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5 Insane Scams That Should Have Failed (But Didn't)

#2. Prankster Pretends to Be Serial Killer; Cops Let the Real One Go

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The Ridiculous Scam:

John Humble was just an unemployed drunk living in Sunderland, England, in the late '70s when he heard about the Yorkshire Ripper killings -- the police were desperately trying to find a man who had killed nine women and didn't seem to have any intention to stop. Since there was nothing good on TV and you can only re-read Proust so many times, Humble thought it might be fun to send the police an anonymous letter pretending to be the killer, just for the heck of it. Humble then followed that up with two more letters and a tape where he taunted the cop in charge of the investigation for still not finding the killer.

The Sun
"I mean, uh, me. I'm the killer. *burp* Sorry."

Obviously, Humble didn't have any inside knowledge of the case, so he got some details wrong: He said he was targeting hookers, with a preference for "old sluts," but some of the victims were clearly just regular pedestrians and most were under 30. Humble had read about Jack the Ripper and apparently got his serial killers mixed up for a moment there.

photos.com
"A physical description? Bald, mid-40s, looks a lot like Kevin Spacey ..."

Still, the police totally thought they were hearing the voice of the killer and steered the investigation in that direction. Even useless drunks can develop a conscience sometimes, so in September of 1979, a tormented Humble finally worked up the courage to call the police station twice and tell them the tape was "a fake."

The Success:

This is the point where the cop on the other side of the line presumably said, "Nice try, Ripper!" and hung up. They kept treating the phony tape as real, going as far as to question thousands of men and crossing off guys who didn't sound like Humble -- guys like Peter Sutcliffe, the real Ripper, who was sent home for not having the right accent. Then again, Sutcliffe had been interviewed in connection to the case on eight other occasions and released every time. The cops' ineptitude would be hilarious if the guy hadn't killed four more women in that time.

murderpedia.org
"It was weird because he didn't look like a serial killer at all!"

It was only when Sutcliffe was busted with fake plates in 1981 and confessed to the murders that the cops realized they'd just spent several years investigating a prank. Humble himself was only revealed as the hoaxer in 2006, after he was caught drunk driving and had to give a DNA sample, which matched one taken from the letters.

#1. Drug Baron Gets Pardoned for "Helping" Find Weapons He Just Hid

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The Ridiculous Scam:

In the '90s, John Haase was pretty much the British Tony Montana ... until he got caught and sentenced to an 18-year prison sentence, so maybe he was better than Tony Montana, because that guy got killed. Anyway, for some reason John wasn't comfortable with the idea of spending nearly two decades in jail, so he hatched a ridiculous plan that seems to prove he must have been dipping heavily into the heroin reserves. Step one: insert a cellphone into his anus.

photos.com
Reminder: this happened in the early '90s.

Using his butt-phone, Haase would call his henchmen on the outside and have them buy massive amounts of guns and explosives. The henchmen would then "hide" the guns in various caches around the country, and Haase would get on Johnny Law's good side by tipping off the cops about these bonanzas, claiming they were other people's. It almost seems like something that might work, if Haase hadn't gotten sloppy: He'd order these stashes to be hid in unlikely spots like unattended, just-bought cars or unlocked houses. One lot of 80 new shotguns was put in a van outside a McDonald's.

It seemed pretty obvious that, for someone trapped inside a prison and calling in tips about other people's illegal property, John seemed to know a little too much about where to find them, often giving the cops treasure map-like directions.

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"... and after 41 steps, you'll see a box labeled 'guns here, stupid'..."

The Success:

So what did John Haase get in exchange for spending so much money on a harebrained scheme? Why, a royal fucking pardon. Haase served only 11 months of his 18-year sentence before being released; that's not a typo, the guy was in jail for less than a year. On one hand, this was the '90s and the IRA was all the rage, so the cops could be excused for getting so excited over the prospect of avoiding possible terrorist attacks -- on the other hand, British law enforcement had just been through this same scheme.

After he got out, John went right back to doing the same shit that got him caught in the first place ... and got caught again in 1999. No doubt emboldened by the success of his previous unlikely plan, he came up with another one: implicating the same authorities who let him out before in a bribery plot.

BBC
This time, he snuck a corrupt judge into prison inside his anus.

Instead of getting him a new pardon, the only thing this accomplished was setting off an investigation into that first one -- and that's how in 2005 the police found Polaroid photos taken by John's wife Debbie of her and a friend setting up the caches. So, to recap: Dumb druglord comes up with dumb scam, dumb wife documents it, and dumb cops fall for it. And that's when England officially became a Guy Ritchie movie.

Related Reading: There's a lot of precedence for lame scams working unreasonably well- this article is full of proof. One man actually lost more than $200 million to a Nigerian email scam. And every day, YOU put yourself at risk from digital thievery just by using public WiFi. Of course, the ultimate scam didn't even happen in the world of "real" finances. Learn about the great heist that rocked Eve Online.

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