The 9 Most Hilarious Ways Criminals Were Caught
We know from watching Law and Order that detectives have a difficult job, tediously interviewing suspects and following one false lead after another in order to catch a perp. But it's not always that hard -- occasionally, the criminals will throw the cops a bone and just hilariously bungle their way into prison. For example ...
Thieves Are Constantly Uploading Selfies from Stolen iPhones
So you've gotten your hands on the latest iPhone model, pilfered from an unwitting stranger. What's the first thing you do? If you said, "Find the nearest public restroom for an impromptu photo shoot," congratulations, you're a goddamn idiot. You're also, surprisingly, not alone.
If you've found yourself stealing phones to support your uncontrollable selfie habit, it might be good to know that lots of people have their phones set up to send all pictures straight to their email, or cloud storage. Albert Wilson didn't realize this, and after he snapped this charming portrait on the phone he stole, he was quickly apprehended.
He'd later claim Hannibal Buress was framing him.
And although she wasn't caught, much more hilarious are the photos of an as-yet-unidentified woman who stole Allen Engstrom's iPad. Engstrom returned the favor by posting the thief's glamor shots of Facebook.
There seems to be an unsettling correlation between phone theft and strabismus.
Then there is the Disney employee who stole Katy McCaffrey's iPhone last year while she was a passenger on the cruise ship he worked on. Katy gained Internet fame after she uploaded the photos that were streamed to her iCloud account to Facebook, narrating his life with sarcastic captions.
How does she know his name? Because in several pictures, his company name tag is clearly visible.
And thanks to those tight pants, that wasn't the only thing.
Nelson wasn't arrested for the theft, but the company placed him on "administrative leave." For her part, Katy is hoping to score some free passes to Disneyland out of the ordeal.
Multiple Criminals Have Butt-Dialed 911 While Committing Crimes
Accidentally dialing someone when your phone is in your pocket is one of those scenarios that sci-fi writers somehow never anticipated when they promised us personal communicators (you never saw Captain Kirk "butt-dial" the Romulans). And while it's bad enough when you accidentally call up an ex, it can't be much worse than what happened to Nathan Teklemariam and Carson Rinehart.
The pair were breaking into a car earlier this year when one of them butt-dialed 911. Confused by the voices that weren't directed at him, the dispatcher nevertheless stayed on the line, in case there was trouble. It wasn't long before talk of drugs, the sound of glass breaking, and discussion of just how exactly this car should be broken into made it clear to the dispatcher that it was in fact a police-type situation.
"Man, I hope no calls the cops about this Class-D felony we're currently committing."
While the dispatcher stayed on the line, police used clues from their conversation to find the thieves and began following them in the car. Their panicked conversation can be heard on the recording, hilariously confused about how they were found out. After he was told about the damning call, however, one of the men coolly summed up the matter with, "We really called 911? Damn."
Incredibly, the same thing happened to Scott Simon just a few days later, when he accidentally called the police while discussing a murder he was planning to (and later did) commit. Seriously, guys, you turn your phones off at the movie theater, for Pete's sake, maybe be a little conscientious of them while you're discussing the details of your felonies?
"Only Facebook humblebrags from now on."
A Criminal Tattoos an Entire Crime Scene on his Chest
Planning the perfect murder isn't easy -- there can't be any witnesses or physical evidence for the CSI team, and you have to resist the urge to tattoo a confession right on your goddamned chest. That last one is what tripped up Anthony Garcia, a member of the notorious "Rivera-13" gang, who after a 2004 shooting of a rival gang member came up with the bright idea of permanently inking a play-by-play mural of the murder on his entire upper body.
Detectives were going over random snapshots of gang tattoos when they noticed something eerily familiar about the tats of one gang member who had been pulled over for a minor traffic offense. Well, what do you know; the tattoo was almost an exact representation of the scene of a murder that had gone unsolved for almost four years.
Pro Tip: Make sure to include your gang's name and the type of crime to cut down on confusion.
Definitely not one to skip on the details, Anthony Garcia had gone balls out on the drawing of the murder including details that could have come only from someone who had more than a passing interest in the crime. First were the tattoo drawings of the roof, windows and frames of the liquor store, which were the same as those of the liquor store where the murder was committed.
