6 People Who Broke (Stupid) Laws In The Best Way Possible
Whoever first said "Rules are made to be broken" probably just wanted to do some crimes. That's the exact opposite of what rules are for, you hooligan. Still, every once in a while, someone will come along and break the law so goddamn well that you have to admit the law kinda had it coming. Here are a bunch of criminals who'd make even Robin Hood look like a chump.
A Chilean Artist Burns $500 Million In Student Loan Debt From A Corrupt University
The only thing worse than owing money to your alma mater is owing money to a criminal operation passing itself off as your alma mater. That was the case for former students of Chile's Universidad del Mar, which was shut down by the government due to "financial irregularities," like money laundering, unpaid salaries, and shamelessly squeezing every last cent they could out of their students. Unfortunately, that last part was perfectly legal, and continued even after the university ceased operations. Despite being left with unfinished, useless degrees, students were still harassed to pay up for the education they only sort of received.
That didn't sit well with visual artist Francisco Tapia, who goes by the odd moniker Papas Fritas ("Fried Potatoes," i.e. "French Fries"). After studying the situation for a year, Papas Fritas managed to enter the school's facilities by claiming he was collecting material for an art project. And he was. It's just that the "material" happened to be $500 million in student debt notes, which he snuck out of the archives, and his "art project" consisted on setting them on fire.
Papas Fritas released a video telling students that they didn't need to worry about their debt anymore -- and amazingly, he wasn't talking out of his ass. While the destruction of the files doesn't technically rescind the debt, without the original signatures, it's nearly impossible to prove there was any debt in the first place. The only way to restore these obligations would be to have each student formally testify in court and recognize the debt in front of a judge, and something tells us they don't have that kind of school spirit.
A Hacker Exposed Greedy Hypocrites In Latvia's Government
After the world's economy took a zany pratfall straight into a toilet back in 2008, Latvia adopted some serious austerity measures to qualify for a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. (Because austerity always works out so well.) Pensions went down, taxes went up, and schools and hospitals had to close, but through it all, the country's heroic public servants managed to soldier on as if nothing had happened. Mainly because for them, nothing did. Government officials secretly kept giving themselves juicy bonuses and fat salaries, even as they forced the rest of the country to tighten their belts.
Enter "Neo," a Latvian hacker whose strong sense of justice more than made up for his total lack of originality.
Neo decided to take a look at the national tax office data, then shared his findings with the public. That's how everyone found out that, for instance, managers at one municipal utility got a $25,800 bonus in 2009, while government officials "earned" as much as $7,100 a month. For reference, Latvian pensioners had to figure out how to live on the equivalent of around $172 a month, while teachers got $430. The biggest bank in the country was in such horrible shape after the crash that it had to be nationalized and wages were slashed ... for low-level staff, that is. The directors still retained their five-digit monthly salaries and, presumably, Scrooge McDuck money pools.
Even the cops who arrested Neo (Ilmars Poikans, an artificial intelligence researcher) had reason to like him, since they'd learned that their superiors were earning six times their salaries. Poikans initially faced a ten-year prison sentence, but authorities brought it down to 60 hours of community service ... probably after learning of a recent spike in the sales of pitchforks and guillotines.
A Kazakh Woman Creates A Pirate Database Of Science
Anyone who's tried to look up a scientific paper online (most likely to win a bar argument, though we guess there are other uses) knows that publishers have a pretty good racket going. It typically costs around $30 to see a full paper, which builds up to over $24 billion in yearly profits. That's right between the music and film industries, but with a much bigger profit margin, since scientific publishers don't have to pay Brad Pitt's salary or put up with Kanye West. They don't even pay the scientists themselves, since the studies are usually funded by universities or, uh ... you.
As a result, researchers and institutions end up having to buy back their own work in the form of academic journals, and if they can't afford the increasingly expensive subscriptions? There's nothing they can do. Well, not legally. Enter Sci-Hub, which is to science what the Pirate Bay is to The Walking Dead.
Founded by Kazakh computer programmer Alexandra Elbakyan (who says she couldn't have completed her studies without internet piracy), Sci-Hub offers over 70 million scientific articles for a grand total of $0. The site automatically copies articles from various publishers by using legitimate credentials volunteered by anonymous academics. Turns out Elbakyan has lots of fans in the scientific world, which isn't surprising, considering that millions of people from Iran to China to the U.S. (especially in college towns) use her website.
