6 True Crime Stories That Are Too Stupid Even For Hollywood
True crime is usually much more mundane than its fictional counterpart, which is why RoboCop 2 remains far superior to basically every podcast. But every so often, reality spits out a crime so bizarre that not even the unauthorized Turkish remake of RoboCop 2 (Sex-Bot From Pluto vs. Batman) could hope to match it. For example ...
A SpongeBob Artist Sent "Three Ninjas" To Steal His Own Work
You're certainly familiar with the art of Todd White, because he designed many of the characters on SpongeBob SquarePants. But after that professional triumph, he lowered himself to becoming a successful expressionist painter. His work can fetch up to six figures -- when it's an original. Which brings us to the ninjas.
In 2011, an art dealer named Peggy Howell called the cops, claiming that White had sent three "ninjas" to assault her and steal his art from her gallery, conveniently located inside the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach. White countered that the men were not ninjas (although he did meet a couple of them at a martial arts class), and that they didn't assault Howell, but merely took the art with her consent. He added that Howell had been selling fakes of his work, and that he was trying to spare everyone a court case and possible criminal charges. He failed, but the case led to an interesting debate over the nature of art.
See, White made most of his money from selling giclees, which are essentially photographs of paintings touched up with varnish to create the illusion of brushstrokes. The ones Howell sold were supposedly worth thousands because they were personalized with his signature, which Howell had faked on her own printouts. But during the case, White's former manager testified that he'd trained his employees to copy his signature for use on the giclees. In other words, Howell was accused of faking the artist's fake signature on fake copies of the real copies of his art. White insisted he'd never sign off on someone else signing his signature, though, so at least one of those fakes is in dispute. We're just not sure which one.
The case was eventually settled out of court. They're handling it like adults, with Howell stocking her gallery full of Clifford Bailey paintings and White painting unflattering portraits of Howell and his old manager stabbing him in the back.
A Glamorous Socialite Staged A Daring Kidnapping, Then Stole A Baby To Escape Conviction
In 1931, St. Louis was shocked by the kidnapping of Dr. Isaac Kelley, who had gone out late at night after a call about a "sick child," only to be abducted at gunpoint and held for ransom. After a ransom was probably paid (the cops officially denied it, but rumors and common sense suggest otherwise), the kidnappers told a reporter how to find Kelley, who was wandering on the side of a road, blindfolded. Since this was the 1930s, the reporter extracted an exclusive interview from the doc before returning him to his family and the cops.
St. Louis was then even more shocked by the revelation that the kidnapping was planned by prominent local socialite and part-time criminal mastermind, Nellie Muench. Despite being married to a respectable doctor and the sister of a Missouri Supreme Court judge, the well-known party girl had money problems, and ample evidence suggested she had orchestrated the abduction to keep her lifelong party going.
It seemed like an open-and-shut case, until the charismatic Muench appeared at her trial nursing her newborn baby, whom she tearfully called "a gift from God in my time of distress." If she'd then launched into a brassy jazz number, they could have made Chicago as a serious biopic. As it was, the jury duly acquitted her, but then she was immediately re-arrested ... for baby theft.
Yeah, it turns out that Muench had decided to buy a baby to make herself look sympathetic at trial. She paid $50 for the child of a 19-year-old maid, who eventually had second thoughts, demanded her baby back, and went to the courts when Muench refused. Muench was finally convicted of a list of crimes that presumably unrolled all the way down to the ground and out the courthouse door, while the baby was ... returned to its mother. You know, the one who sold it. Listen, it was a different time.
The Robbery Of Oregon's Shadiest Fake Nobleman Had A Twist Nobody Saw Coming
In 2012, the cops were called to a modest rental unit in Oregon, where they found the bloodsoaked tenant. The guy said he was a German nobleman named Baron George von Bothmer, heir to an ancient lineage and victim of a home invasion. Apparently, two men had gained entry to the house, tied up the residents, and stolen its treasures, including a Faberge egg, the crown of a Chinese empress, Marie Antoinette's rubies, letters from Albert Einstein, and two signed copies of Mein Kampf. He assured the police that the crime could only have been orchestrated by his former business partner, Bill Sikkens, who was apparently a Nazi dragon.
After confirming that the victim was not in fact house-sitting for Scrooge McDuck, the cops quickly determined that things weren't adding up. For one thing, Bill Sikkens turned out to be a harmless homebody who lived with his parents. Meanwhile, Baron von Bothmer (birth name George Davis) had a long history of schemes, and while his house was decorated in a style best described as "if Liberace directed Amadeus," his remaining "treasures" were worthless costume jewelry. He was also known to have money problems, since his recent lawsuit for slipping in a 24-Hour Fitness apparently hadn't worked out for him. So embarrassing for the self-declared godson of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Naturally, everyone assumed it was an inside job, part of the world's most overambitious insurance scam. But then they arrested an absolutely terrifying man named David Ray Taylor, Oregon's most wanted bank robber, aspiring cult leader, and serial murderer. Taylor confessed that he had robbed the Baron after hearing he was a con artist. He hated liars, he said. Further investigation confirmed von Bothmer had nothing to do with the crime, which was great news for everyone but von Bothmer, who apparently couldn't bear the thought of being a simple robbery victim. Instead he insisted he was the subject of an international conspiracy led by Sikkens and the Lake Oswego police department, which had pinned his crime on the innocent Taylor. The Coen Brothers couldn't have done the whole thing better. But ... maybe they should?