But the clincher was the image of a cartoon peanut-man being shot to death by an angry helicopter. While that's not exactly how things went down, it makes sense when you know that Garcia's gang referred to rival gang members as "peanuts," and Garcia himself went by the nickname "Chopper." The tattoo was so accurate that even the direction in which the shots were fired from the helicopter was exactly as it happened in the murder.
It's like "Pin the Tail on the Conviction."
As if investigators didn't have it easy enough, Garcia had gone ahead to include even more identifying details of the crime scene, such as the crooked streetlight across the road and even the street sign of the street.
If you look really closely you can even see the tiny tattoo guy working in the liquor store and regretting his life choices.
Cops arrested Garcia a second time, and he soon confessed to an undercover cop. That's probably a detail that he'll leave out of his next tattoo design.
Terrorist Builds a Failed Car Bomb, Leaves his Keys Inside
In 2010, Faisal Shahzad sought out to get himself a place on the FBI's Most Wanted list when he came to America to blow part of it up. He bought a cheap car, crammed it with a bunch of explosives and fireworks, and tried to set it off in Times Square. When the timer went off, however, the car didn't explode. It wasn't an act of God -- Shahzad was just really bad at being a terrorist.
And really bad at facial hair.
Investigators combing through the failed bomb noticed that while he included fireworks, propane tanks, gasoline, and fertilizer in the car he didn't prep any of the components. Shahzad seemed to have taken a lesson from a Michael Bay movie and assumed that if a bunch of fireworks are close enough together they will ignite each other (they don't). As for the fertilizer, Shahzad apparently didn't realize that he needed to mix it with propane in order for it to do anything but feed a vegetable garden.
Unless your terror target's named "Tannen," this alone isn't accomplishing anything.
So that's why his act of terror didn't actually terrorize anyone. But the reason he was immediately caught is that Shahzad left the keys to his apartment in the car. So not only could the police trace him to where he lived, but he couldn't get into his apartment.
Oh, and along with his apartment keys were the keys to his getaway car, forcing him to take the train home. In the end, it's unlikely that he'll ever be the subject of a blockbuster by Kathryn Bigalow, unless she casts Will Ferrell in the lead.
Man Flees into Police HQ
Joseph Meacham decided to drive drunk one night in St. Louis, and this was just the first bad decision in a long string of fuckups. After he got pulled over by the police, he pushed the closest cop over and made a beeline for freedom, evidently assuming that the cops would balk at chasing him and forget the whole thing.
Without any kind of plan beyond putting as much distance between himself and the police as possible, Meacham ran into the first building he saw in an attempt to hide. He made it only a short distance before he noticed that a lot of the people working there had blue uniforms and badges. Yes, the building he'd chosen was the St. Louis police headquarters.
If only there'd been some type of warning.
Witnesses would later report that he flew into a decent impression of a bird trapped in a hallway, running in circles and bolting in different directions whenever he spotted a uniform. After a thorough yet brief tour of the police HQ, Meacham eventually ran down the wrong hallway and found himself at a dead end. The police, most of whom had no idea who this guy was or what he was doing there, cautiously closed in, expecting a struggle from what was clearly some kind of dangerous lunatic. Instead, he simply laid down on the floor and curled into a ball. It was like he finally triggered some failsafe in his brain that just shut down his limbs before he could fuck things up any further.
Taliban Commander Turns Himself in for the Reward Money
In the dusty mountains of Afghanistan, Taliban commander Mohammad Ashan needed some cash for his day-to-day Taliban living. While he was walking around the southeastern province of Paktika he noticed a bunch of wanted posters had been put up by the Americans.
It's probably safe to say that Ashan wasn't the smartest terrorist who ever grace a wanted poster. Apparently mistaking the posters for some kind of scavenger hunt, he walked right into an Afghan checkpoint and turned himself in seeking the $100 for his reward.
The Afgan police quickly released who they had in their custody and arrested him on the spot. Even when arrested he still didn't catch on that he was possibly getting a free vacation to Cuba's Guantanamo resort. When the American interrogators asked him, "Is this you?" Ashan answered, "Yes, yes, that's me! Can I get my award now?"
What we're trying to say is that terrorists tend to be dipshits.
Finding a Hitman in the Yellow Pages
Plotting a murder can be both complicated and time consuming, especially if you're a busy, middle-aged mother of two and the person you want dead is your husband. This was the situation Phoenix housewife Sharleen Bath found herself in in 1990, so she decided to do the only sensible thing and let a professional killer handle the situation for her. The first problem, of course, was trying to find someone willing to kill for money, since Craigslist wouldn't be invented for another decade or so. So she did the only thing she could think of: She checked the Yellow Pages.
