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The difference between a comic book villain and a real-world criminal is that the former will rob a bank by staging a complex plan that involves dressing up in a ridiculous costume, leaving clues all over the city and killing at least two henchmen, while the latter just walks in with a gun and asks for the money. Or so we thought. It seems that real crooks have taken a page or two from the likes of the Riddler and Lex Luthor and started planning their crimes in the most elaborate, pointlessly complicated ways possible ... which, as the following people found out, tends to blow up in their faces.

Gang Builds Massive Tunnel to Break into a Blockbuster Store


The Crime:

A gang in Manchester wanted to get their hands on the money in an ATM inside a local Blockbuster store, perhaps figuring that it should be stuffed with cash, since no one's rented there since 2002. As we've pointed out before, it really isn't that hard to hack into an ATM and make it spit money out, but these guys decided it would be simpler to just take the entire machine ...

The Needlessly Elaborate Plan:

... by building a 40-foot tunnel complete with lighting and scaffolding. They didn't just want their tunnel to take them under the ATM; they wanted it to be nice enough to live in.

Manchester Evening News
Who says criminals don't take pride in their work?

The tunnel was discovered when some workmen stumbled upon a disguised trapdoor in a field and opened it to find what they must have initially mistaken for a passageway to Narnia. Soon they realized that the tunnel, which was still unfinished, stopped about 20 feet short of a cash machine. Naturally, police filled it with cement, and the thieves (who were never found) presumably opened the trapdoor one day to find that they'd been seriously cockblocked.

So, were they discouraged to see months of work buried in cement? Fuck no. Four years later, they tried again -- except this time, they totally got away with it. By once again digging a tunnel underneath a local Blockbuster (the reports don't specify, but we'll just guess it's the same one, since it's probably the only one left in all of England), they dug through and ran into some concrete. Completely undeterred, they drilled right through a foot of it, got the cash machine, and made a getaway.

The Telegraph
They would later go on a spree of travel agency and Betamax robberies.

So how much did their years of tireless criminal labor net them? Around 6,000 pounds (just under $10,000), which is probably about as much as the tunnels cost in the first place. Hopefully they also grabbed a few dozen used copies of Big Momma's House 2 to make their trip worthwhile.

Pervert Poses as Disabled Person to Trick Women into Looking at His Junk


The Crime:

Eric Carrier had a simple mission in life: showing his penis to unsuspecting women. But, rather than buying a trench coat and going to the park like most decent folk, he had a slightly more complicated approach ...

The Needlessly Elaborate Plan:

... namely, posing as a mentally challenged man on Craigslist to trick women into changing his diapers. Although how much faking was necessary, if any, is debatable.

Neighborhood News
"Hey, hey, I'm crazy, not mentally challenged."

After some consideration, Carrier decided that adult diaper changing was the only normal situation in which anyone would be forced to "accidentally" take a peek at his sack (fortunately, the man had never heard of ChatRoulette). Posing as his own no doubt very proud father, Carrier put up an ad on Craigslist looking for a caretaker for his brain-damaged son. Once women responded to his ad, Carrier would try to get them to change his soiled diaper, a ruse that worked on at least one occasion.

One of the women says that she pretty much immediately knew something was up when she noticed that the man who supposedly contacted her on the phone (that is, Carrier with a deeper voice) was nowhere to be found, and afterward she was never contacted again. Despite having been discovered trying to pull off the old Craigslist diaper dodge in 2011, Carrier tried it again a year later and was arrested.

Union Header
"Me? I'm in for ... let's go with child molestation."

Let's think this situation through, since this guy clearly didn't. Even if the adult diaper changing was a crucial part of his particular fetish, we're guessing there are people you can pay for that in this day and age. Hell, Craigslist probably has a whole section where diaper fetishists can hook up for free. Honestly, this guy just went about it in the worst possible way you could ever show your penis to someone else.

