We've written articles about crooks who failed in stupid ways and ones who were a little too successful for our comfort. But what about the ones who did both? As in, the ones who planned a spectacular crime, executed it flawlessly, got away with it ... and then messed up by simply not leaving well enough alone?
Here are five brilliant/stupid criminals who would probably still be free today if they'd simply cashed their (considerable) chips while they were ahead. We like to believe there's a lesson here for all of us.
5Bank Workers Win The Lottery With "Borrowed" Bank Money ... Then Lose Millions Trying To Win Again
Steve Snowden / iStock
Ren Xiaofeng was working as a vault manager at the Agricultural Bank of China when he came up with a get-rich scheme straight out of a Coen Brothers screenplay: steal 200,000 yuan (around $25,000) from the vault he was supposed to be managing, use it to buy lottery tickets, and then replace the stolen money with a fraction of the winnings. Now, this might sound like a great idea if you give it absolutely no thought, but it really, really wasn't. If your odds of winning the lottery are already infinitesimal in the U.S., in China they're the thing that comes after infinitesimal.
China's population buys hundreds of billions of lottery tickets every year. The advantage Ren gained by buying thousands was practically nonexistent. But it fucking worked! It's unclear exactly how much money Ren won, but it was enough that he happily returned the original 200,000 yuan to the vault and no one suspected a thing. Against all odds, he got away with it. He won the lottery of crime, and also won the actual lottery.
So of course he decided to do it again, except with way more money this time.
"I just can't stand the sight of an unbalanced pile of cash."
Ren and another vault manager, Ma Xiangjing, "borrowed" 32 million yuan ($4.3 million) from the bank and spent a whopping 31 million of it on lottery tickets. And that's when the laws of probability decided to start working normally again. That is, they didn't win shit. Panicking, they helped themselves to another 18 million yuan, but again, the only thing they accomplished was making some ticket vendors very happy. In total, they stole/spent the equivalent of $6.7 million and made back only $12,700. They pulled off one of the country's biggest bank thefts ever for the amount of money you might get from stealing a single used car.
Eventually, bank officials couldn't help but notice that the place was a lot draftier than usual, and the thieves were found out. Sadly, this story has a not-so-hilarious epilogue. Because this was China, instead of getting sent to a mandatory decade-long spa and being played by Leo DiCaprio in a film, the two white-collar criminals were executed.
4A Murder Is Solved When The Killer Publishes Details In His "Fictional" Novel
When the body of Polish businessman Dariusz Janiszewski was found in a river in 2000, the cops had practically no clues to follow. Janiszewski wasn't suicidal, never pissed off any mobsters, and had no known enemies. In fact, he was the raddest, chillest dude anyone knew.
To answer your questions: Yes, he had a band, and yes, they probably covered "Free Bird."
The press called it "the perfect crime." Short of the murderer himself coming up and telling the whole world he did it, there was nothing anyone could do. Fortunately, that's exactly what the guy ended up doing when he published a novel about the murder.
Five years after Janiszewski was killed, investigators came across a 2003 book titled Amok, which describes (among other lovely things) the murder of a woman whose hands are bound behind her back and tied to a noose around her neck. Janiszewski was found with his hands bound behind his back and tied to a noose around his neck. Maybe the writer was inspired by news reports of the crime? Could be, if he hadn't also included details which the police never divulged -- like the fact that an object connected to the case (a knife in the novel and the victim's cellphone in real life) was sold on Poland's version of eBay a few days after the murder. The cops were able to track down the user who sold the phone, and it was one Krystian Bala ... the author of Amok.
"By the way, each copy of the book also comes with a complimentary sample of my DNA."
After questioning Bala's ex-wife, police learned that Bala had accused her of having an affair with Janiszewski and went into a jealous rage shortly before Janiszewski's death. And what do you know, in the book, protagonist "Chris B." repeatedly mentions having killed a guy out of jealousy. There's one glaring difference between the novel and the real thing, though: Chris B. got away with it, while Krys B. got a 25-year prison sentence.
"The judge is willing to shave off a couple years if you give him a shout-out in the addendum."
Bala says he's working on a sequel from behind bars. So if you're the guy's cellmate, don't turn your back on him.