Art Heists to Bank Robberies: 50 Bizarre & Daring Bandits

21Santa Claus Bank Heist Chronicles

Santa Claus Bank Heist Chronicles

In the midst of the Great Depression, Marshall Ratliff, a notorious bank robber in Texas, desperate for cash, devised a daring plan. He and three accomplices decided to dress him as Santa Claus for a bank heist in Cisco, Texas, scheduled for December 23rd, a time when a Santa costume wouldn't raise eyebrows. On the day of the robbery, Ratliff interacted with children, blending in as Santa, but his plan unraveled when a woman and her young daughter inside the bank inadvertently alerted the police. A shootout followed, resulting in the deaths of two police officers and one of the robbers.

The gang fled with two young girls as hostages, leading to a massive manhunt. Eventually, the trio was captured after another shootout, in which all three were wounded but survived. Ratliff was sentenced to death but attempted appeals, leading to his lynching by angry citizens. In a bizarre twist, a copycat Santa Claus bank robbery occurred in 2009, with the thief telling bystanders he needed money to pay his "elves."

22Grizzard's Pearl Necklace Heist

Grizzard's Pearl Necklace Heist

Joseph Grizzard, a flamboyant London criminal in the early 20th century, was known for his theatrical heists. He once astounded his guests by producing stolen diamonds from his soup bowl after police raided his dinner party and were unable to find them. Grizzard's audacious antics included using a stolen 68-ounce gold trophy from the Ascot Cup to serve cocktails. His most famous heist involved stealing the world's most valuable piece of jewelry, a pearl necklace.

At the time, valuable items were shipped through regular mail to avoid suspicion. Grizzard, through bribery, located the necklace, replacing it with sugar lumps and French newspaper clippings. Eventually, the authorities suspected Grizzard's involvement and set up surveillance. Unbeknownst to them, Grizzard had his own surveillance operation on the police. The game ended with Grizzard's goons abandoning the necklace in a gutter, where it was found and turned in to the police.

23Jewelry Store Robbery with Wheelchair

Jewelry Store Robbery with Wheelchair

In 2010, during a jewelry store robbery in El Paso, Texas, Noemi Duchene and Luis Del Castillo took an unusual approach to their escape. They arrived at the scene in a wheelchair, seemingly making a getaway plan that wouldn't involve a high-speed chase. Del Castillo pushed Duchene in front of the store, but she quickly abandoned the wheelchair. Instead, she covered her head and upper body with a black trash bag, leaving only small holes for visibility. Duchene entered the store wielding a kitchen knife, demanding valuables from the owner. However, the owner didn't feel overly threatened and refused to comply. A customer in the store tackled the not-very-mobile Duchene, leading to her capture, while Del Castillo, waiting outside, was also arrested.

Interestingly, both criminals lived across the street from the store, which may have influenced their belief that they didn't need to make a hasty getaway.

24The Mystery of Stolen Dalí

The Mystery of Stolen Dalí

In 1965, Salvador Dalí quickly painted a piece depicting Christ on the cross and donated it to New York's Rikers Island jail. For nearly five decades, this artwork hung within the prison, occasionally making brief appearances elsewhere. However, in 2003, a group of prison guards decided to steal it, replacing it with a shoddy imitation. On March 1, 2003, during a pre-planned fire drill that distracted other on-duty guards, the heist unfolded. The thieves included a lookout, someone removing the painting, and another monitoring the drill.

Following an investigation, one guard was imprisoned, another received probation, and a third struck a plea deal. The lingering mystery centers on Benny Nuzzo, a prison guard whom the others implicated but who was found not guilty in court. Nuzzo, believed to be the mastermind, remained a respected figure for the lead investigator. To this day, the location of Dalí's original painting remains a mystery, leaving open the possibility that it found its way into the hands of a black-market buyer through the botched heist. Benny Nuzzo has never wavered in his claim of innocence.

25Vacuum Cleaner Burglars: Ingenious Heists

Vacuum Cleaner Burglars: Ingenious Heists

In 2010, a cunning gang known as the "Vacuum Cleaner Burglars" devised an unconventional method for robbing Monoprix brand stores in France. Instead of using explosives to crack safes, they discovered a flaw in the cash routing system. These thieves specifically targeted Monoprix because of this vulnerability. To access the cash, cashiers used pneumatic suction lines with tubes filled with money. The gang's ingenious idea was to drill a hole near the safe and connect a powerful vacuum cleaner to suction the money directly from the tubes.

