhrman grounded. In September, police responded to an alert from the monitor and found it cut off in his Coal City home. An Illinois State Police sergeant testified later that there had been an attempt to make it appear that there had been a break-in and that Buhrman had been forcibly removed. Police also testified that $14,000 that had been deposited into Buhrman’s bank account from a foreign source was withdrawn three days before he disappeared.

But have no fear: The plant’s owners are planning major changes:

The case also sent ripples through the nuclear power industry, prompting the Exelon Corp. – which owns the Dresden plant and is the largest U.S. operator of nuclear reactors – to change how it trains its employees to spot and report behavior that might pose a security threat.

Believe me, I only hit the highlights on this summary. To read the full story, go to: http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/11/18/21463506-nuclear-plant-workers-in-hot-water-after-alleged-plot-to-rob-armored-car-goes-awry

By the way, the Daily Mail had one of the more breathless headlines I’ve seen lately:

Bungling nuclear worker-turned-armed-robber jailed after he was caught stealing getaway vehicle while disguised as an old woman in plot inspired by Affleck Movie

Here’s a link to their version: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2509317/Michael-J-Buhrman-sentenced-40-years-hiding-Venezuela.html#ixzz2lRSFDWAR

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About Robert Singleton

By day, I work for a call center. In my spare time, I try to save my hometown (and planet) from a nearly constant onslaught of greedheads, lunatics and land developers. I live in a fictional town called Austin, Texas, where I go to way too many meetings.
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