When we think of criminals, we tend to think of two types: The street-level thug committing his crimes with a gun or a fist, and the upper-level management, dictating orders to the thugs below. But there's a third type: The guys who picks up the phone and decide that crime sounds like a fun thing to do today. And sometimes -- not often, but sometimes -- they succeed in astounding ways.
5Interstate Bank Robbery
The prize for Greatest Telephonic Bank Robber of All Time goes to the as-yet-unknown super-criminal who managed to rob $58,000 from four banks across four state lines back in 1973, using nothing more than a series of phone calls.
Wait, why didn't they catch him? There are giant arrows pointing right to him!
The robber kicked off his long distance spree in Nashville, then moved on to Springfield, Illinois, Topeka, Kansas, and St. Paul, Minnesota. He was about to scoop up $16,280 in Indianapolis, but the feds finally caught on by that point and had a trap set up for him ... which he obviously slipped.
You may have noticed that these telephonic bank hits all took place in state capitals. Coincidence?
Or incredibly boring world tour?
Of course not.
How He Did It:
In each case, the mystery caller (whom we will refer to as the Capitalist from now on) would phone up local banks, posing as an aide to the state treasurer. He then requested that thousands of dollars in cash be sent to the treasurer's office, for "payroll" purposes. Miraculously, that's all it took: Mentioning generic terms like "payroll" and "treasury" sent whole banks scurrying to ship huge amounts of money as soon as humanly possible. The Capitalist even arranged for Brink's armored trucks to transport the funds, and, in one case, even a state trooper to escort the money. And again: There were no accomplices, no brilliant hacks and no dynamited vaults -- he did all of this alone, and entirely by telephone.
After all, they don't give just anybody telephones.
After the money was safely en route, the Capitalist would immediately call the treasurer's office, claiming to be an official from the bank -- which had made an error -- and ask that the money be rerouted to a different state office. Step 3, as is so often the case with unsolved crimes, is still a series of question marks to this day, but Step 4 was always "profit": He somehow got his hands on the money, every time, and absconded with it scot-free. Just as mysteriously, the Capitalist somehow knew about the feds' trap in Indianapolis and never showed to pick up the money there. Afterward, he ceased all activities and simply walked -- or possibly flew on a blimp shaped like the capitol building -- away, never to be identified or apprehended, with more than $58,000 (close to $300,000 when adjusted for 2011 dollars) in his pockets -- or possibly in giant green bags with dollar signs on them.
"We didn't get much of a bonus that quarter."