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Ohio State alumnus directs heist documentary

Courtesy of Crooked Fence Productions

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Pulling off one of the biggest bank burglaries in the history of the United States probably seems like a dream come true for many burglars across the world.

For Phil Christopher and his companions, led by the Dinsio Brothers, Amil and James, one heist made their dream come true.

“$uperthief” is a documentary directed by Tommy Reid, a 1997 OSU alumnus. It is based on the book of the same name by Rick Porrello about one of the biggest bank heist in U.S. history and will open Friday at Gateway Film Center.

The documentary goes inside the life of Christopher, a Collinwood, Ohio, native and one of the main burglars in the 1972 United California Bank burglary in Orange County, Calif.

Reid said after becoming interested in the United California Bank burglary and he felt compelled to learn more about the burglary and Christopher himself.

“There (are) so many more questions that had to be asked,” Reid said. “I had the chance to talk to Phil and get so much more information from him that the book didn’t offer.”

Throughout the film, Christopher talks about the details of the crime, the planning and the ultimate downfall that landed Christopher and his accomplices in prison.

“I was wondering what exactly they had on me,” Christopher said. “I felt that this was part of the game. I got caught and I knew that I had to go do my time.”

Reid said he wanted to pursue the documentary as long as Christopher was ready to open up about the burglary and tell all.

“We had open communication,” Reid said. “As a filmmaker, I want to get the best story told. This documentary is what separates us from everything else. This is when (Christopher) comes clean and tells us how everything happened.”

Christopher said he was introduced into a life of crime as a young boy. He was 16 when he carried out his first burglary.

“I didn’t think that this was going to be my life of crime,” Christopher said. “This was just one of the things shown to me by older people in the neighborhood. To them, $1,600 was just chump change.”

Christopher said he never felt any guilt after committing his crimes because he felt he resembled Robin Hood.

“I never felt that I had a guilty conscience,” Christopher said. “I had a Robin Hood mentality. I was stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.”

The pictures featured in the film are never-before-seen FBI photos, Reid said.

After a failed first-night attempt at the burglary, Christopher and his collaborators had to leave the scene, returning a second night to complete the break-in.

“I never could imagine that there would be that kind of security,” Christopher said. “I always felt that there was a lot of money in there. The security bonds and the bearer bonds were good as gold.”

“$uperthief” also explores Christopher’s life after his crime, how jail changed him and how his life has improved since leaving prison and returning to his family.

Christopher is observed sitting on a couch while being filmed, and throughout the movie, two statues are seen behind him, one saying “family” and the other “faith.”

“I’ve become older and wiser,” Christopher said. “I have a family that relies on me, so I have to keep myself in check, because as they need me, I need them just as well.”

Christopher wed Mary Ann Christopher in the Cleveland County Jail before his sentence began.

Mary Ann Christopher is proud of the life her husband leads now, and said she wouldn’t change her decision to marry him before he entered prison.

“(Phil Christopher) finally realized at some point in time you can’t keep doing this sort of thing,” Mary Ann Christopher said. “He came to the realization of what is truly important in life and what is not.”

After a life of crime, rehabilitation in jail and enjoying his family time, Phil Christopher said he is happy with his life.

“I’ve wasted a lot of time being locked up,” Phil Christopher said. “I can never replace that time, but all I can do is do the best I can (to) try to raise my granddaughters and see that they have the best I can possibly give them. That is my goal now.”

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