Committing large-scale crimes should, rightfully, be a game strictly for adults. But as we've shown time and again, kids are capable of some pretty incredible things.
We're not encouraging children to commit crimes, or applauding the terrible deeds committed by these kids. We're just saying we're kind of impressed.
#5. 16-Year-Old Art Thief Gets Rich Hustling the Art World
When you think of the type of man who's able to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of art, your mind can't help but Hollywoodize him. You tend to picture a sophisticated thief, very Pierce Brosnan-like in the looks department, with all the high-tech equipment his bored playboy lifestyle can afford him. The type of guy who can sneak past an elaborate laser-based security system without wrinkling his suit. But life doesn't always imitate art, as proven by the strange case of 16-year-old Laurence McCall.
Ironically, all of his pictures have been stolen, so here's one of Pierce Brosnan.
Like some kind of supernerd, McCall enjoyed skipping school in favor of hanging out at museums, enthralled by the artwork he was able to admire for hours on end each day. In fact, he was such a big fan of paintings that one day he decided he'd steal one for himself. And then another. And then another. All told, he took more than 20 paintings, worth well over $300,000. He was able to do this with the type of elaborate plan that's normally only reserved for garden-variety shoplifters: He simply took the paintings off the wall and gently slid them out a window. Seriously.
Hey, say what you will about the kid's lack of originality -- he more than made up for it in balls-out not-giving-a-shit. Now that McCall had all that art, he needed a way to profit from it -- it's not like a teenager can waltz into a pawn shop with a rare painting without prompting a call to the cops. So instead, this teenager casually telephoned New York City auction house Sotheby's and asked if they would auction the paintings for him. Because asking questions is something that only the unsophisticated partake in, Sotheby's agreed with no delay.
"You look like a nice, trustworthy teenager just selling his personal collection of priceless artwork."
With his profits, McCall started living the '70s pimp life. At 16, he had a luxury apartment in Philly, bought himself a green Jaguar and decked himself out in fine jewels.
It took three years, but at age 19, McCall finally slipped up and got caught by the FBI. Despite leaving a paper trail long enough to circle the globe, nobody was actually able to prove that he stole the paintings. However, the government did nail him on things like interstate transport of stolen goods and mail fraud, and sentenced him to 15 years in the slammer ... of which he only served three. His response to being in jail? He freaking loved it! He said, "There were more laughs inside than out." Good thing he enjoyed that, because he's still paying for those paintings today, over 20 years later, getting his salary garnished by the IRS.
After income taxes, it's the "art theft" section that really screws your take-home.
But if you think he got off easy, just wait ...
#4. A 15-Year-Old Stock Market Swindler Fights the Law and Wins
If there's one thing everybody knows about the stock market, it's that nobody really knows anything about the stock market. For the most part, people looking to test the investing waters tend to put their faith in whichever talking head kind of sounds like they know what they're talking about. Jim Kramer doesn't get paid the big bucks because he knows more than anyone else; he's just really great at making random guesses sound like stone-cold facts. One enterprising 15-year-old, Jonathan Lebed, realized this at an age when most people are still trying to figure out how to save up enough cash to buy a piece of shit car.
Lebed managed to manipulate the stock market and almost became a millionaire by doing nothing more than trolling the Internet and pretending he knew what he was talking about. With his parents' blessing, Lebed began working with stocks at the age of 13. But, rather than studying hard enough to give any sort of sound advice, he set up hundreds of fake accounts on sites like Yahoo! Finance and E*Trade and plastered those sites' message boards with tips about what new stocks to buy into.
"If Titzwiener69 says it's a buy, who am I to argue?"
The strategy was pretty simple: Lebed would buy otherwise worthless stocks at ridiculously low prices, post his spam messages talking up those stocks and sit back and wait for people to take his advice. And they did, because since when has anyone ever lied on the Internet for personal gain?
After hundreds of Internet idiots snapped up his worthless stock, the price would shoot up, and of course Lebed then quickly sold his shares for an insane profit. For example, Lebed invested in Firetector, buying shares at $2.45 each. Then he went online and posted messages stating that the shares would soon rise to $20. People blindly listened to the random Internet stranger, and Lebed cashed out a profit of $19,000. It's good work if you can get it (and get away with it).
