5 Crimes Committed In The Name Of Heroism
There's nothing more romantic than an outlaw. Robin Hood, Han Solo, Star-Lord, pretty much anyone played by Patrick Swayze -- they're our favorite Hollywood characters. But, in reality, outlaws are usually nasty folks committing crimes for all the wrong reasons. Notice we said "usually." That's because, once in a while, real life takes a page from a screenwriting class and gives us folks like ...
The Man Who Stole Jewels For The Civil Rights Movement
In 1963, Eddie Sandifer wanted to help kick racism and oppression to the curb of history. There was only one problem -- his low-paying job as a nursing-home administrator couldn't even buy a foot soldier in the Civil Rights Movement a pair of good marching shoes, let alone make the kind of serious contribution he was dreaming of. Clearly, the only thing to be done was to volunteer his spare time instead. Just kidding: He became a jewel thief.
He was inspired by MLK's "I Have A Brooch" speech.
Sandifer robbed six stores and exchanged his illicit bounty for licit cash that he donated to the cause. And some of these were real Hollywood-style capers: On one job, Sandifer and his driver plotted and timed their getaway route so perfectly that they flew through a train crossing just as the train came by, leaving the police on the other side, shaking their fists and stomping on hats in consternation.
"And I didn't need any damn NOS!"
But apparently it's easier to steal jewelry than it is to sell it, as Sandifer was caught pawning off his latest acquisitions and did 16 months in jail. After he was released, his identity remained unknown for 50 years until a newspaper tracked down the "Robin Hood for the Civil Rights Movement." They discovered that he had been living near the poverty line ever since, in order to legally support civil rights, gay rights, senior citizens, and people with HIV/AIDS. Or perhaps he just got really, really good at charitable cat-burglaring and nobody ever caught him again. That's how our screenplay has it, anyway.
The Activists Who Help The Homeless Squat In Foreclosed Homes
Between 2007 and 2011, over 12 million homes in the United States were in some state of foreclosure. Most of the country saw these empty houses as depressing reminders of the state of the economy, but industrious activists saw an opportunity to help those who'd been pantsed hardest by the recession: the homeless.
Their portfolios took a HUGE hit.
Advocacy groups monitored foreclosure listings and swooped in like humanitarian vultures to call illegal dibs on vacated homes. Some acted clandestinely, while others, like Take Back The Land, straight-up drove trucks to the front door and started moving people in. Beneficiaries included single parents, large families, widows -- your basic tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
And poop indoors.
These arrangements are temporary by their very nature, but they can last longer than you'd expect. Minnesota's Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, inspired by the length of their own ungainly name, managed to keep squatting families housed for a year. Their efforts were aided by the fact that the homes were often in lower-class neighborhoods sympathetic to their cause, and it also helped that overworked police departments had better things to do with their time than bust people for temporarily sheltering themselves from the elements.
The People Who Illegally Traffic In Life-Saving Drugs
When you think of a drug smuggler, you generally picture a scruffy, suspicious individual -- the kind you'd see on an anti-narcotics pamphlet, loitering in an alley behind McGruff The Crime Dog. But not all drug smugglers are carrying the recreational kind: Some traffic in legitimate pharmaceuticals on behalf of impoverished people in medical need.
No, not that.
A loosely connected group of nurses and activists, dubbed mercy smugglers, rounded up surplus medication from patients and clinics in the United States, packed it into suitcases and car trunks, and brought it to the world's poor during the height of the AIDS crisis. They were like an organized group of even more heroic Han Solos -- an idea which, if it isn't already the plot of the new Star Wars movie, really should be.
Then there were independent folks like Lu Yong, who illegally acquired cheap cancer drugs from India for himself and 1,000 other Chinese citizens. And may face jail time for it. Or Seattle's Carol Glenn, who sent millions of dollars' worth of medical supplies as far as Cuba, Estonia, and Somalia ... and lost her job in the process.
Leftover medical supplies. Supplies that were just going to be thrown out.
Floridian Joyce Crain forged doctors' signatures, made her own prescription labels, and stockpiled $500,000 worth of drugs at her home so she could distribute them faster; she got 30 months in jail for her troubles. The judge even labeled her a "misguided crusader," which you'll recognize as the vigilante rank right between "Dark Knight" and "Social Justice Warrior."
The Mayor Who Led Grocery Store Raids To Feed The Hungry
In 2012, the unemployment rate in Spain's autonomous region of Andalusia was a downright RoboCop-ian 35 percent. Outraged that so many people were at the end of their rope and likely eating that rope in desperation, the mayor of the small town of Marinaleda and winner of 2014's Most Spanish Name, Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, rallied his supporters and began raiding supermarkets in a neighboring town like a low-stakes Mad Max. While yelling, "Aren't you all hungry? Let's go shopping!" Gordillo and his supporters would rush into stores, fill carts with basic foodstuffs like rice and milk, and run away without paying. Several raids were conducted, with all of the pilfered produce going to food banks.
If you think there's an easier way for a mayor to feed the hungry, you don't know Spanish politics.
One of the supermarkets he raided took Gordillo to court, but another, figuring that suing people for eating food was bad publicity, forgave him and promised to donate even more. Gordillo's criminal approach to mayoring looks to have worked, seeing as how he's been continually reelected since 1979 and his town now sports high wages with only 5 percent unemployment. Critics have accused him of taking advantage of government subsidies, and harsher critics have twice tried to assassinate him.
For a while, he was scared to start his own shopping cart each morning.
He's also been threatened with multiple stints in jail, although he has never actually served time for his crimes. So, hey, there's one thing he has in common with his American politician counterparts.
The Scientist Who Defrauded Her Company To Save Her Daughter's Life
Esra Ogru is the closest thing the pharmaceutical world has to a Lex Luthor. An academic wunderkind who rocketed to the position of vice president of research and development at biotech company Phosphagenics, Ogru soon realized that the only thing she liked more than science was money. So she conspired with two doctoral chums to bill phony invoices for fake research services conducted by shell companies, and together the trio raked in $6 million. Jesus, our accountants get suspicious when we bill a business lunch that has an extra side of fries.
This could easily be one of the 1,000 most criminal things ever done by Big Pharma.
The trio's actions were entirely self-serving until 2008, when Ogru gave birth to a daughter with an extremely rare case of molybdenum cofactor deficiency. "Deficiency" is pretty much always a bad word to come out of your doctor's mouth (it's rare to have an ice cream deficiency), but this disorder was particularly gnarly: It had killed every newborn it encountered within months.
But you've all heard the old saying about necessity and your mother: Ogru wasn't about to let an unstoppable biological juggernaut take her baby away. Ogru had samples of a treatment that was being tested on animals shipped to her, and one dubious experiment later her daughter showed dramatic signs of improvement.
Making it the first supervillain medical experiment to not end horribly.
Ogru then set up a new dummy company, whose fake invoices paid for real medicine, and siphoned off funds to pay for clinical trials that saved 12 other infants. Ogru managed to work her way up to COO and then joint-CEO of Phosphagenics before she was caught, went to court, pled guilty, and was sentenced to six years in prison. Luckily, the clinical trials she established remained ongoing and were actually fast-tracked.
It's not like she was quite as selfless as these other folks, but it's hard to call a person that saves a dozen babies a villain. So there's probably a moral to this story, but we honestly have no idea what it is aside from the fact that pharmaceutical companies might be more fucked up than the Umbrella Corporation.
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