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Software Executive Pulls Off Thousand-Dollar LEGO Scam


The Crime:

Thomas Langenbach was the vice president of a highly successful Silicon Valley software firm, lived in a fancy $2 million home, and had almost everything he wished for. Except for massive, massive amounts of LEGO. Rather than just using some of his fortune to buy himself a literal brick block palace, Langenbach decided he would take a different route ...

The Needlessly Elaborate Plan:

... ripping off Target stores in an intricate, year-long LEGO-stealing scheme. Perhaps feeling inspired by the LEGO company's own thievery, Langenbach used his computer smarts to print up fake bar codes that he then slapped on the boxes of LEGO playsets inside the stores. He then simply walked up to the registers and paid a discount rate, trusting that the minimum-wage cashiers wouldn't think that it was weird that he was taking, for example, a $250 LEGO Millennium Falcon for only one-fifth of its price.

Mountain View Police
"On one hand, this man is clearly a thief. On the other hand, fuck it."

This wasn't a one-time thing, or even a ten-time thing: Langenbach pulled this stunt so often at different Target stores that they eventually noticed that something odd was going on and circulated a flyer with his face among security personnel. When he was finally caught red-handed, he still had some of the fake bar codes in his pocket and car, and upon searching his home, literally thousands of unopened LEGO boxes were found stacked inside.

Mountain View Police
Most shockingly, they also found a wife.

Turns out Langenbach had been re-selling the LEGO sets on eBay for a year under the name "TomsBrickyard," raking in an estimated $30,000 in profits for selling approximately 2,100 different playsets. That sounds pretty impressive until you remember that he was the VP of a freaking company and probably made as much money in a week. He could have just bought the things in bulk and still made a profit selling them online.

Keeping it small scale allowed him to focus on customer service.

MIT Professor Blames Russian Hit Men for His Own Shooting


The Crime:

Former MIT professor John J. Donovan Sr. was involved in a nasty legal battle with his adult children, with accusations of extortion and child molestation flying back and forth. One day Donovan got fed up and decided to end the dispute by implicating his son James of financial crimes ...

The Needlessly Elaborate Plan:

... so he shot himself. He didn't just fake a shooting; he really grabbed a rifle and shot himself twice in the stomach, then called the police and told them that his son had sent Russian hit men to kill him and his wife. Oh, and while he was at it, he also accused James of laundering $180 million.

"And don't even get me started on the Lindbergh baby!"

So, uh, why not go straight to the money-laundering accusations and skip the "shooting yourself in the stomach" part? How was the fake hit supposed to make the other part less disprovable? The police did search James' home that night, but when they didn't find any piles of cash lying around or any receipts written in Russian, he was cleared of any suspicion. And why did the hit men have to be Russian, anyway? We would have gone with Brazilian parkour killers, just to make the story a little less cliche.

Keep in mind, this wasn't something done in the middle of a drunken rage. The guy is an MIT-level genius who has written several books and given highly acclaimed lectures all over the world. He was cautious enough to rearrange security cameras so they didn't record him staging the break-in at his home, stepping into his minivan, and shooting his rifle four times. Granted, Donovan forgot another vital part of every criminal plan, which is "Don't have a to-do list with your plan in your pocket when the police come over," because that's exactly what he did.

Donovan was found guilty of filing a false police report, fined a few hundred dollars, and sentenced to some community service. On the other hand, his children filed a restraining order against him and won't be coming to any Christmas dinners anytime soon, so maybe that was his plan all along.

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Car Salesman Rips Off People by Claiming That He's a Secret Agent


The Crime:

We've all had the misfortune of meeting a guy like Robert Hendy-Freegard, a used car salesman from the U.K. who lived off the money he leeched from the several women he'd somehow convinced to date him. But this particular douchebag wasn't content with merely mooching cash off of his girlfriends ...

The Needlessly Elaborate Plan:

... so he also pretended that he was a secret agent, convincing everyone he knew that they were part of an elaborate government plot.