Via Katy Grannan
It's how he could finally afford that mounted fish of his dreams.
This was a strategy called the "pump and dump," which is almost certainly also the name of a sex act. Over the course of just five months, Lebed managed to collect $800,000 using this simple trick. The SEC soon got wind of it, and at 15 years old, Jonathan Lebed became the youngest person to face charges of stock market fraud. When his parents found out, they were ... oddly impressed.
Rather than making their young stock market swindler turn over his ill-gotten gains, the Lebeds fought back. According to Jonathan's father, who was irrationally angry at the SEC for having the gall to question his child, his son "earned it." He went on to say, "He did a lot of work. He didn't sit behind a garage smoking pot, or stealing wheels off a car." Because everyone knows that stealing wheels is easy work. Blatantly lying on the Internet for financial gain is far more creative and labor intensive.
"Just let him sleep, man. He's been convincing people he's a 14-year-old girl since 4 a.m. He's exhausted."
Shockingly, their arguments worked. The SEC settled with Jonathan Lebed in a civil suit, ordering him to pay back $285,000, leaving over $500,000 still in the pocket of the young con man. Let this be a lesson, kids. Sometimes, crime totally pays.
#3. A 14-Year-Old Blind Kid Makes SWAT Teams Do His Bidding
Matthew Weigman was born legally blind, which, as you know from Daredevil, meant he developed superhuman hearing to compensate. If you don't see how a sightless childhood could be turned into a life of sophisticated crime, you're apparently not aware of phone hacking.
At around age 11, Matthew fell in with a shady bunch known as "phreakers." Basically, a phreaker is a person who probes and scans telephone networks looking for weaknesses to exploit. Those lines operate on tones, and mastering them could get you all kinds of access (we once told you about a guy who got free long distance by blowing into his phone with a whistle he got out of a cereal box). Among the phreakers, Matthew gained the nickname that would eventually describe him so well -- Lil' Hacker.
Their first choice, Fat Daredevil, was rejected as too cruel.
Thanks to his uncanny hearing, Weigman was able to memorize phone numbers just by listening to the dial tones. He could also perfectly mimic people's voices, which allowed him to gather personal data from companies like Verizon and AT&T by copying the voices of supervisors.
Eventually, Weigman took his skills into criminal territory by accessing supervisor lines at Sprint so he could eavesdrop on customer service calls and steal credit card numbers. He would then share those stolen credit card numbers with all of his phreaker friends, who used them to buy computers and such. This might all sound fairly harmless, but Matthew upped the ante by using his unique telephone skills for something called "swatting." Basically, that means he would fake calls to the police in order to have SWAT teams converge on the homes of his enemies. Hilarious!
"He's watching TV, menacingly, sir. Should I take the shot?"
And it was as simple as using his phone hacking skills to make the call look like it was coming from the home of the person he was targeting. Then he would make wild claims about hostage situations that would draw the vans full of guys in black suits with machine guns. If that actually does sound kind of like a funny prank to play on a buddy, keep in mind that one of his victims was the father of a girl he knew who was targeted because she refused to have sex with him.
Through a combination of stealing information, faking police calls and sheer arrogance, the 14-year-old Weigman found himself on the business end of a joint venture between Verizon and the FBI aimed at taking him down. There was only one hitch, though; they had to wait until he turned 18 if they really wanted to dish out some severe justice. Matthew caught wind of the investigation and was even told that he'd be off the hook if he just stopped before becoming an adult.
But what fun would that be? No, Matthew Weigman shifted his dickery into high gear. He and some of his phreaker comrades began harassing the Verizon investigator by planting false evidence in an attempt to get him fired. It didn't work, of course, and the blind telephone bully was finally arrested. He was sentenced to 135 months in prison, which our science and research department assures us amounts to just over 11 years.
"Is that penis? Guard! I hear penis!"
Do you think he used his one phone call to try and have a SWAT team arrest the people who arrested him? That would have been meta as hell.