5 True Crime Stories That Sound Like The Worst Movie Ever
True crime stories are big business these days. It seems like everyone and their twisted mother is way into the idea of horrible atrocities as fantastic entertainment. But sometimes truth isn't just stranger than fiction; it's downright ridiculous. Here are a few real crime stories that even the folks at Netflix would turn down for sounding too implausible.
A Collection Of Wacky Hustlers Are Fighting Over A 700-Pound Cursed Emerald
This story starts normally enough: with a 752-pound cursed emerald being hauled through the jungle as its carriers are attacked by panthers. A classic! Oh, but then it gets weird. This is the story of the Bahia Emerald, and it is embarrassing.
The first American rubes to set eyes on the legendary Bahia Emerald were Tony Thomas and Ken Conette, back in 2001. Truly, it was a romantic setting, the garage of that Brazilian miner, where a cat peed on the priceless gem. The pair consisted of one failed start-up entrepreneur and one failed dreamer (tough to fail at that, but nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself). They knew immediately that the emerald was their ticket to the big time, and Thomas got the miners to sell it to him for only $60,000 (the cat piss must've really brought down the value).
When Thomas returned to the States, his appraiser valued the jewel at $925 million. OK, so it turned out the appraiser had pulled that number straight out of his ass, but it was a 1,700,000-carat emerald the size of a kindergartner. It was reasonable to assume it was worth a bit more than a secondhand Lexus.
They agreed that Conette would stay behind to ship the emerald while Thomas went back home to receive it. And thus began the endless circle of betrayal and backstabbing which always accompanies tales of giant jewels. Instead of sending it, Conette told Thomas the emerald had been hijacked and mailed it to himself. But trying to sell the stone on his own proved difficult. So it was immense good fortune that Conette was soon approached by mysterious tycoon Larry Biegler, who claimed he could find a buyer and the pair would split the profits.
Of course, Biegler was actually a small-time local plumber (with terrible Yelp reviews), and he instead ran off with the emerald and handed it to Jerry Ferrara, an unlicensed private detective living in his car who convinced Biegler he could sell the emerald and split the profits. Can you guess what happened next?
Ferrara also ran off with the goods, using the Bahia Emerald as collateral in a diamond deal with straightlaced Mormon businessman Kit Morrison. But when the deal fell through, Morrison took possession of the stone. Meanwhile, Biegler was kidnapped / faked being kidnapped by the Brazilian Mafia, who also wanted the emerald. When he escaped, he felt it his duty to finally call the LAPD and get a SWAT team to take the emerald away from Morrison.
Ever since 2010, the Bahia Emerald has been resting in a Los Angeles evidence locker while its so-called owners endlessly feud over who gets to claim it. It seemed close to an end when a judge awarded the gem to Morrison, but then the U.S. Department of Justice itself put a restraining order on the stone in order to prevent a diplomatic crisis with Brazil. Oh, and real experts say the emerald isn't great quality and is probably worthless anyway. So in conclusion: CUUUURSSSED!
Related: 6 Insane Ways People Made Money Off True Crime Stories
A Hardcore Cop Helped Clean Up A Small Town (With A Twist!)
Like many small towns and commercial airline pilots, Gerald, Missouri had a serious meth problem. So local authorities were only too grateful when a tough-talking agent with a federal anti-drug program rolled into town, promising to get things sorted out. With the assistance of Gerald's five police officers, Sergeant Bill Jakob started dispensing justice like Dirty Harry. Also like Dirty Harry, Bill Jakob was not a real cop.
Jakob's tough guy attitude won him plenty of fans. Sure, there were some complaints about "police brutality." And sure, those complaints were 100 percent accurate. But most Gerald residents, tired of the drug epidemic, didn't really mind that he had pressed a gun to a man's head in front of his child, or had an elderly woman thrown into a psychiatric facility when she gave him lip. And yeah, he also didn't bother with search warrants, but that was fine. He explained that federal agents didn't need those. So the city government stood behind him, insisting that Jakob might be a wild card, but dammit, he got results.
OK, so there was one other tiny problem. Jakob was, in fact, a borderline delusional loser from Illinois who liked to pretend to be police. Why didn't the real law enforcement officers detect this? Well, he did drive a police car (secondhand) and wear a badge (self-made), and his contact from the "multi-jurisdictional task force" checked out (it was his wife). Also, he had a crew cut and sometimes wore a T-shirt with "Police" written on it. What more could you possibly check?!
Jakob got away with his weird act for five months, until the sheriff's department did some additional digging and finally realized that this loon had turned their entire town into his personal Charles Bronson cosplay fantasy. In the aftermath of the resulting scandal, most of Gerald's tiny police force was fired, and Jakob was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for impersonating an officer. Yet even facing a recall election because of these shenanigans, the mayor maintained that Jakob had done a good job. Here's a little tip for his campaign: "The violent maniac was a big step up for us" is probably not a great slogan.
Related: 7 True Crimes Solved By Twists Too Ridiculous For Network TV
A Hijacker Became Italy's Biggest Heartthrob
If the TWA Flight 85 hijacking proved anything, it's that if a criminal looks like Antonio Banderas, they can get away with pretty much anything.
