6 Epic Crime Sprees That Shouldn't Have Been Possible
Despite the fact that we know most criminals are just assholes, there's still a soft spot in our heart for a good outlaw. We love stories about the good ol' days, when a rakish rogue could escape the law and disappear into the wilderness -- not like in modern times, where the massive justice system will surely track you down the second you so much as look funny at a jewelry store. Or so we assume. Turns out there still are criminals out there that are nearly impossible to catch. Just look at ...
Jacques Mesrine Becomes A Celebrity For Robbing Banks
Jacques Mesrine was a French war veteran who decided a life of crime in Canada sounded like a promising career path, and he was pleasantly surprised to find that he was really, really good at it. After kidnapping a millionaire for ransom and killing an innkeeper in a botched robbery, Mesrine was captured in Texas and deported back to Canada, where he got 10 years in Saint Vincent De Paul, Canada's toughest prison, to the extent that you can believe in Canada's toughest anything.
Dammit, Canada. Couldn't you throw in clouds and lightning or something?
But Mesrine was behind bars for only a couple of years before he and five other inmates escaped using wire cutters and went on to commit a string of bank robberies. He must have been feeling pretty confident at this stage, because he and fellow escapee Jean-Paul Mercier actually returned to Saint Vincent De Paul to facilitate a mass prison break of even more inmates. The cops discovered their plan before they could execute it, but they escaped again. Mesrine apparently got sick of being the most wanted man in only one country, so he went to France to become the most wanted man there as well.
In France, Mesrine robbed more banks until he was finally captured, but this time they couldn't even hold on to him long enough to sentence him -- he escaped from the courtroom during trial by smuggling a gun into court and holding the judge hostage. Then he went and robbed a whole bunch of banks again, because at this point it's starting to get kinda funny.
Thus his wardrobe of funny disguises.
... He was kind of a one-note comedian.
Eventually he was caught again and sentenced to 20 years in La Sante, France's toughest prison. But this one couldn't hold him either. With the help of a corrupt guard, Mesrine took some other guards hostage, busted even more friends out of their cells, scaled the wall, and disappeared into the shadows. Then he went right back to robbing.
Due to his absurd string of prison escapes, Mesrine became something of a folk hero in France, occasionally agreeing to interviews and magazine photo shoots. At one point, he was even voted the most popular man in the country.
That's right. France had at least one likable man.
The police eventually tracked Mesrine down, and this time they took the cautious route and just shot him in the face the moment they saw him. The assassination was hugely controversial at the time, but in all fairness, he was making them look really, really bad.
His ghost returned to haunt them after it escaped the afterlife.
Ray Denning Escapes Jail, Becomes An Activist On The Run
In 1980, Raymond John Denning, an Australian political activist, became the first person in 80 years to escape from the notorious Grafton Gaol. He did this by jumping in the garbage and hitching a ride to freedom in the back of a garbage truck. Over the next 20 months, Denning became the most easily accessible Most Wanted person in history. While he was on the run, he would call in frequently to radio talk shows, do interviews with journalists, and he even appeared on Australia's version of 60 Minutes. At one point, he sat in on a parliament session. He must have had a seriously convincing fake mustache.
"We descend from criminals and we're politicians, so it's easy
to see how he blended right in."
Denning's main cause was protesting a facet of Australian criminal justice that allowed unsigned confessions to be used in court. Basically, an officer could claim that you confessed to a crime in the back of the police car, or type up a confession and say you wrote it, and it would be perfectly admissible. Denning found this unacceptable, though as worthy a cause as it may have been, it should be noted that he was serving a sentence for murdering a prison guard, so he wasn't exactly Nelson Mandela.
He made a short career out of taunting police by always staying just within reach while playing out his shenanigans. At one point, he attended a prison art exhibition while the head of the country's prison system was there. Another time, he taped a list of demands to the door of the New South Wales police headquarters in broad daylight like Martin Luther and planted his fingerprints on the glass to prove his identity. After each stunt, he called the media to brag about it.
Half thief, half troll, all balls.
Denning became the second-most wanted man in Australia, and eventually hooked up with the most wanted man, Russell "Mad Dog" Cox, to pull off a bunch of bank robberies. He was finally caught again and sent back to prison. After another unsuccessful escape attempt, he decided to become an informant, ratting out his co-conspirators in exchange for a shorter sentence. He was released in 1993, but in an extremely unwise celebration of freedom, he almost immediately died of a heroin overdose. Still, Australia changed its attitude to unsigned confessions partly due to Denning's public spectacle. If only to avoid having Denning come back from the grave to mess with them some more.
Sir Rupert Mackeson Becomes The World's Most Badass White-Collar Criminal
Sir Rupert Mackeson was lucky enough to be born into British nobility, where he held the title of 2nd baronet, which is lower status than a duke but higher than a knight. The important thing is that Mackeson spent his early years running a bank in Britain for the mafia, because regal titles don't actually pay the bills.
Or, as his Wikipedia page tactfully puts it, he "went into the city of London."
When the legal system eventually caught up with the bank racket, Mackeson escaped to Rhodesia, which was the old name for Zimbabwe, where England didn't have an extradition treaty. He could have stopped doing illegal stuff right there and lived out the rest of his life baroneting the shit out of the place, but Mackeson got into the smuggling racket and eventually found himself in a Rhodesian prison.