Nayta Pikkukuvat, via MSN
When your alter ego is ripped off of a Bill Paxton character, it's time to rethink your life.

So who cares, right? Right now there are thousands of dudes in bars bragging about equally ridiculous things. Well, the difference is that this guy had his friends carry out complex missions for him, just because.

Hendy-Freegard's modus operandi consisted of approaching women through his job and charming them into bed. Once he'd gained their trust, he would drop the bomb on them -- he was a secret agent working for MI5, a British intelligence service. But here's the catch: Just for hanging out with him these past few weeks, they were now in mortal danger of being assassinated by IRA terrorists. One of the victims (the only male) was at one point blindfolded and beaten, thinking that it was all part of the espionage adventure he'd been roped into.

"I just wanted to be seduced by a swarthy British spy!"

Hendy-Freegard would then tell his victims that, fortunately, he could make the danger go away if they just gave him a few thousand dollars to pay off the terrorists. These weren't just average ditzy people he was messing with, either: His victims included company executives, child psychologists and lawyers. The aforementioned male victim was sent on a bizarre quest that involved buying a copy of The Gay Times, reading it openly in the subway and then handing a can opener to a specific (nonexistent) person in a bar. The friend started suspecting that something might be wrong when he reported back to Hendy-Freegard and he just laughed his ass off.

Hendy-Freegard was caught when he told his American fiancee to ask her parents for $50,000 to pay for "spy school" -- they thought that was slightly weird and got him arrested. The thing is, a con man of his level could have made a nice enough living just squeezing women out of their money without the ridiculous secret agent story. Or, you know, sticking to selling used cars.

"No, no, the engine isn't leaking. It's deterring pursuit."

Man Tries to Blackmail Nestle Using Carrier Pigeons


The Crime:

Alexandru Nemeth from Germany wanted a lot of money, and he decided that the corporate giant Nestle should be the one to give it to him. Nemeth successfully poisoned several Nestle products in over 20 cities across the country over a period of two years, but that was only phase one of his master plan ...

The Needlessly Elaborate Plan:

... with phase two being "pigeons." As in, sending carrier pigeons to deliver messages to Nestle demanding millions of dollars in diamonds, then using the same birds to bring the diamonds back to him. Because somehow, this was safer than just sending them an email.

Or just a good old-fashioned brick through the window.

First, Nemeth got hold of a bunch of pigeons, which his neighbors probably assumed he was just using for target practice. He then taught them to drop things off and come back to where he was staying -- training pigeons, in case you've never tried it yourself, isn't the easiest thing in world, and he had to do it all in secret while simultaneously traveling from city to city, leaving cyanide-laced drinks in playgrounds and things like that.

Nemeth then had his pigeon army deliver messages to Nestle leaving specific instructions for how he was to receive his reward for stopping the poisonous chaos -- in the form of small pouches full of diamonds, which would be attached to his birds. The pigeons would then take off and deliver the diamonds back to him. Knowing that, it wasn't hard for the authorities to figure out how to catch Nemeth using those same pigeons: They placed a homing beacon on the birds and just followed them in a helicopter about 200 miles to where the guy was hiding.

And yet not a single person in the entire Harry Potter series ever thought to do the same thing.

As far as criminal plots go, Nemeth was actually doing pretty well until he got to the "blackmail through pigeons" part. There was really no logical reason for him to communicate with Nestle through birds that are trained to lead back to him, other than a Batman-villain-level obsession with using feathered rats in all his crimes. We wouldn't be surprised if he was wearing a pigeon costume himself when they caught him.

Gabriel would appreciate it if you'd send him an email, follow him on Twitter, or check out the radio station he DJs for.

For fictional villains who are guilty of this, check out The 6 Most Pointless Supervillain Schemes Ever Hatched and The 6 Most Pointlessly Elaborate Movie Murder Plots.

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