We're not looking to glamorize criminals or anything, but we do like to applaud people who are good at what they do. That's why movies such as Ocean's Eleven exist -- we all appreciate the brilliance of a fictional master thief because thieves, in real life, usually end up getting tackled by loss prevention associates in the parking lot of Walmart. It's sad more than anything.
So, when we relay the following stories of spectacular real-life heists, we're not saying we approve of what they did, nor do we suggest you try it. It's just nice to see someone who takes a little pride in their work. That's all.
5London Crime Bosses Pull Off a Reservoir Dogs Heist by Barricading the City
Meticulously orchestrated diamond heists tend to only exist in movies such as Reservoir Dogs. This is possibly because drug running and extortion have a better effort-to-profit ratio than hiring six random contractors with color-coded nicknames to rob a jewelry store. And yet, in 2009, a London mob managed to pull off a jewelry heist that made Hollywood villains look like a bunch of freaking amateurs.
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Ah, London mobs. They make other rioters look like mere lollygaggers.
The plan, which was funded and planned by unknown crime bosses, involved two burglars, Craig Calderwood and Aman Kassaye, who hired a professional make-up artist to use latex effects to make them look like much older men. The two "old men" then waltzed into the Graff Diamonds store, pretending to be high-rolling businessmen presumably shopping for their wives, their mistresses, or a Ma$e video. When the diamond cases were opened, the two men pulled out their guns and demanded the clerks clean out the drawers of approximately $65 million in jewels -- making it the biggest gemstone heist in British history.
Not counting, of course, jewelers robbing their customers every day.
Of course, actually getting away with your loot is the most important part of any robbery, and that's where the duo's mob connections came in. When police tried to reach the scene, they found that several hired vehicles had been inconveniently parked in a way that completely blocked access to the store. The mob had essentially built a wall of cars to cordon off part of the city, giving the diamond bandits a pretty strong opportunity to get away clean. The thieves immediately seized the chance to crash their getaway car into a London taxi cab. (Note: Even sophisticated real-life criminals are kind of stupid.)
The criminals escaped to another car, but one of them left his cell phone on the seat of the abandoned vehicle. The police traced it back to Calderwood and Kassaye, who were arrested, but the diamonds were never recovered. It's believed that they passed the loot off to another guy on a motorcycle at some point during the getaway, who delivered the diamonds to the mob and/or their waiting buyer.
Who took off by hang glider, to meet his buyer in a hot air balloon, who flew it to a submarine ...
In the end, only four people out of the presumably dozens involved were convicted, and nobody got shot or had an argument about tipping.
4A Real-Life Ocean's Eleven Cleans Out the World's Most Secure Vault
The most laughably unrealistic portrayal of a heist, in Hollywood history, has to be Ocean's Eleven. As we saw above, even sophisticated thieves tend to prefer brute force over slick, convoluted schemes that play out like a magic trick. But, that brings us to Leonardo Notarbartolo, a man credited with pulling off the greatest heist of all time from the Antwerp Diamond Centre in Belgium in 2003.
He's also credited with using the most blatantly fake name ever.
At the time, the Antwerp Diamond Centre was one of the most secure locations on earth, a facility in which a large percentage of the world's diamond supply was protected by several layers of vaults, magnetic fields, seismic sensors, motion sensors, heat detectors, and Doppler radar. Presumably noticing that a direct Mission: Impossible-style break-in would be about as successful as trying to boost the Technodrome, Notarbartolo started putting a more complex plan in motion -- starting a full three years before the actual heist. So, in 2000, he successfully rented an office in the building and stored some of his own property in the vault.
Now, since this isn't a movie and we can't show you a planning/training montage, we have to fast forward to a weekend in 2003, when nearly $100 million worth of uncut diamonds disappeared overnight from the most secure vault in the world. It was the biggest jewel heist in the history of mankind (at the time), and, to this day, police still aren't entirely sure how the hell he did it.
"Hey, I got it. What if there never were no diamonds? I never saw no diamonds."
According to Notarbartolo, he and four other teammates with fantastic code names (including The Genius and The Monster) broke into the vault in the middle of the night, using an elaborate series of truly ingenious hacks, such as coating the vault's body heat alarm with hair spray, covering the security cameras with black bags so it would still appear that the building was dark, and redirecting the vault's magnetic field alarm with a piece of aluminum.
Once inside the vault, the thieves emptied as many boxes of gold and diamonds as they could, working in the dark from memory after having practiced countless times on an exact replica of the vault -- which you might recognize as being literally the exact thing they did in Ocean's Eleven. Considering the police's official explanation for the heist is "magic," we have no choice but to accept Notarbartolo's version of events.
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"Arrest Clooney and Eisenberg just to be safe."
Notarbartolo and three of the four men were arrested after a stack of circumstantial evidence was discovered in a garbage bag on the side of a country road (including several envelopes and videotapes from the Antwerp Diamond Centre, and a receipt showing Notarbartolo as having purchased a low-light surveillance system). However, Notarbartolo only served part of his 10-year sentence before being paroled (his alleged accomplices were given even shorter sentences), and the diamonds were never recovered. This has a lot to do with the fact that stolen diamonds are notoriously difficult to trace. So, even if the police found Notarbartolo rolling around in a bathtub full of them, there's almost no way to definitively prove that those diamonds aren't his.