Raffaele Minichiello was your typical immigrant success story: a handsome Italian-American who showed true patriotism when he joined the Marines and was awarded a Purple Heart in 'Nam. But things went south back in the States when Minichiello came to believe the Corps had underpaid him by $200, which he declared an insult to his honor. So as a man of honor, Minichiello addressed the slight by getting drunk and stealing a bunch of radios and watches worth exactly $200.
After being caught, the honorable Minichiello decided to skip the trial (and the country) completely so he could return to Italy, where people would understand him better. Finding it difficult to book a flight as a fugitive, Minichiello got the next best thing to a plane ticket: his M-1 rifle. He hijacked a flight going to San Francisco and told it to head to Mama Italia instead. But aviation technology had yet to catch up Minichiello's ambitions, so he had to wait patiently while the plane refueled in New York, Maine, and Ireland. When he finally landed in Rome, he managed to take a cop hostage and steal a squad car, then ended his impressive GTA five-star streak by getting arrested in a church.
During his time in the air, he had become a media sensation whose hunkiness more than made up for a little sky piracy. Italy refused to extradite him, and the home trial quickly turned into a circus. Girls were swooning on the courthouse steps, and his lawyer reduced the court to tears with a dramatic account of Minichiello's yearning for both his homeland and his parents (conveniently forgetting to mention that his mother lived in Seattle). In the end, Minichiello only served 18 months of prison time, and is currently living free in Italy, his only sliver of remaining fame being a YouTube channel where he showcases his favorite accordion songs. Hot stuff.
A Fugitive American Drug Lord Built A New Life As An Australian Legend
For 40 years, Dennis Lafferty ran a beloved ecotourism company in the Daintree Rainforest, the most crocodile-infested part of the most crocodile-infested region of Australia. The company was a major local employer, and Lafferty a local legend, the kind of man "who can make a fire out of nothing in a rainstorm." He spent his time fighting to preserve the local rainforest and personally saved hundreds of fruit bats from barbed wire. So when Lafferty tragically crashed into a tree in 2015, the community was surprised that a man a tough as him could even die. They were extra surprised when they found out that this was the second time he had died.
He was in truth Raymond Stansel, the onetime king of Florida marijuana smugglers. By 1973, his drug empire had run aground, and Stansel was caught by the feds. But right as he was about to stand trial in Miami, his lawyer announced his client had died in a "mysterious scuba accident." This may seem suspicious to you, but it's actually the third most common cause of death in Florida, behind "meth lab explosion" and "lost a fight against a reptile."
Not everybody bought it, but even an international manhunt failed to track the man down. That is, until weeks after Stansel's second and final death in Daintree, when his widow told The Tampa Bay Times the whole story, and the paper informed the police -- or at least, the very few investigators who were still alive themselves.
Related: 4 True Crime Stories Starring Famous Historical Figures
A Disgraced Roller Coaster Tycoon Tried To Smuggle Drugs In His Rides
Norbert Witte built a small them park empire off the back of his prized Catapult, "the world's fastest roller coaster." But like any good roller coaster, things quickly went downhill. In 1981, Witte personally caused Germany's worst carnival tragedy when the repair crane he was operating collided with an attraction, injuring 15 and killing seven. In true carny fashion, Witte wasn't going to let a few destroyed lives get in the way of doing his job.
After the Berlin Wall fell, Witte bought the former East Berlin's biggest state-run amusement park ... and then ran it into the ground. By 2001, Spreepark had ruined the Witte dynasty, and almost $20 million in debt, he had to abandon his rusting dream. It still stands today, serving as both a testament to his failings and Berlin's premier creepy goth makeout spot.
Now, a guy haunted by a circus bloodbath with an abandoned communist amusement park is clearly a prime candidate for a Scooby-Doo villain, but Witte's criminal career went much darker than that. After losing Spreepark, Witte packed up his coasters and moved to Peru, hoping to open Lima's biggest theme park. But with no proper plan, cash, or coasters (customs was keeping his rides for inspection), Witte's wild ride had seemingly come to a halt. Desperate and out of ideas, he agreed to ship a Ferris wheel back to Germany -- with $10 million in cocaine hidden inside.
Witte had reached out to his shadiest carny contacts (which is saying something!), and signed up himself and his 21-year-old son Marcel to mule 167 kilos of cocaine into Germany. Unfortunately, Witte was as stupid and careless about smuggling drugs as he was about ride safety, and was easily caught by undercover cops. Fortunately, he made it all the way to Germany before being arrested, and only wound up serving four years in a cushy minimum security prison. Marcel wasn't so lucky, and got sentenced to 20 years in the most brutal and terrifying prison in Peru, only being extradited in 2016 after nearly dying several times.
With his family refusing to even speak to him, Norbert ended up living in a dilapidated trailer in the overgrown ruins of his beloved Spreepark, surrounded by rotting attractions and dreaming of opening one last ride.
OK, so now he's a Scooby-Doo villain for sure, right?
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