If you think you are a criminal mastermind it is usually a sure sign that you aren’t one. But stupid people are usually full of self-delusions – because of their stupidity.
And if you are a stupid thief, in your head you might have figured out that when you steal, for example, a TV from someone, the person most likely to need a replacement TV will be the person you stole it from.
Therefore, in stupid logic, what more cunning plan could you have than to break into a house, steal a lot of stuff and then sell it back to the victim of your crime. After all, you just know they need it.
In normal, sensible logic, however, the scenario is somewhat different. Because anyone sensible will know right from the start that the person you stole the goods from will immediately recognize their own possessions and more than likely call the police.
Which is exactly what happened in the case of three teenage morons who snatched a video-game system and then tried to sell it back to their victim.
It happened in Denver and, according to the police, a woman returned home to discover her home had been burglarized, with the thieves apparently gaining entry through a window.
Among the items missing were a portable gaming system and a jacket.
The woman immediately called the cops.
But the robbery had unnerved her somewhat, so rather than waiting at her place, she arranged for officers to meet her in the parking lot of a nearby restaurant.
While waiting there, three teenage males sauntered up to her and asked her if she wanted to buy – you’re probably way ahead of me – a portable gaming system, one that bore a remarkable resemblance to the one that had just been stolen from her place.
If that were not bad enough, one of the trio of teenage morons was wearing a jacket that looked a lot like hers.
As luck would have it, an off-duty cop was at a gas station next to the restaurant. He approached the trio of criminal masterminds and called for backup. Within moments they were placed into custody on suspicion of burglary.
You would hope that it would be a lesson to them but I think it’s safe to surmise that they are too stupid to learn.
We’ve talked about stupid criminals on the fasab blog before and if there was a competition to find the stupidest I think it would be a pretty difficult task.
However, having said that, on the short list would have to be 55-year-old Tempe resident Harry Williams.
You see according to court documents (yes, obviously this master criminal was caught) Williams first tried to rob an Ace Hardware store that was within walking distance of his house.
Having entered the store he put his hand under his shirt, announced to the cashier that he had a gun, and demanded all the money in the cash register.
Williams’ “hand under his shirt thing” must have looked so much like a gun that the employee told him he did not have any money in the register and was not going to give him any money even if he did.
With that, Williams demanded that the cashier open the register to prove he didn’t have any money.
The cashier said “No,” and Williams left.
However still determined to steal something, Williams ran across the road, and into a Safeway store.
Again, he tried to convince a cashier that he was committing a robbery. But, again, nobody was buying his routine.
Williams was summarily escorted out of the building, empty handed again.
But he wasn’t finished yet. That’s how stupid he was.
He waited a few minutes and then sneaked back into the same Safeway store where everybody had already seen him, stuffed a lone sausage in his pants, and sneaked back out.
Police found Williams shortly afterwards and discovered that, as well as the stolen sausage, he actually did have a 4- or 5-inch knife in his pocket, which he hadn’t thought of using, preferring his non-existent gun instead.
Although Williams was initially booked on charges of attempted armed robbery for using a simulated weapon, the charges were reduced to that of attempted robbery and shoplifting.
And he made our dumb criminals shortlist! Go Harry!!!
It’s been a while since I raided the court archives. So here are a few more examples of the level of intelligence you can expect, not only from untrained Joe Public called to give evidence, but from the supposedly highly trained lawyers, supposedly!
District Attorney: What happened next, Ma’am?
Witness: He unzipped his pants and pulled out his subpoena.
Judge: Any motions, counsel?
Counsel: I move to dismiss, Your Honor. All my client did was pull out a subpoena. There’s no law against that.
Judge: Counsel, if the witness doesn’t know the difference between a penis and a subpoena that’s her problem. Held to answer!
Judge: If that be your verdict, so say you all
2 Jurors:“you all”
Judge: Any member of your immediate family or yourself ever been the victim of a crime or robbery?
Juror: My mother had her purse snatched
Judge: How long ago was that?
Juror: Ten, fifteen years ago
Judge: Was she hurt at all in the snatch?
Judge: What made you bite the police officer?
Witness: He stuck his arm in my mouth
Q: Were you the lone ranger on duty that night?
A: I was a park ranger on duty that night
Q: I mean the only one, the lone
A: You mean alone?
A: Yes, I was
Q: Do you speak Spanish, Officer?
A: Yes, I do
Q: Are you fluent in Spanish?
A: Yes, I do
Q: Are you being selective about what you remember and what you don’t remember as to the details of your previous record?
A: I don’t remember.
