As providers of high security solutions around the globe we take great pride in providing supreme protection for a vast range of items and institutions. Our vault doors and safes have thwarted countless attempts of illicit entry and derailed many a well planned heist. However even after all our years of experience we are still amazed at some of the things people try to get away with. Here’s our list of the 8 Most Bizarre Heists Of All Time.
1 – The Craigslist Bank Robbery
Everybody loves great caper movies like Oceans 11 or the Thomas Crown Affair with ingenious plans so complicated they look like Rube Goldberg machines that steal money and jewels. Sure, pulling out a gun and yelling “GIMME THE MONEY!” might be easier to pull off and less complicated, but criminals are more likeable when they put some imagination into their crimes.
Case in point, a man in Seattle robbed a bank using Craigslist instead of a gun. And you thought you were cool because you managed to get a smelly old couch for cheap on there. Back in 2008 a man posted an ad on Craigslist seeking workers for a road maintenance project and asking people to show up wearing “Yellow vest, safety goggles, a respirator mask … and, if possible, a blue shirt.” Many people showed up looking for work, but what they didn’t know is that they had been duped into working as decoys for a bank robber.
An armored car had arrived at the bank, conveniently located right on the street that supposedly needed some work done. One of the men dressed like all the other road workers quickly approached the guards moving money into the car, sprayed them with pepper spray, grabbed a bag of money and ran like the wind to a nearby creek where his getaway vehicle awaited him. Said vehicle happened to be an inner tube, which he used to float away scott free with all his newly ill-gained money.
2 – Robbing the Mona Lisa
Have you noticed that in movies when a daring thief tries to steal an invaluable art piece, or historical artifact, he has to dangle from the roof to avoid pressure sensors, hack into computers to change the live video feeds and make them show a loop of footage and then go through a hallway full of lasers that for some reason can only be crossed by doing Olympic level gymnastics? Well, Vincenzo Peruggia never saw any of those movies, so his plan just involved grabbing the Mona Lisa and walking out of the Louvre.
Mind you all of this happened in 1911, so not many security measures existed back then and frankly it makes us think that the only reason regular people didn’t walk into the Louvre and leave with a nifty Rembrandt to decorate their kitchens back then depended solely on good will, prayers, and stern looks from the guards.
Vincenzo worked at the Louvre, so one lazy Sunday he decided to hide in there knowing that the next day the museum was going to be closed. Once the place was empty he came out of his hideout, grabbed the picture and walked out. You may be wondering what happened to the guards, and probably even Vincenzo wondered the same when he didn’t have to face a single one even when passing through the guard station. The answer is that they were out to grab some water. Sure, let’s just leave the biggest collection of priceless art in the world unattended for a bit; what’s the worst that can happen?
He hid the painting at his apartment for two years and then took it to Italy where he tried to sell it to an art gallery. The owner of the gallery of course ratted him out because even if he had been the kind of person who buys stolen art, hanging the most famous stolen painting in your gallery is the kind of thing the police tend to notice. Maybe Vincenzo should have thought about that.
3 – The Original Gentleman Thief
Charming gentlemen thieves sound like the kind of idea that only belongs in romance books for cat ladies with Fabio on the cover, because anyone who has ever been mugged have found those thieving bastards anything but charming. To be fair with criminals it is probably really hard to charm someone while stealing his possessions and threatening to kill them if you want to look at the problem from their point of view.
What makes the robberies of Claude Duval amazing is not their complexity or the amounts he stole, but that he was very well liked for robbing people, especially by the ladies. This all happened back in the 17th century so there were no movie or rock stars to ogle, and that means there was less competition to becoming famous. But even then, the fact that a highway robber managed to achieve that kind of movie idol status says tons about the guy. The most famous story involving Duval tells that he once only stole half the money from a rich gentleman because his wife agreed to dance with him right there on the side of the road.
When he was finally captured, he was so popular among women that many ladies from the aristocracy tried to intercede and get him pardoned, but no pardon was given and Duval was executed. His gravestone received possibly the greatest epitaph achievable by a guy.
Here lies Du Vall:
Reader, if male thou art,
Look to thy purse;
If female, to thy heart.’
4 – The Great River Robbery
So far the robberies we have discussed involve things you think can be robbed, mostly money or art pieces. This entry on the other hand involves the robbing of a real river. Who would be crazy enough to even attempt such a thing? Just two of the most famous Italians from the renaissance, Nicholas Machiavelli and Leonardo Da Vinci.
Back in those days Italy was less of a country and more of a handful of city states backstabbing each other like a conga line of knife wielding maniacs. As things just happen both Machiavelli and Da Vinci ended up working for the city of Florence, which means that the guy in charge of Florence’s HR department is the forgotten hero of the renaissance.
During that time Florence was at war with Pisa, so Machiavelli had a truly Machiavellian idea, why not steal Pisa’s Arno river? Normally he would have been laughed at if he had shared the idea, but he shared it with Da Vinci who instead started working on how to make that work and in the process invented the field of hydrodynamics. The plan was as brilliant as it was ambitious; it would have deprived Pisa of its biggest source of water, and it would have been used to irrigate the Arno Valley and provide Florence with an exit to the sea helping Florence’s economy.
Too bad for Florence that Da Vinci calculations on how to do it were too optimistic; the channels were too small and the river just plain refused to go that way, many workers died in several accidents. And what accidents and nature didn’t destroy was kicked down by the army of Pisa.
