Art Heists to Bank Robberies: 50 Bizarre & Daring Bandits

111972 Brooklyn Bank Heist Drama

1972 Brooklyn Bank Heist Drama

In 1972, John Wojtowicz and Salvatore Naturile attempted to rob a Chase Manhattan Bank branch in Brooklyn, New York. Their initial plan was to fund Wojtowicz's partner's gender reassignment surgery, but they couldn't access the vault, leading to a hostage situation with bank employees and customers. The robbers demanded money, a plane to escape, and safe passage.

The 14-hour standoff ended in a shootout with the FBI, resulting in Naturile's death and Wojtowicz's capture. Wojtowicz received a 20-year prison sentence but served only five. The incident remains a notable cultural reference, inspiring the film "Dog Day Afternoon," and highlighting the complexities of human behavior in times of desperation and love.

12Robber's Illegible Notes Foil Heists

Robber's Illegible Notes Foil Heists

Alan Slattery, a hapless British bank robber, failed three times in two weeks due to his unintelligible handwriting. In his initial robbery on March 18, 2021, cashiers couldn't discern his illegible note, leaving him empty-handed. Although the message later revealed a threat and demand for cash, Slattery's terrible handwriting played a significant role in his downfall. Undeterred, he successfully robbed another bank on March 26, securing £2,400.

In a moment of sheer foolishness, Slattery used his bus pass after the second heist, providing authorities with a clear image of his face. During his final failed attempt on April 1, he fled an empty-handed cashier. Ultimately, Slattery received a six-year sentence, with four years in prison and two years on probation, highlighting the importance of legible handwriting, even for would-be criminals.

13Botched Art Heist: A Transformational Tale

Botched Art Heist: A Transformational Tale

In 2004, four college students in Kentucky attempted an audacious art heist at Transylvania University's Rare Books Room, targeting invaluable volumes worth millions. Spencer Reinhard, Warren Lipka, Eric Borsuk, and Charles "Chas" Allen II planned to steal these rare books, including John James Audubon's "Birds of America" folios, by subduing the librarian, Betty Jean Gooch. However, their meticulous plan quickly fell apart during execution. The thieves tased Gooch but abandoned their heavy haul after encountering an assistant librarian during the heist. They managed to steal some less valuable books but failed to make any significant profit.

To make matters worse, the gang's attempt to get the stolen books appraised at Christie's in New York City only exposed them further, leading to their arrests. They received identical seven-year prison sentences for robbery and transporting stolen goods. Their audacious heist story, once infamous, has now become a tale of youthful folly, as explored in the CNBC series "Super Heists" and inspiration for the 2018 Hollywood movie "American Animals."

14Attila Ambrus: The Whiskey Robber

Attila Ambrus: The Whiskey Robber

In 1988, Attila Ambrus escaped communist Romania by clinging to a train and reaching Hungary. Despite being a terrible goalie, he joined a hockey team, working odd jobs like cleaning and sleeping in the locker room. To make money, he dug graves, smuggled items, and eventually turned to robbing. After a successful post office heist, he became "The Whiskey Robber" for his pre-robbery Johnnie Walker ritual. He had a flamboyant style, handing roses to bank tellers and even sending wine to the police chief. Ambrus committed over 20 heists, once impersonating a cop. Despite a daring jailbreak, he was recaptured after more robberies, totaling 29. After serving 12 years in prison, Ambrus was released, and his current whereabouts are unknown.

15Dean Smith's Bungled Bank Heist

Dean Smith's Bungled Bank Heist

Dean Smith of Wales embarked on one of the most flawed bank robbery attempts in 2014. After visiting his local bank to update his address, he hatched a misguided plan to return half an hour later and rob the same bank. Disguised in an absurd outfit consisting of sunglasses, socks over his shoes, and a hood, he brandished a bread knife as his weapon of choice.

However, his poorly executed scheme quickly fell apart when bank cashiers refused to comply with his demands for money. To make matters worse, an elderly customer at the bank offered Smith £20 to leave-a humiliating twist of fate. Smith fled the scene as the bank alarm sounded, but law enforcement had no trouble tracking him down.