Q: Do you have any problem with the English language?
A: No, I speak very good English.
Q: Great. Do you know Andre?
A: That’s my cousin.
Q: Have you known him all your life?
A: Since we grewed up.
Q: Now, do you recall the date the accident occurred?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: What date was it?
A: It was a hot day in August.
Q: Did you drink any alcohol?
A: No, sir.
Q: Are you a teetotaler?
A: Not really. Just coffee once in a while, like in the morning.
Q: And y’all had a very intimate relationship, didn’t you, Ms. A?
A: We had sex two times. It wasn’t very intimate.
A: Yeah, I used to be around with him a lot. Me and his nephew run together.?
Q: Who is his nephew?
A: Pokey. I think he’s doing time now.
Q: Pokey is Kenny’s nephew and is doing time now? Are you saying Pokey is in the pokey?
District Attorney: Defense Counsel is accountable to you (the jury)
Counsel: Judge I object to that. I object to him referring to me as a cannibal, Judge
Judge: He said accountable
Counsel: A what?
Judge: He said accountable, not a cannibal
Counsel: It sounded like cannibal to me and I object
When I was putting together yesterday’s post about crooks who had either been smart enough to get away with it or police who had been too dumb to catch them, the name Danny Ocean cropped up in relation to a heist in Belgium.
That put me in mind of the very popular movie remake of Ocean’s Eleven starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, et al.
The Clooney version of Ocean’s Eleven was a good piece of work. (We’ll not talk so much about the sequels!) Without spoiling the whole thing for those who haven’t yet seen the movie, basically the plot is to simultaneously steal $150 million from the Bellagio, Mirage and MGM Grand casinos in Las Vegas, all belonging to ruthless entrepreneur Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). The money is being held in a state-of-the-art safe seventy yards underneath the Las Vegas Strip, with loads of hi-tech surveillance, laser beams, motion detectors and alarm systems to protect it.
Clooney/Ocean puts together a team of experienced professionals, proficient in skills from magic, pickpocteting, pyrotechnics, a card sharp, an electronics and surveillance expert and even a Chinese acrobat!
The movie is full of special effects and great looking sets with hosts of electronic gadgets that are there to prevent people stealing the casino’s money, and loads of other gadgets that Ocean and his crew have assembled to defeat the former.
Even getting into the surveillance and restricted areas of the casinos is a huge problem that takes sophisticated planning and equipment and well worked plot lines.
But that’s Hollywood.
This blog is about reality.
I have spent quite a bit of time in Vegas, mostly on business but I enjoy playing in the casinos too.I even ended up in Federal Court there on one occasion, but that’s a story for another day. Suffice to say here that I like the place and the buzz that it has. Perhaps living there all the time would get to you, but for a visit I highly recommend it (take some money with you though!).
It just so happened that I was in Las Vegas about the time the Ocean’s Eleven movie was doing the rounds, probably 2002. One evening I found myself standing outside the Bellagio watching the fountain show (a great spectacle, see video) and of course my thoughts turned to the movie and all that had transpired. In my mind’s eye I could see Danny Ocean and the others in this very same place. It was a pleasant evening.
Within a couple of days of that, however, I discovered that my cell phone was missing. Had I mislaid it, had I dropped it, had it fallen out of my pocket in a restaurant or taxi, or had I had my pocket picked by one of Danny Ocean’s men? I thought the possibility of the latter was highly unlikely so I put it down to my own carelessness.
I was staying in one of the casino hotels, I won’t say which one, because I am sure things have changed a lot in the intervening ten years. But after checking my room for the phone I decided the next best thing to do was to ask the security guys in the hotel in the unlikely event that someone had found it and handed it in. It wasn’t an expensive phone, so I wasn’t too bothered, but one feels obliged to go through the motions when something like that happens.
So I made my way down to the casino on the ground floor and found one of the security guys. He pointed me in the direction of what I presumed was his superior and he in turn pointed me towards a rather non-descript single door on the other side of the casino floor.
After a long walk, circumnavigating numerous roulette and blackjack tables, I got to the door and pressed a buzzer on the intercom affair. To my surprise no one answered, but the door simply clicked open. I wasn’t sure what I should do, but always ready for an adventure I opened the door and went inside.
Man, talk about a disappointment. My crest was fallen on several levels!
Rather than being pleased with myself at the ease with which I had been able to dismantle the multi-million dollar security, I was actually disappointed that it hadn’t been a lot more difficult. I can talk my way (or blag, some people have said) into most places if I choose to do so, and I had been rehearsing various things that I was going to say when questioned. But here I was right in the heart of the casino surveillance system and no one had even spoken to me let alone challenge why I was there.
