Art Heists to Bank Robberies: 50 Bizarre & Daring Bandits

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1 Pizza Man Bank Robbery of 2003

Pizza Man Bank Robbery of 2003

In 2003, Brian Wells, a pizza delivery man, was lured to a fake address and forced at gunpoint to wear a metal collar with a time bomb attached. He received a note instructing him to rob a bank and complete other tasks with the promise that the bomb would not explode if he succeeded, though it was later discovered that it was rigged to detonate regardless. Soon after, Wells robbed a bank using a homemade shotgun, took less than $10,000, and was apprehended by police. Despite pleading with them to call the bomb squad, it took them half an hour to do so. Unfortunately, the bomb detonated at 3:18 p.m., killing Wells and broadcasting the explosion on live television.

Two conspirators, Kenneth Barnes and Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, were convicted in 2007 and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. They claimed Wells was a willing participant, believing the bomb would be fake. The motive behind the crime was to obtain funds for Diehl-Armstrong to arrange her father’s murder, securing a substantial inheritance.

2 2010 Paris Modern Art Museum Burglary

2010 Paris Modern Art Museum Burglary

The 2010 Paris Modern Art Museum burglary was a daring heist that occurred in the early hours of May 20, 2010. A lone thief targeted valuable paintings by Picasso, Braque, Léger, Matisse, and Modigliani, collectively worth an estimated €100 million. Due to the absence of a modern security system, the burglar effortlessly shattered a window and extracted the artworks from their frames without encountering any obstacles.

The break-in came to light at 7 a.m. the next day. Despite security personnel being present on the premises during the robbery, they neither detected any unauthorized entry nor observed the absence of paintings or the broken window. The stolen paintings remained missing for over a year, but in August 2011, they were discovered hidden in a suitcase in a parked car in a Paris suburb. The thief, a Serbian named Vjéran Tomic, was dubbed “Spiderman” due to his climbing abilities. He was arrested and later sentenced to eight years in prison. The recovered artworks were later returned to the museum.

3 Bank Robber’s Fatal Explosion Drama

Bank Robber's Fatal Explosion Drama

In Kenora, Ontario, in 1973, a bank robber met a tragic end when his own bomb exploded. Holding the bank manager hostage, he walked out wearing a belt loaded with six sticks of dynamite and a trigger between his teeth. Believing that the police wouldn’t dare shoot, he held a constable at gunpoint. While making off with $50,000 in cash, a sniper fired a shot at him. His grip loosened, triggering a massive explosion that shattered windows and sent debris flying. Constable Don Milliard, just steps ahead of the bomber, survived but suffered injuries and a concussion. Witnesses were left in shock by the gruesome scene.

The bank robber disintegrated, and his body parts were scattered by the blast. Despite the chaos, Constable Milliard’s quick thinking and the use of a bag of stolen money as a shield likely saved lives. The bomb blew the robber into so many pieces that he could never be identified.

4 Jacques Mesrine: France’s Infamous Outlaw

Jacques Mesrine: France's Infamous Outlaw

Jacques Mesrine, a notorious French criminal, embarked on a relentless crime spree, robbing countless banks, escaping from prison four times, and earning the title of “Public Enemy Number One” in France and Canada. After serving in a torture squad during the Algerian War, Mesrine returned to Paris as a hardened criminal and committed numerous bank heists.

He sought refuge in Quebec, where he kidnapped a billionaire for ransom. During a prison stint in Canada, Mesrine orchestrated a daring escape using pliers and later attempted to free other inmates. Back in France, he waged a war against bankers, often robbing multiple banks in a single day to outsmart the police.

Mesrine was a master of disguise and escape plans but also enjoyed the media spotlight, giving interviews and posing with machine guns. His popularity dwindled after he tortured a journalist and attempted to kidnap a judge and a wealthy businessman. Finally, in 1979, he met a dramatic end when he was ambushed by a heavily armed police team, ending his life in a hail of bullets.

5 Invisible Bank Robbery Scam Unveiled

Invisible Bank Robbery Scam Unveiled

In Iran during 2002, authorities embarked on a quest to apprehend a fraudulent sorcerer who had deceived an unsuspecting man into believing he possessed the power of invisibility, allowing him to rob banks. According to reports from the Jam-e Jam newspaper, the misinformed robber’s audacious attempts were thwarted by bank customers in Tehran, who promptly subdued him when he attempted to snatch banknotes from their grasp.

