5 Criminals Who Pulled Off Major Crimes With Only a Phone

#2. Epic Business Fraud

If we told you someone managed to con themselves up a ton of money over the phone, what amount would you guess we were talking about? A quarter of a million dollars? 2 million? 10? Not even close: Over the course of about a decade, Elliott Keith Offen managed to swindle businesses out of a staggering 30 million dollars.

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That's golden phone money.

How He Did It:

Again, if you're expecting some elaborate, ingenious ploy involving a dozen skilled switchboard jockeys and one inexplicable gymnast, prepare for disappointment: It all comes down to smooth talk, giant balls and a poor sense of morality. Offen deployed "dozens of voices and personalities" to trick people into believing he was an upstanding businessman by calling and pretending to make a payment for an order he'd never placed. When the accounting department became embarrassed that they had no record of the order, Offen would "magnanimously" offer to make the payment in advance, anyway, trusting that the goods would show up eventually.

Because he's such a good guy, you see, and who cares about frivolities such as "money" and "services" when the joy of commerce is its own reward?

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"Don't worry, friends, you'll get it right the second time!"

The businesses would of course refuse to accept the payment for nonexistent goods, but would at the same time find themselves overcome with unwarranted admiration for Offen's "honesty." When he called back later to place more orders, the businesses would (hopefully) remember Offen, and many would then ship orders to him on virtue of his "good credit" alone: Everything from shoes and pocketbooks to light bulbs and leotards.

So what did he do with such a random assortment of stolen goods? Start a shitty general store? Stage an epic rendition of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat? Just dress up like a pretty, pretty princess and change a fuckton of light bulbs in his neighborhood?

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Illegal circus?

Sadly, none of the above.

Having conned his way into piles of goods, Offen would merely warehouse them for a time, then resell them on the black market. This worked for a staggeringly long time, however -- hence the 30 million dollar payday. But in the end, authorities caught up with Offen, who at least went down doing what he loved: Standing in a phone booth, attempting to swindle General Electric out of $100,000 worth of light bulbs.

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Somehow, drugs have more flair.

#1. Prison Escape

Ingredients we imagine you'd need for a prison escape via telephone:

1. Shrink ray

2. Wire cutters

3. Syringe

4. Tiny submarine capable of traversing telephone lines (we assume them to be filled with liquid, for reasons unclear even to us)

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5. A direct line to the A-Team or its Central American equivalent.

Ingredients you actually need for a prison escape via telephone:

1. Cell block payphone

2. Girlfriend with access to a fax machine (who will double as downfall)

3. 400 pounds of fat that keeps you from just tunneling the hell out

4. Giant prison-balls

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Not that kind.

How He Did It:

Carlton Rich used his one phone call to ring up his girlfriend, who then called the very same jail where Rich was incarcerated, with Rich himself on three-way. Rich pulled a killer impersonation of a prison official in New Mexico (which we imagine sounding like Boss Hogg) and granted himself bail. Then a fax showed up in the jail's main office from the New Mexico authorities at just that moment, confirming that Rich was, indeed, set to be released.

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"According to the screeching robot in our break room, you're free to go."

But of course, Rich had orchestrated the fax as well: It was sent by his girlfriend -- whom we should note sounds like a hell of a multitasking receptionist, if this whole "accomplice to fraud" thing ever falls through -- from a copy store not far from the prison's perimeter walls. And incredibly, it worked: The jailer's keys came jangling down the hall, the cell door slid open, the caged man stepped out into the dazzling glare of freedom ...

And then ran straight to his girlfriend's house, in the very same city, and settled in for a few days of hot, stupid freedom sex.

And that's exactly where police found him, three full days after his escape: Still snuggled warmly in bed with his phone pal, presumably secure in the belief that the rule of "no-take-backsies" applies to prison terms. For their part, the police and prison officials were pretty embarrassed by Rich's push-button breakout, with head investigator Amadeo Ortiz explaining the escape by stating the obvious:

"The man is very, very slick."

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"No, literally, he just got out of prison and spent three straight days boning. Don't touch him."

Jason Edward Harrington is a writer based in Chicago. To check out more of him, visit his blog or follow him on Twitter.

For more baffling bad guys, check out The 7 Most Baffling Criminal Defenses (That Sort of Worked) and The 7 Most Retarded Criminal Excuses of All Time.

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