I was disappointed also by what I saw. Sure there were loads of cctv screens all showing different parts of the casino, different gambling tables and all that sort of thing. And a few obligatory computers. But it wasn’t like the movies. The equipment was clearly not new and the décor left a lot to be desired too, not quite tatty but showing a few years of wear and tear.
I wandered around for a minute or so taking it all in. If Ocean had picked me for his crew I would have had everyone tied up and the place taken over by now, I thought. But then the movie would have been about fifteen minutes long and very little tension and excitement (and box office takings) would have been generated.
Then one of the security guys detected my presence. He didn’t speak, just gave me one of those “Where the f*** did you come from?” looks.
I too was silent, I knew what he wasn’t saying, so I put my right hand inside my jacket and went for my silenced 9mm Walther PPK in its concealed shoulder holster. Well, no, not quite. I just retrieved my room keycard and ID which I thought might be required when everyone came to their senses.
It was. And I explained why I was there and who had sent me. After their initial surprise the guys in the security room were very friendly, but no phone had been handed in and they didn’t hold out much hope of me ever seeing it again, so after a bit of conversation I bid them farewell. I think it took longer to get me buzzed out than buzzed in, but hey that’s life.
Later that evening I again found myself leaning up against the front wall at the Bellagio watching the fountains. But this time Danny and the crew weren’t there, not even in my head. After what had happened earlier, it just wasn’t the same. It hasn’t been ever since!
Ocean’s eleven trailer
Video taken from Paris Casino’s Eiffel Tower Observation Point, on March 11,2007
Just as a bit of a contrast to yesterday’s post, today I have ten stories, which are either about thieves who were smart enough to get away with it, or police who were too dumb to catch them.
The readers can make up their own minds.
1. Double Trouble
On Feb 25, 2009, three masked robbers boldly busted into Kaufhaus Des Westens, the second largest department store in Europe.
Via a rope ladder, the men were able to enter and ransack the main floor without tripping any sensors or alarms.
But what may have been a fatal error – leaving behind a single glove – ended up creating a bizarre situation.
DNA found on the glove matched TWO people: identical twins identified as Hassan and Abbas O.
German law however requires that each person be individually convicted and because their DNA is so similar, neither can be exclusively pinned to the evidence.
German police were forced to set them both free, and the third man has yet to be found.
. 2. The World’s Most Famous Fugitive
No, it’s not the one about Dr Richard Kimble trying to hunt down the one-armed man, although many readers may well be familiar with this story too which is about probably the world’s most famous fugitive.
On the night before Thanksgiving, November 24, 1971, a passenger by the name of Dan Cooper boarded a plane in Portland, OR bound for Seattle.
Clad in a suit and raincoat, wearing dark glasses and carrying a briefcase, he sat silently in the back of the plane. After calmly lighting a cigarette (yes smoking was permitted in airplanes in those days), he ordered a whiskey from the stewardess and then handed her a note.
It read, ‘I HAVE A BOMB IN MY BRIEFCASE. I WILL USE IT IF NECESSARY. I WANT YOU TO SIT NEXT TO ME. YOU ARE BEING HIJACKED.’
He demanded $200,000 and four parachutes delivered to him in Seattle.
When the plane landed, he released all the passengers, save for the pilot, co-pilot, and stewardess.
Once the money was delivered in the middle of the brightly-lit tarmac, Cooper demanded the pilot take off for Mexico, flying at an altitude of 10,000 feet.
Shortly after takeoff, over the mountains northwest of Portland, the six-foot-tall Cooper strapped on a parachute and jumped.
He was never heard from again.
Did he survive?
In 1980, roughly $6000 was found of the money in bundles on a beach, but no signs of a body.
The case remains open and is the only unsolved crime in US aviation history.
. 3. Cops And Robbers – Boston Style
On March 18, 1990, the day after Saint Patrick’s Day, policemen arrived at the door of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, claiming to have received a call about a disturbance.
Breaking protocol, the security officer let them in.
One of the men said he had a warrant for the guard’s arrest, and they convinced him to step away from his post.
Bad move: the “policemen” were really criminals in disguise, and they quickly handcuffed him and ordered him to call the other guard to the front, who was also subdued.
The thieves absconded with 13 paintings, including masterworks by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Degas, worth a third of a billion dollars.
To this date, no one has been arrested in conjunction with the crime, nor have the paintings ever been recovered.
