Out of Prison, Real-Life Thomas Crown Looks Back on Almost-Perfect Heist

PHOTO: Anthony Curcio in an interview with Gio Benitez for ABC News "20/20."
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In Monroe, Wash., a bedroom community just outside Seattle, everyone knew the Curcio family. But after Sept. 30, 2008, Anthony Curcio, the family's golden boy, would become infamous.

Watch the full story on "20/20" now.

Curcio's father was a former star wide receiver at the University of Idaho, and he and his wife ran a successful landscaping company. Following in his father's footsteps, Anthony Curcio excelled in basketball and football, breaking all receiving records at Monroe High School.

"Catching a touchdown pass, that's a true feeling. It was everything that I wanted to be, it was falling into place," Curcio said in an interview with "20/20."

He was popular and talented, and he was even dating his school's cheerleading captain, a girl named Emily. He was the life of every high school party. "The first time I ever drank, it's like, boom, I light up like Vegas," Curcio said.

Beneath the golden boy image there was a monster lurking -- addiction -- that was on the brink of being unleashed.

After graduation Curcio received a scholarship to play football at his father's alma mater. During practice one day, Curcio tore his anterior cruciate ligament, ending his promising college football career and introducing him to the powerful pain killer Vicodin.

"I was insecure about not being the best athlete," he said. "I was insecure about not being good enough, about throwing away my football career. And I was insecure, really, just about being a failure. Vicodin took that [insecurity] away from me."

When his prescriptions ran out, Curcio, craving the waves of euphoria that the pills brought, began forging prescriptions or injuring himself to get prescriptions, stealing from friends' medicine cabinets and doing almost anything he could to get high.

To fund his habit, Curcio stole furniture from the university and sold it on eBay; he also counterfeited prized baseball cards and sold them for thousands of dollars.

Anthony and Emily Curcio

Curcio was living a double life. He had married his high school sweetheart, Emily, and they had started a family. Yet in secret his addiction was getting stronger. Four rehab attempts failed.

"What happens in my mind, or in an addict's mind [is], I forget. I forget how bad the withdrawals are. I forget how much pain it causes. What it does to my mom, worrying. What it does to Emily. What it does to our relationship. What it does to me, as a person, putting another hole in me. I forget everything. All I remember is that moment, after I take pills, and feeling like the man again, everything's cool," Curcio said.

After college, Curcio saw an opportunity for fast cash in the booming real estate market. He began flipping homes, using his profits to buy beautiful waterfront properties and fancy cars while desperately trying to keep up with his nearly $15,000-a-month addiction. Vicodin graduated to cocaine, then to crack.

"On the outside, here I was, this confident person, when we moved into this nice, brand new house. I have this beautiful wife. Got into real estate, everything's great, on the outside. But on the inside I had no control," Curcio told "20/20."

When the housing market nosedived, Curcio had to find another way to fund his addiction. He began planning a crime that would bring him more notoriety in Monroe, Wash., than his Friday-night victories on the football field.

While sitting in a Jack in the Box parking lot across from a Bank of America, he watched a Brinks truck pull up to the bank. For three-and-a-half months, he meticulously studied the patterns of the Brinks trucks, their movements, when the most money was being delivered to the bank, how many people were in the truck, how the money was removed. Angry with the banks for helping cause the real estate collapse, Curcio felt entirely justified in his plan.

He posted a Craigslist ad soliciting day laborers for a landscape job, instructing them to wear a very specific outfit and to arrive at the bank parking lot at the time of his planned heist.

Curcio's plan coalesced: He would approach the Brinks truck, spray the driver with mace, take the bags of money and run across the street -- which, in a real-life echo of "The Thomas Crown Affair," would be full of men dressed exactly like him.

Curcio would run to a nearby creek, where an inner tube would be waiting to take him downstream, to a parked getaway vehicle. It was the perfect plan.

Or so he thought.

Two weeks prior to the day he planned to strike, Curcio did a dry run and left his disguise behind a Dumpster. A homeless man who panhandled the corner in front of the bank spotted it and suspected foul play. When Curcio came back to retrieve the items, the man confronted him, taking down his license plate number in case there would be a need to call the police.

Curcio didn't think twice about the man.

On Sept. 30, 2008, Curcio executed his plan successfully, robbing the Brinks truck and escaping down a stream in a yellow inner tube with a bag containing $400,000 in cash.

Detectives investigating the theft didn't get far, but then they got a big break. As it turned out, the homeless man had called 9-1-1 to report the suspicious stash. When the detectives learned this, they tracked the man down. He became the crucial witness who could connect Curcio with the scene and tools of the crime.

Curcio was arrested on Nov. 4, 2008. He was later convicted and sentenced to six years in federal prison. In April, after serving five years, he was released.

Now sober, he has replaced drawing diagrams of armored trucks with drawing children's books and educating young people about drug addiction. He has co-authored a book, titled "Heist and High," and written and illustrated more than 20 children's books on topics like drug addiction and incarcerated parents.

Curcio will always live in the shadow of his crimes.

"I understand a lot of people may not listen," he said, "because I remember I was like that. But even if just one person listened out of a thousand, that's one person that doesn't have to go through this, that's one family that doesn't have to go through this. So I know what it is, where I want to go; I just don't know how long it's gonna take me to get there. But that's O.K. In the meantime, I am going to keep doing the right thing, keep spending as much time as I can with my kids and family."

Watch the full story of the elaborate heist and the way the case was cracked on "20/20" TONIGHT at 10 p.m. ET.

For more information on Curcio's book and projects, visit www.acurcio.com.

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