The 20 Most Secretly Brilliant Stupid Criminals

#2. Is That a Monet in Your Pocket or Are You Just ...

Stephane Breitwieser began his career in criminality while visiting a castle in Switzerland with one of those "he's a jerk, but I still love him" girlfriends. He put the girl's love to the test when he saw a nice painting on the wall and said, "Oh, isn't that nice ... honey, keep a look out for me," as he spontaneously ripped the damned thing right off the wall. He then left the museum, presumably with a jazzy score with lots of saxophones in it playing along with him as he winked at the front security camera, put on some sunglasses and sped away, hot girlfriend in tow.

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The after-heist sex was insane.

Rather than counting himself lucky, and chalking it up to a great story to tell at barbecues, Breitwieser decided that he'd stumbled on a great technique for stealing art. Mathematicians have been unable to calculate how many things are wrong with that decision. If you could shoplift priceless art off the walls at museums and literally toss it in your pocket, wouldn't someone have tried it by now? Also, you know your coat is not an invisibility cloak, yeah?

When it came to museums, the thief would sweep the scene for alarms, guards and cameras, and then have his girlfriend make a "loud" diversion as he removed the artwork. If the frame was armed with a sensor, he simply cut the picture right out of the frame with a blade. They were the first high-level art thieves for whom the term "smash and grab" implied too much preparation. None of these facts dissuaded Breitwieser and his girlfriend from trying again and again.

The Secretly Brilliant:

At this point, you're probably wondering why the authorities let him keep trying after they presumably busted him the second time he ever tried it. To the surprise of everyone including the museum security, their fake a seizure and grab scheme worked like a charm at over 170 different museums. Breitwieser must have had a lot of empty walls, because in his six years as an art thief, the sneaky bastard stole hundreds of priceless works of art -- enough loot to count as a war crime. And since Europe has a soft spot for sensitive Frenchmen who love their mothers, Stephane Breitwieser is currently an international celebrity. Also, by all accounts, his coat was not an invisibility cloak.


Breitwieser, upon realizing what he looks like in a mirror.

But even the best in the business get greedy at some point. For Breitwieser, stealing 238 pieces of art (plus one fake) is nothing unless you have a 400-year-old trumpet with which to toot your own horn. Yeah, about that: The man was seen stealing a quadricentarian bugle from a Swiss museum, and was arrested two days later staking out another heist at the same freaking location.

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Totally worth a couple years in jail.

Breitwieser was sentenced to three years in jail, and his girlfriend (now "ex-girlfriend" for some reason) got 18 months. Due to the adorableness of his crimes, however, he only served 26 months, and when he was released, he wrote a self-promoting book that made him quite a bit of money. The lesson, apparently, is that crime pays, and when it stops paying, it resumes in 26 months.

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