4. Cops And Robbers – Japanese Style
On December 10, 1968, in Tokyo, Japan, a Nihon Shintaku Ginko Bank car, transporting 300 million Yen ($817,000 US) in its trunk, was pulled over by a policeman on a motorcycle, who warned them of a bomb planted underneath.
Since there had already been bomb threats against the bank, the four passengers exited the vehicle as the uniformed patrolman inspected below the car.
Moments later, smoke and flames could be seen under the vehicle, causing the men to run for cover.
Of course, it turned out the smoke was from a flare and the cop was a phony.
He jumped in the car and sped off with the loot.
Even though there were 120 pieces of evidence, 110,000 suspects and 170,000 police investigators, the man was never caught.
In 1975, the statute of limitations ended, and in 1988 all civil liabilities were voided, but still no one ‘fessed up.
5. Diamonds Are Forever – Unless Someone Steals Them
The largest diamond heist in history was stolen from the world’s most impenetrable vault, located in Antwerp, Belgium.
Two floors below the Diamond Centre, it was protected by a lock with 100 million possible combinations, as well as heat/motion sensors, radar, magnetic fields, and a private security force.
However, on the weekend of Feb 15, using a series of moves that would make Danny Ocean jealous, the thieves were able to silently enter the vault, bust open the safe deposit boxes, and make off with the glittering loot.
And although the purported ring leader Leonardo Notarbartolo was caught and sentenced to 10 years, he has since been released on parole.
Notarbartolo claimed in an interview in Wired Magazine that the true take was only $20 million and was part of a larger conspiracy involving insurance fraud.
Whatever — the loot was never recovered.
6. The Disappearing $million
On Friday October 7, 1977, before Columbus Day Weekend, a bank worker counted $4 million dollars in cash and stored it in a locked money cart within a heavily guarded vault, two floors below the Chicago First National Bank.
Tuesday morning, the money is counted again, and exactly $1 million dollars – in $50 and $100 dominations and weighing over 80 pounds – had vanished into thin air.
In 1981, $2300 of the money showed up in a drug raid, but otherwise both the perpetrators and the cash are still at large.
7. The Pink Panthers
The winner for boldest burglary goes to the perpetrators of the so-called Harry Winston Heist.
On December 4, 2008, four men, three of whom wore long blonde wigs and disguised themselves as women, charmed their way into the famous Harry Winston Paris jewelry store just before closing time.
Once inside, they brandished a .357 revolver and a hand grenade and began their pillaging.
Less than 15 minutes later they escaped with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds worth an estimated $108 million US.
Investigators believe it to be the work of the notorious Serbian criminal gang The Pink Panthers, responsible for $132 million in robberies around the world.
They have never been caught.
Obviously the police needed Inspector Clouseau on the case.
8. Tucker Cross Or Double Cross?
The Tucker Cross, was named after diver Teddy Tucker who, in 1955, recovered it from the 1594 wreck of the San Pedro.
It was a 22-karat gold cross embedded with sparkling green emeralds and considered priceless.
Nonetheless, Tucker sold it to the Government of Bermuda for an undisclosed sum.
In 1975, the Cross was moved to the Bermuda Museum of Art to be displayed for Queen Elizabeth II.
No one knows when or how, but during this transition, a clever thief replaced the original with a cheap plastic replica.
Presumably, this historical artifact was melted down, stripped of its jewels, and funneled into the Black Market.
9. Fancy A Brazilian?
No, nothing to do with Kim Kardashian or the netherlands. This happened in 2005, in Fortaleza, Brazil at the Banco Central, when a gang of enterprising thieves managed to carry off one of the biggest heists of all time.
This heist was the result of painstaking planning by a small gang of burglars who tunneled over 250 feet to the bank’s vault from a nearby property.
The robbers used a landscaping business as a front that allowed them to move massive amounts of dirt and rock without looking suspicious.
The tunnel was expertly constructed and had sophisticated lighting and even an air conditioning system.
After three months of digging, the thieves finally broke into the vault and made off with what was equivalent to $70 million dollars.
Since then, police have made a number of arrests in connection with the burglary and recovered roughly $9 million dollars of the haul, but the majority of the suspects are still at large.
10. The Thieves Of Baghdad
On July 11th, 2007 in Baghdad a private financial institution, Dar Es Salaam, was robbed by two, or possibly three guards.
They got away with a third of a billion in cash, all US bills.
Perhaps the bank itself did not want people to start wondering where, how, and why it had so much cash at hand, so they have kept mum and there has been minimal press.
But somewhere, the successful thieves are laughing all the way from this bank.