Three accused in film-inspired race switching US heist

NEW YORK CITY (AFP) - Three black men who allegedly disguised themselves as white policemen in a real-life version of a hold-up scene in a Hollywood film have gone on trial in New York.

Prosecutors say the three men paid special effects company CFX Composite Effects for cinema-quality masks that helped them pose convincingly as white officers of the New York Police Department.

The disguises helped them get away with US$200,000 (S$255, 000 )from a cheque-cashing store in the New York borough of Queens in a heist allegedly inspired by one featured in Ben Affleck's 2010 film "The Town."

As in the movie, masked robbers dressed as cops doused the crime scene with bleach to destroy DNA traces and showed a clerk pictures of her home to intimidate her into cooperating, according to the prosecution.

Detectives hunting for three white men were getting nowhere with their investigation until they came across an email one of the accused, Edward Byam, had sent to CFX, offering to endorse the "unbelievable" realism of the company's masks.

Byam and his two co-accused had come onto the police's radar after a string of extravagant purchases, including Gucci and Louis Vuitton clothes and a Rolex watch.

CFX, which has worked on Hollywood films "Wolverine" and the upcoming "2 Guns", had no idea of what the accused were plotting. Staff were told they were planning to make a music video.