Da Vinci himself never forgot this failure, in fact he immortalized it in his most famous painting; the river in the background of the Mona Lisa is the Arno, which means that Vincenzo Peruggia managed to steal the Arno too.
5 – The Beach Theft
Speaking of robbing geological landforms, a few entrepreneuring Jamaican and Hungarian criminals managed to triumph where Da Vinci and Machiavelli failed; they have stolen entire beaches. Want to know how they achieved this? Well, so do the police because they have yet to solve the crimes.
There have only been two instances of beach thefts in the world, once in 2007 in Hungary and the last one in 2008 in Jamaica. Now, Hungary doesn’t have a coastline much less natural beaches so the robbers only stole a fake beach, but the Jamaican one was the real deal and according to the reports the amount of sand taken would have filled five hundred trucks. Sand thefts are pretty common since sand is used in construction it actually has value for some people, but the sheer greed of these sand robbers makes the authorities think that someone behind a big construction project is also behind the robbery, most possibly for the construction of a big hotel.
Of course that doesn’t help the authorities much, unless the thieves are dumb enough to build the hotel as the world’s biggest sand castle.
6 – The Theft of the Atomic Bomb
By the end of World War II the West was on top of the world; with Germany completely defeated and with the atomic bomb to threaten the Russians if they got too uppity. All of this lasted until September of 1949 when the Russians successfully tested their own atomic weapon, despite all reports to the contrary saying they were years away from putting two and two together. So what the heck happened?
Klaus Fuchs is what happened, or as his friends called him Klaus “what the” Fuchs happened. Fuchs was one of the physicists who worked on the Manhattan Project. Originally he was a German who had to run away once the Nazis took power and started imprisoning the Jewish people, Gypsies , gays, and communists. And yes this is the part where your palm hits your face and you wonder how the guy was EVER allowed near the Manhattan Project.
Klaus was very worried that if the U.S. and Britain didn’t share the secrets of atomic power with the Russians, the Russians wouldn’t be able to compete and become a superpower, which was pretty much why the U.S. and Britain didn’t want to share in the first place. So if you want to thank someone for the Cold War and living a few decades under the threat of nuclear Armageddon, just say thank you to Klaus Fuchs the guy who Fuched up.
For his spying Klaus was sentenced to fourteen years in prison, of which he only served nine. After that he migrated to East Germany where he was received as a hero, right before he was shipped to China where he taught the Chinese how to build atomic bombs too.
7 – The Real Cat Burglar
As far as criminal professions go, there is not one cooler than Cat Burglar. It has all the glamour of professional assassin minus the apathy and bleakness that comes from being constantly surrounded by death. Assassins usually have better working hours though. Still, black skin tight suits, stealing the Crown Jewels, climbing walls, those tools that cut perfect round holes on windows that I can never find at Home Depot, hanging from the ceiling… Yeah, all this is definitely cool.
The cat burglar we are going to talk about has none of that, because as it happens he is an actual cat. Oscar is a regular cat who lives with his owners Peter and Birgitt Weismantel in Southampton, England. He spends his days doing regular cat things like chasing mice, sitting right on the chair you were going to sit on, ignoring you while staring vacantly at the atoms of oxygen floating in front of his face, and of course committing the biggest panty raid outside of the movie Revenge of the Nerds.
One day Oscar began to show up home with gloves, women’s underwear, socks and even children’s underwear. Oscar’s collection at the last count amounted to seventy different pieces of clothing. After all these mysterious panties began to appear and after Mr. Weismantel managed to convince his wife that he had nothing to do with them (and God alone knows how he managed to convince her of that), the Weismantel couple called the cops and ratted on their own cat to the Fuzz.
The amazing part is that nobody has figured out how he manages to steal so much, specially the children’s underwear since there are no children living near the Weismantel’s home. Nobody has figured out how far he travels just to steal those. Even so, underwear is not something people just drop and leave behind in places where stray animals can just find them. In our opinion, Mr. Weismantel is not entirely above suspicion here. Someone should check his credit card records and see if there are a few purchases from those Japanese panty vending machines. We are just throwing that out there.
8 – The Barefoot Bandit
Colton Harris had a very tough childhood, with an abusive stepfather and an alcoholic mother. From age seven he started spending more time outside of his home than inside. He lived mostly in the woods and would break into homes to steal food, blankets and other items useful to him or in reform school or juvie hall. What started as a terribly sad story… well, remained a sad story but Colton managed to elevate it into complete awesomeness with his can-do attitude.
By the age of eighteen he was suspected of being responsible for around a hundred thefts in Washington, Idaho and Canada. A lot of the time he would just enter homes and steal foods and other items he could use in the woods like night vision goggles and bear mace, but he was not above just taking cars, bicycles, speedboats and even once an airplane for a joyride. Colton had “learned” how to fly by watching DVD manuals and playing flight simulators. We use the word “learn” pretty loosely here because he ended up crashing it beyond repair. There was really not much rhyme or reason to Colton’s crimes; once a family found him inside their home completely naked. Why he was robbing a house naked? Cause why not?
The manhunt for Colton took him all the way to the Bahamas where he tried to escape the police on a speedboat to an island nation without any extradition treaties with the US until a bullet killed the engine. This end seems more fitting to the crime career of a Bond villain than of a kid who stole pizza rolls from homes. Although his crime spree seems to be over at least for the next six years he will spend in jail, he managed to sell the rights to his life story to Hollywood. Sadly for Colton the 1.3 million dollars he received will be given to the victims of his crime spree. We can only hope that the money will help that one family who had to see his junk.