But Mackeson, who was the only white person in the prison at the time, got thrown out after a day for inciting a riot. The authorities tried to deport him back to London. The British authorities were so excited about Mackeson's impending capture that they organized a press conference at the London airport so that the media could capture the exact moment police put him in handcuffs. But Mackeson never arrived, because as soon as he boarded the flight, he punched a dude, got himself thrown off the plane, and high-tailed it back to Rhodesia.
His left fist is named "Mackeson," while rightie is "Sir Rupert."
An embarrassed Scotland Yard chartered a flight to Rhodesia to forcibly drag him back to Britain, Batman-style, to face charges. But this tactic worked against them when a British judge exonerated Mackeson on all charges, due to the fact that he had been illegally extradited. Today, he lives free as a successful novelist. A smuggling baronet novelist. His obituary, which hasn't been written yet, lists his cause of death as "drowned in pussy."
Glen Stewart Godwin Relives The Shawshank Redemption, With More Drugs And Explosions
Glen Stewart Godwin is an absurdly dangerous man who robbed and murdered a California drug dealer in 1980 and then blew up the guy's car, because Grand Theft Auto hadn't been invented yet. Godwin was given 26-to-life in Folsom State Prison, but only a few months later, he joined the ranks of the very few to escape from Folsom by cutting through the bars and squirming through 1,000 feet of storm drain like in The Shawshank Redemption. After his Oscar-worthy escape, Godwin fled to Mexico to continue his career as a criminal.
And apparent part-time male model.
Some years later, American police learned that Godwin had been captured in Mexico for running cocaine, and they rubbed their hands together in anticipation of extraditing him at the end of his sentence. But inside the Mexican jail, Godwin murdered a fellow inmate to extend his prison sentence and used the extra time to break out of there as well.
Then, to pay for his bus ticket, he stole kidneys from three widows and orphans.
Mexico hasn't released any of the details about how Godwin escaped, exactly, but he's been on the run since 1996 when he was added to the FBI's Most Wanted list, which means he's been out there for longer than Osama bin Laden, who was added in 1999. Bin Laden has since been dealt with, but Godwin is still at large. Taking a lesson from the whole bin Laden thing, we feel compelled to ask: Has anybody checked his house?
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Holds Up Restaurants To Satisfy His Hunger
In 2001, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman escaped a maximum security prison by hiding in a laundry cart while serving a lengthy sentence for basically every crime. He then became a Forbes-certified self-made billionaire while also being the most wanted man in the world by doing whatever the fuck he wanted. For example, if Guzman was hungry, he would hijack an entire restaurant and only allow the patrons to go free once he'd eaten his meal. Though, to his credit (we guess) he would pay for everyone's food afterward.
"But, sir, surely you could simply just pay for your own meal, get your food, then-"
Guzman set up a movie-villain-level string of informants and double-agents in the Mexican government, but that wasn't always enough. He had his front door broken in by a Mexican SWAT team at one point, so he literally just ran out the back door. Haha, what? We don't mean to criticize, but are back doors, like, a recent import to Mexico, or something? The SWAT team came for him again, presumably covering both exits this time, only to have Guzman escape through a private tunnel system. They came for him yet again in 2014, and this time arrested him ... because he was sleeping. Presumably the giant spring under his mattress that would have comically vaulted him to safety failed to trigger.
Guess what happened next. Go on, guess.
"The Uncatchable" Vassilis Paleokostas Goes On A Brazen 30-Year Crime Spree
Vassilis Paleokostas is a serial bank robber who began his career at 19 by blockading the door to the local police station and burglarizing a local jewelry store while the police tried to break out of their own building. After several more heists, Paleokostas and his gang became folk heroes in Greece due to its escalating economic problems, the systemic corruption in Greek banks, and the fact that they donated some of their ill-gotten gains to the poor. Eventually, his brother Nikos was nabbed and imprisoned, but Paleokostas stole a fucking tank and drove it through the wall of the prison to break his brother out.
"But, sir, I don't see how the getaway will be at all feasi-"
He was caught during the attempt and thrown in jail, but he resumed his career mere months later by climbing out of a window with bed sheets tied together like he was in a Three Stooges flick. In 1992, Paleokostas pulled off the largest cash robbery in Greek history and shortly thereafter dumped the evidence by literally throwing bricks of cash at random pedestrians.
And this was 20 years ago, when Greek currency was still worth something.
After stealing a Nissan during an emergency, Paleokostas polished the car, stocked it with $600 in cash, and returned it to the owner. Paleokostas was eventually captured again in 1999, but after seven years in jail, he enacted his famous dual-helicopter escapes and continued robbing Greek banks. He is still on the loose. Given his penchant for dramatic vehicles, expect his next caper to be committed via hovercraft.
Zachary Frey is now a freshman at Cornell University and has written a bunch of other articles for Cracked that you should totally go read. Yes, I want to read some more of Zachary Frey's awesome articles. No, I don't want to read his awesome articles, but I will click on this link taking me to them anyways.
Want a few more good outlaw stories? Check out 5 Criminals Who Were Hilariously Good At Escaping Jail and learn about the great Moondyne Joe. Or read 5 Insane Prison Escapes You Won't Believe Actually Worked and learn about the serial killer who just walked out of jail.
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