Over five years, they struck multiple Monoprix stores in various locations, causing nearly €600,000 in damages. Despite their extensive criminal activities, the gang remained elusive, thanks to their discretion and caution.

262009 Swedish Helicopter Robbery

2009 Swedish Helicopter Robbery

In 2009, a gang of 10 Serbian thieves pulled off an audacious heist known as the "Swedish helicopter robbery" in Stockholm. Using a stolen helicopter, explosives, and submachine guns, they landed on the roof of a cash depot, breaching its security. After looting hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from the safes, they fled in a helicopter. Their escape plan included obstacles like caltrops to stop cop vehicles and a fake bomb planted at a police helicopter hangar, delaying law enforcement.

While some of the thieves were eventually arrested, not all the stolen money was recovered. This heist had a significant impact, as Stockholm authorities discreetly warned of potential ATM cash shortages due to the theft's scale.

271966 Jules Rimet Trophy Heist

1966 Jules Rimet Trophy Heist

The Jules Rimet Trophy Robbery of 1966 occurred just months before the FIFA World Cup in England. Thieves broke into the Methodist Central Hall in London on March 20, 1966, and stole the coveted trophy. It was found a week later in a garden hedge by a dog named Pickles, becoming an instant sensation and later starring in films and TV commercials.

The thieves were arrested and convicted, but the mastermind remained unknown. England went on to host and win the 1966 World Cup, cementing the trophy's legacy with the famous phrase "They think it's all over... it is now!" coined by commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme. The heist, the dramatic recovery, and England's victory combined to create a captivating chapter in the history of football and the Jules Rimet Trophy.

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282000 Stockholm Art Heist

2000 Stockholm Art Heist

In a daring art heist at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Stockholm in December 2000, armed thieves seized priceless artworks valued at around $30 million. This audacious theft involved masked raiders, including one armed with an MP5 submachine gun, who stormed the museum in broad daylight, diverting the authorities' attention with a pair of car explosions. Two associates already inside the museum joined him, grabbing valuable artworks, including a Rembrandt self-portrait and two Renoirs.

The thieves made their audacious escape via a waiting speedboat, racing away into the waterways of Stockholm. They scattered nails around the museum entrance to hinder police cars from pursuing them. While the boat was later found abandoned in a lake, it took several years to recover all the stolen paintings. Ultimately, over a dozen criminals and shady art dealers were apprehended for their roles in this sensational heist. This audacious art heist drew comparisons to a previous high-profile robbery in Stockholm in 1993, when thieves infiltrated the Modern Museum, stealing valuable Cubist masterpieces.

29Thieves Haunted by Nightmares

Thieves Haunted by Nightmares

In May 2022, a group of unidentified thieves targeted the 300-year-old temple of Lord Balaji in Uttar Pradesh, India, with the intention of stealing a collection of rare and precious idols. The robbery initially seemed successful, but the thieves returned most of the stolen idols just six days later. The temple's priest discovered the treasures abandoned outside his residence, along with a note from the thieves explaining their actions.

The note revealed that the thieves had been tormented by terrible nightmares, causing paranoia and insomnia, since the heist. Overwhelmed by guilt, they decided to return what they had stolen and begged for forgiveness. Despite their remorse, the police continued their efforts to apprehend the criminals responsible for the theft.

30Chelembra Bank Heist in India

Chelembra Bank Heist in India

In a bank heist in Chelembra, India, thieves managed to pull off one of the largest robberies in Indian history. They rented the space below a bank in 2007, pretending to be renovating a restaurant. After two months of preparation, they chiseled through two feet of reinforced concrete and made their way into the bank's vault. The robbers stole 2.5 million rupees and 160 pounds of gold bars, all of which were stored in safes. To throw off the police, they planted pro-communist materials at the crime scene and left a gold bar in a hotel room in a neighboring state, making it appear as though Maoist terrorists were behind the robbery.

However, their misdirection was short-lived, as the police intercepted a cellphone call from one of the robbers, leading them to a house where all four were hiding. The police arrested the culprits, including the kingpin of the operation, Joseph, and recovered 80% of the stolen gold and money. The heist was ultimately solved by the Indian police, who monitored telephone calls and traced a secret phone number to crack the case.

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