Everyone loves a good heist movie. And it's easy to see why, what with all the exciting chases involving tiny British cars, the hacking of The Man's mainframe, and the giant, balls-to-the-wall helicopter battles over Los Angeles. But that kind of stuff doesn't happen in real life.
No, in real life thieves don't need helicopters or EMP devices to pull off shit bigger than anything you've seen on the silver screen. You just need a ridiculous plan and the balls to carry it out.
5A French Gang Tunnels Into a Bank Vault, Has a Party Inside
One day back in the late 1970s, French photographer and former Vietnam War paratrooper Albert Spaggiari got up and said, "You know what? Wedding photos really aren't my 'thing.'" So he gathered up a group of professionals including some former paratrooper pals, an attempted assassin, and a jewelry appraiser, and he planned up a heist that, if successful, would land every last one of them on the swanky end of Easy Street. Over a long weekend due to Bastille Day (you know, that holiday named after the Rush song), the group would clean out the vault of the Societe Generale bank.
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Societe Generale: currently, France's most feared general.
For months, the men pulled 10-hour night shifts to dig a 30-foot tunnel under downtown Nice, digging at the snail-like pace of six inches per night. Then, on July 16, 1976, the team finally busted through the outer wall of the bank vault ... and, due to a slight miscalculation, right into the back of a massive bank of safety deposit boxes. That was nothing a little quick thinking (and a stolen car jack) couldn't fix, however, and they were soon inside -- and that's when they transformed from successful bank burglars into downright obnoxious ones.
See, once they got in there, they welded the vault's door shut from the inside and presumably donned their striped sailor shirts and red berets while laughing like "oh-hoh-hoh-hoh," busting out the bread, cheese, and pate, and having themselves a full-on Frenchman party. They popped bottles of wine and drank it from priceless chalices; when the urge struck, they dropped big ol' deuces into antique silver tureens. Oh, and somehow, during all that, they also found time to break into hundreds of safety deposit boxes and retrieve "$8 million to $10 million in gold, cash, jewelry and gems."
As might be expected with such a ridiculously audacious crime, it didn't take authorities long to catch up with Spaggiari and force a confession out of him -- but they hadn't seen "audacious" just yet. While at the magistrate's office, he complained about the heat and asked if he could open a window. When his wish was inexplicably granted, the Spagster jumped out the window, landed on the roof of a car 10 feet below, then hopped onto the back of a speeding motorcycle, presumably throwing up an exaggerated bras d'honneur as he zoomed away.
He was sentenced to life in prison in absentia, which is sort of like that dinner invitation from your weird uncle in Detroit (as long as you never bother going there, you never have to deal with it). And just to rub salt in the wound, he would eventually use all the free time he found while relaxing at his Argentine villa (purchased with the proceeds from the heist) to write a book all about it.
4A Man Uses Chocolate to Charm His Way Into a Vault Full of Diamonds
More than half of the diamond trading in the entire world takes place in the small district surrounding the train station in Antwerp, Belgium -- we're talking more than $23 billion that flows through there every single year. And as you can imagine with a place where every bank vault looks like something straight out of Captain Jack Sparrow's recurring wet dreams, security is also like something straight out of a movie: "briefcases handcuffed to wrists, cameras filming the milling crowds from many angles, a special police station, and circles of steel pillars at both ends of the district."
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You have to wear a black catsuit just to deposit a check.
So how could someone possibly pull off a huge robbery in a place like that? Well, getting a bank to voluntarily hand over a gold-plated key and a diamond-encrusted all-access pass to their vault certainly doesn't hurt.
For more than a year, Carlos Hector Flomenbaum was a much-beloved and trusted customer of ABN Amro Bank, possibly because they couldn't help but love a guy with a name like Carlos Hector Flomenbaum, or possibly because he looked like everybody's grandpa.
"What's this in your ear? Why, it's a 10-carat diamond!"
Or maybe it was because Flomenbaum spent that entire year charming the staff's asses off by telling them how pretty and/or handsome they looked today and gifting them expensive chocolates until they blushed and handed him a special VIP key that granted him full access to the vault whenever he damn well pleased. It seems that even the highest of high-tech security systems are no match for some good old-fashioned pimp charm.
Naturally, he then used said key to walk straight into the vault one weekend in March 2007 and relieve it of more than 120,000 carats of diamonds, estimated to be worth $28 million. His access was so unrestricted that officials weren't even sure exactly when he did it -- they could only narrow it down to "sometime between Friday and Monday," or, as we like to call it, "the weekend." Only after he was long gone did anyone realize that (big shocker here) Carlos Hector Flomenbaum was a false identity -- something that apparently doesn't come up during the application process for a super secret bank vault pass ... not if you're carrying the right amount of chocolate, anyway.