For those younger readers, this was a relic of the pre-Internet days. Much like the magazined pornography your elders speak of.
Unable to find an "assassins" section, she ultimately decided to call a company called "Gunsmoke, Guns for Hire." The name sounded promising, but Gunsmoke is actually an entertainment company specializing in themed parties, since, you know, contract killers aren't actually listed in the Yellow Pages.
We're just amazed she was able to navigate the whole alphabetical order thing.
Having received a fair share of crank calls in the past, owner Leigh Wilson decided to roll with it for a while before he realized that Bath was deadly serious. Wilson gave her a non-committal answer, but Bath called back twice over the next few days and demanded to be allowed to speak to one of the actual hitmen she figured must have been lounging around Wilson's place. After the first time, Wilson figured that this kind of craziness was probably the sort of thing police should handle and got in touch with them.
Undercover police arranged a meeting with Bath at a nearby restaurant, disguised as hitmen, and struck up a deal with her. Eventually Bath settled on one car bombing for the bargain price of $10,000, handed over a $2,000 advance, and their business was concluded. Bath didn't even make it out of the parking lot before being arrested. She ended up in prison, but not before her lawyers did their best to plead insanity. And to be fair, that was probably the best way to go.
Fugitive Lets Cops Scan his License (Just to See How it Works)
With crime-fighting technology getting better every day, the experienced criminal knows it's a good idea to stay up to date on the various ways that they could end up in handcuffs with their face smeared into the hood of a police car. This was probably the thinking of R.C. Gaitlin in 1988 when he passed by a bunch of cops in Detroit demonstrating some of their high-tech gear to local kids and decided to observe.
Current high-tech Detroit PD gear.
After a few minutes of tips on the finer points of shooting people in the ass on account of tazers not being invented yet, things were going swimmingly for Gaitlin. He was learning a lot and had yet to awkwardly blurt out any embarrassing personal details, like the fact that he was a fugitive wanted for armed robbery.
Things took a turn for the unfortunate when he laid eyes on the driver's license scanner and asked how it worked. The cops replied that they'd be thrilled to show him if he'd be kind enough to provide some ID to demonstrate with. Being the helpful and enthusiastic type, Gaitlin keenly volunteered his driver's license to be used as an example.
Of course, the scan revealed to the bewildered cops that Gaitlin had a warrant out for his arrest, so they had the fortune of showing the kids what it looks like when they arrest a perp, which made it the best field trip ever.
"OK, kids, who wants to pepper spray him?"
Robber Gets Robbed, Reports it to Police
Mauricio Fierro's plan to rob a Brazilian pharmacy started out well enough -- he pulled up outside the store in a newly stolen car and left the engine running so that he could pull off a quick getaway. When he emerged with the loot, however, he was puzzled to find that his stolen car had been stolen. By someone else. You would think that a man dedicated to a career of stealing other people's things would have seen this coming.
"So that's what it feels like."
But Fierro's troubles didn't end there. After standing in the parking lot for a few minutes, arms thrown up in the universal gesture of "what the fuck," Fierro failed to see yet another shady criminal sneaking up behind him -- who snatched the loot right out of his hands and made a run for it. It was a bad neighborhood.
Here is where most people would wearily decide to call it a night, but not Fierro. He was angry, and he was determined to make someone answer for the thefts. So he went to the police station to report that someone had stolen the cash and car that he himself had stolen moments earlier. At the police station Fierro ran into none other than the pharmacist he had just robbed, who was there reporting Fierro's robbery. He was quickly taken into custody.
But Fierro wasn't done yet. Word of the bizarre thefts had spread quickly, and it wasn't long before a local news team arrived at the police station. They interviewed Fierro right there, and he took the opportunity to go on a completely unselfconscious rant about how bad crime was in the city. You've got to admit, he had a point.
Seconds before the reporters stole his hoodie and sneakers.
Related Reading: Badass criminals have gotten themselves caught in even dumber schemes than these. As proof, we present the cold-blooded murderer who revealed his identity through a dating show. We judge these idiots, but crime isn't easy. Something as simple as checking Facebook on a victim's computer can put you behind bars. All this only makes it more surprising when ruthless criminals turn into good guys at the last second. Even carjackers can be heroes sometimes.