Despite multiple lawsuits and URL changes, Sci-Hub is still going strong, and Elbakyan was even named one of Nature's "top ten people that mattered in science" in 2016. There's also a parasitoid wasp named after her, though she didn't appreciate that particular compliment, for some reason.
A Reverend Scammed Colleges To Get Poor Students An Education
In a world where the simple act of going to college can ruin your finances until the end of time, one man found a way to reduce that cost for families in his neighborhood: Just fucking lie.
In 1986, Dr. Rev. Ozel Clifford Brazil started the Los Angeles Community Outreach Program with the intention of helping minority high school students get a chance at college. At first Brazil would merely help students with their applications, or offer free financial and academic guidance. But then he came up with a more effective (and illegal) technique. In the time-honored evangelical tradition of twisting the truth to fit a personal narrative, Reverend Brazil taught families how to lie about their living situations to qualify for financial aid. The way he looked at it, society had been scamming minorities for centuries, so it was time run some of it back.
Brazil was eventually caught after telling undercover agents posing as a desperate family that he knew a guy who could fake their W-2s. But Brazil wouldn't flip. He refused to incriminate a single student during his trial, including the ones testifying against him. He didn't let his lawyer call any witnesses for fear that they would get in trouble. The judge ended up sentencing Brazil to a restitution payment of $716,000 and 41 months in jail -- four months more than someone who pulled a similar scheme simply to get rich, and 11 months more than the only top banker who went to jail for the mortgage crisis.
The Clown Who Refused To Stop Feeding People's Parking Meters
"Beloved local clown risks going to jail for being too kind" sounds like the plot of a Disney Channel movie, but it really happened. In the '90s, a clown named Mr. Twister (human name Cory McDonald) started going around Santa Cruz, feeding expired parking meters to prevent absentminded drivers from getting ticketed. Problem was, putting money in someone else's meters without their explicit permission was illegal. After all, what if someone wants to get a ticket? Or what if it's your ex-wife's car which you stole, and this clown's ruined your revenge plan? It's a personal freedom issue, really.
Of course, the real reason was that Santa Cruz issued 70,000 tickets a year, and made nearly $1 million from them. So when they found out about Mr. Twister's criminal endeavors, the city fined him and slapped him with a citation. Here's a picture of McDonald and his lawyer, in case you were wondering how demoralized he was feeling throughout the ordeal.
What city officials didn't realize was that news stations (and future comedy websites) would find the absurdity of the situation irresistible, giving Mr. Twister both local and international support. Finding themselves accurately portrayed as cartoon villains, the city had no choice but to drop the charge, repeal the meter-feeding law, and gift the clown with his own parking meter ... which is kind of a passive-aggressive move, honestly. As further evidence that this is all a cheesy children's movie waiting to happen, city council members wore clown noses as they voted to change the law. Anyway, we're assuming Santa Cruz promptly went bankrupt and is now a giant hole in the ground.
Somebody Is Stealing Back China's Looted Historical Artifacts
Since 2010, a string of movie-worthy heists have rocked museums throughout Europe. In Stockholm, thieves set fire to cars across the city, which distracted police while they broke into the Swedish royal palace, before escaping by speedboat. In Paris, they were in and out of a museum in under seven minutes, using a fire extinguisher to erase their footprints behind them. In Norway, they rappelled down from a glass roof ... then came back to the same museum three years later to pick up some stuff they missed.
So what are they stealing? Priceless jewels? The pieces of an ancient amulet that grants immortality? Nope. They've ignored many expensive items to focus on one specific thing: historical Chinese treasures stolen by Europeans in the 19th and 20th century. A particular target seems to be art from Beijing's Old Summer Palace, which was captured and burned to the ground by British and French troops in 1860. And what do you know? At least some of the stolen artworks seem to have ended up back on display in China, where public opinion is very much that the Europeans openly stole them in the first place, so they can't complain too much if someone steals them back.
It's unclear exactly who is orchestrating the thefts, but museums are now a bit wary of Chinese researcher and historian Liu Yang, who seems to act as a Silver Surfer to the thieves' Galactus. When he went to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the panicking staff called a Chinese lawyer to assure him that they didn't have any items from the Old Summer Palace. Liu denies any role in the thefts, although he's not helping his case by saying awesome shit like, "Displaying these objects in European museums is like a theft itself ... We will never give up, we will never stop -- no matter the effort. We need people to see that everything that belonged to us is coming back." Did Bane always have a Chinese accent? Because he does now.
And hey, if you're really interested in stupid laws, maybe study for the LSAT?
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