During his court appearance, the disillusioned would-be bank robber admitted that he had parted with 5 million rials (equivalent to $625) to a man who purportedly possessed mystical spells capable of rendering him invisible. He candidly confessed, saying, “I made a mistake. I now understand the extent of the elaborate ruse that was played on me.”

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6 Diamonds: Lost in Chocolates

Diamonds: Lost in Chocolates

In Antwerp’s bustling diamond district, where more than $23 billion in diamonds change hands annually, security is paramount. Carlos Hector Flomenbaum pulled off a remarkable heist in March 2007 by charming his way into ABN Amro Bank’s vault. Over the course of a year, he earned the staff’s trust, gifted chocolates, and secured a VIP key for unrestricted access. Using this key, he stole over 120,000 carats of diamonds worth $28 million in a single weekend, leaving officials puzzled. Authorities offered a $2 million reward for his capture.

Antwerp’s diamond district is known for centuries-old traditions, where deals are sealed with handshakes and trust prevails, often without paper documentation. It’s a unique hub where modern security measures coexist with age-old practices. Flomenbaum’s daring heist highlights this intriguing blend of tradition and security in the heart of Antwerp’s diamond trade.

7 English Treasury Robbery of 1303

English Treasury Robbery of 1303

In 1303, a peasant wool merchant named Richard Pudlicott, burdened by debt and determined to change his fortune, plotted an audacious robbery of King Edward I’s treasury at Westminster Abbey in London. He recruited church officials to aid in security and promised them hefty bribes. Over several months, Pudlicott meticulously chiseled away at the abbey’s stonework, covering the damage with hemp plants he had planted earlier.

After successfully breaching the abbey’s defenses, he spent two days inside, making off with an estimated £100,000 worth of treasures, a sum exceeding a year’s tax revenue for England. Despite being eventually caught and executed, Pudlicott’s crime left a lasting mark, as his flayed skin was nailed to the door of Westminster Abbey as a warning to potential imitators.

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8 Daring & Mystery Tokyo Heist of 1968

Daring & Mystery Tokyo Heist of 1968

In December 1968, a daring heist unfolded in Tokyo when a fake cop on a motorcycle duped bank employees into fleeing a supposed bomb threat. The fake officer tricked the four men, who were transporting 294 million yen to a Toshiba factory, into leaving their vehicle. As they fled, the imposter calmly drove off with the equivalent of $3.6 million today. This audacious crime triggered Japan’s largest police investigation, costing over $12 million and involving hundreds of detectives.

Despite the massive effort, the case remains unsolved to this day. The only real suspects were a teenager who poisoned himself and a man with a solid alibi. The statute of limitations eventually expired, leaving the thief free from prosecution. To add to the intrigue, another bank employee took out an insurance policy on the stolen cash just 15 minutes before the heist. This daring robbery continues to captivate Japan, inspiring books, movies, TV dramas, and comic book series.

9 Deaf Bank Robber’s Unusual Heist

Deaf Bank Robber's Unusual Heist

In August 1995, Klaus Schmidt attempted a routine bank robbery in Berlin, armed with a pistol and demanding money. However, what set this heist apart was Schmidt’s peculiar behavior. Bank employees noticed something was amiss when Schmidt responded oddly during the robbery, revealing that he was deaf. An employee had offered Schmidt a bag, to which he replied, “You’re damn right, it’s a real gun!”

Seizing the opportunity, one employee discreetly triggered the bank’s alarm. Despite the blaring sirens and approaching police, Schmidt remained surprisingly composed, occasionally issuing threats. The police swiftly apprehended him without much resistance. Adding a twist to the story, Schmidt later tried to sue the bank, alleging exploitation of his disability.

10 Lawrence Ripple’s Unusual Bank Robbery

Lawrence Ripple's Unusual Bank Robbery

In 2016, 70-year-old Lawrence Ripple of Kansas committed an unusual bank robbery, not for profit or notoriety but as an attempt to escape his wife following an argument. After handing a bank teller a note claiming he had a gun, he calmly accepted the money and waited in the lobby for security to arrive. Subsequently, he surrendered to the security guard and was promptly arrested.

Initially sentenced to probation, community service, a fine, and six months in prison, Ripple’s attorney and prosecutors advocated for leniency due to his remorse, health issues, and low likelihood of reoffending. Consequently, U.S. District Court Judge Carlos Murguia sentenced Ripple to six months of home confinement with his wife, followed by three years of supervised probation, 50 hours of community service, and financial restitution.

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