The inept criminal's identity was hardly concealed by his laughable disguise, and updating his address at the bank just before the crime made his arrest inevitable. Consequently, Smith received a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence after admitting to the police that his plan had been profoundly foolish, a sentiment widely shared by those who heard of his botched bank heist.

16London's $65 Million Diamond Heist

London's $65 Million Diamond Heist

A daring mob-organized jewelry heist occurred in London in 2009. Disguised as elderly men with professional makeup, Craig Calderwood and Aman Kassaye entered Graff Diamonds, where they brandished guns and stole approximately $65 million in jewels. Their elaborate escape plan involved blocking access to the store with strategically parked vehicles, but they hit a snag when they crashed into a taxi while fleeing.

Calderwood admitted involvement but claimed coercion by underworld figures. Kassaye and Clinton Mogg were convicted of conspiracy to rob, while the masterminds behind the heist remained at large. Despite their criminal sophistication, their capture resulted from a series of blunders, including leaving behind incriminating evidence, and the stolen diamonds were never recovered.

17English Crown Jewels Theft of 1671

English Crown Jewels Theft of 1671

In the 17th century, Colonel Thomas Blood attempted to steal King Charles II's crown jewels in a daring heist. Disguised as a parson, he befriended the jewels' keeper, Talbot Edwards, and his family. Blood and his accomplices gained access to the jewels, attacked Edwards, and removed the metal grille protecting the treasures. They damaged the Royal Sceptre and flattened St. Edward's Crown to fit in their bag. Despite being captured, King Charles II spared Blood's life and even granted him lands in Ireland, while the Crown Jewels were recovered, although the Royal Sceptre was damaged beyond repair.

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18Henry Starr: Prolific Bank Robber's Saga

Henry Starr: Prolific Bank Robber's Saga

Henry Starr was a notorious bank robber who, in 1893, shot a deputy, resulting in a death sentence. He later appealed the sentence and was incarcerated for 15 years. During his time in prison, he became a hero by disarming another dangerous outlaw, Crawford Goldsby, earning a pardon from Teddy Roosevelt.

Upon his release, Starr resumed his bank-robbing career, eventually targeting at least 21 banks without causing harm to anyone. He published an autobiography and starred in a 1919 movie about his exploits. However, in 1921, during what would be his final heist at the People's State Bank in Arkansas, the bank manager shot and fatally wounded him, ending his criminal career.

19Lemon Juice Robbery: A Bewildering Blunder

Lemon Juice Robbery: A Bewildering Blunder

In January 1995, Macarthur Wheeler and Clifton Johnson devised an absurd robbery plan that later became a case study in poor decision-making. Believing that lemon juice could act as invisible ink, they applied it to their faces, thinking it would render them undetectable during a bank heist. With lemon juice-doused faces, they confidently entered the bank, assuring baffled tellers that their faces were invisible. Unsurprisingly, both bank employees and security cameras easily identified them, leading to their swift arrest.

Confronted with security footage, Wheeler exclaimed, "But I wore the juice!" This bizarre case inspired psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger to explore the Dunning-Kruger effect, a phenomenon where individuals lacking self-awareness overestimate their competence.

202003 Antwerp Diamond Heist

2003 Antwerp Diamond Heist

In 2003, Leonardo Notarbartolo executed the most remarkable diamond heist in history, stealing nearly $100 million worth of uncut diamonds from the Antwerp Diamond Center, one of the most secure locations on Earth. Notarbartolo's audacious plan involved years of preparation, including renting an office in the building and storing his own property in the vault to gain access. During the heist, he and his team used a series of ingenious tactics, such as disabling alarms, covering security cameras, and even fooling thermal-motion sensors with hairspray.

Their meticulous preparation paid off as they emptied numerous boxes of gold and diamonds from the vault. This audacious heist involved detailed surveillance, covert photography, and replicating the vault layout. However, Notarbartolo and three accomplices were eventually arrested, and a stack of circumstantial evidence was found, but the diamonds were never recovered. Stolen diamonds are notoriously difficult to trace, making it challenging to prove their ownership conclusively.

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