The World's Largest Pearl Has Been Sought After By Con Men Since The '30s
The largest pearl in the world was supposedly discovered in the Philippines in 1934, when it lured a local diver to his doom. The giant clam that housed it closed around the man's arm, trapping him underwater. When his friends found the body, they retrieved the pearl, which their awed chief declared contained the face of God. He later gave it to a guy named William Cobb, who had saved his son from malaria. Cobb kept it in his suitcase all the way through World War II and eventually brought it to the U.S., where a mysterious Chinese businessman declared that it contained a legendary amulet, which according to lore was hidden in a pearl by the ancient philosopher Lao Tzu.
In reality, that whole story was almost certainly made up by Cobb, but that hasn't stopped the Pearl of Lao Tzu from being involved in a baffling string of crimes ever since. After Cobb died, management of the pearl went to jeweler Peter Hoffman, apparently because of a dream in which Buddha, Confucius, and Lao Tzu declared he was to be its next guardian. He in turn brokered the sale of a two-thirds stake in the pearl to Reverend Vic Barbish, who had made a fortune using religious exemptions to run illegal bingo games in San Bernardino. It seems like an odd plan that Lao Tzu had for his pearl, but who are we to question the sage?
Barbish, who claimed to be Al Capone's son, established the "World's Largest Pearl Co.," which offered investments in the pearl. At various times, Barbish claimed to be on the verge of a multi-million-dollar sale to three of our era's greatest monsters: Ferdinand Marcos, Osama bin Laden, and Whoopi Goldberg. He later used it to establish the "Pearl for Peace Foundation," a fraudulent charity that took in $5.5 million in donations to "support law enforcement." Why that required a giant mystical pearl remains unclear, although perhaps the cops would need to call on its power if the Gambino Family somehow assembled the Infinity Stones.
Meanwhile, Barbish sold half his stake to bar owner Joseph Bonicelli, who was widely suspected to have hired a team of hitmen to kill his wife so he could avoid a divorce payout. Their children subsequently sued him and were awarded $32.4 million from his shares in the supposedly priceless pearl. It would be the largest wrongful death lawsuit in Colorado history ... if the pearl were worth anything. Experts have said the pearl is of poor quality, not the type used in jewelry, and worth maybe a few hundred grand as a curiosity. Barbish's heirs reject this, claiming that the gross lump of clam juices must be worth at least $52 million. But we keep making the same claims about our fleet of dirt bikes, and we still have no bites from Craigslist.
The King Of Acid House Cobbled Together A "Fraud Machine" That Stole 500,000 Pounds
Tony Muldowney-Colston entered the workforce as a wildly successful professional gambler, raking in as much as 20,000 pounds per day playing slot machines. This may have had something to do with the special exam in slot machine technology he passed at age 16, so please do not quit your job and try to become a slot-based millionaire. After being banned from every casino in the UK, Tony MC rebranded as the "King of Acid House," which means we have to find a new name for the villain in our unproduced Harry Potter rock opera. He spent the 1980s staging illegal underground raves throughout London, staying one step ahead of the government, which at the time looked entirely like this:
So far, he sounds like the coolest man never to have fought the Flash, but like every guy named Tony, things went downhill for him after the 1980s. In 2014, he was arrested for planting a device in a bank that allowed him to remotely control computers, which he used to steal 1.25 million from six high-value bank accounts. He was released on parole four years later, which turned out to be a mistake, since it was then that he built ... the machine.
It might look like a toy vacuum cleaner from a particularly distressing Pixar movie, but it was capable of altering Muldowney-Colston's voice to match the age and gender of whoever he was pretending to be and playing pre-recorded bank messages. It included a convenient card reader, for reasons we genuinely cannot figure out. He used it in a series of phone scams that wrangled him 500,000 pounds, convincing customers that he was their bank or banks that he was a customer. He was rearrested last year, sparing the world from the identity theft Gundam he was inevitably going to build.
The Armed Robbery Behind History's Most Expensive Coke-Fueled Gay Porno
Back in the '70s, George Bosque was a talented kid obsessed with joining the police. He was known for his ultraconservative beliefs (he was later described as a "self-proclaimed Nazi") and writing letters to the paper attacking "nudity, homosexuality and the glorification of narcotics." Within ten years, he had robbed an armored van of $1.85 million, snorted a small mountain of cocaine, and made history's most expensive gay porno. Life's wild like that.
After graduating, Bosque was turned down by, well, every police force, and he ended up working as a Brink's security guard in San Francisco. He also met the love of his life, Carl Denton. When Carl broke up with him in 1980, Bosque snapped and robbed his own van. A vengeful Brink's offered a $150,000 reward for Bosque, who they believed to be hiding out in Peru. In reality, he was lying slightly less low in New York, where he developed an incredible cocaine habit and became a popular figure in the underground gay scene. (He shoveled huge stacks of cash at anyone who asked, which will certainly make you a popular figure in most scenes.)
At some point between conspicuous bathroom trips, Bosque apparently got bored and decided to make Centurians [sic] Of Rome, a big-budget gay porn set in Ancient Rome. It cost at least $200,000 ($600,000 today), and featured elaborate sets and a cast of 32 performers. Free cocaine was provided as part of the catering, and everyone got paid from a giant suitcase full of cash at the end of each day.
Shockingly, the shoot turned into a total disaster. Who could have foreseen?! For starters, Bosque kept rewriting the script at the last second, and his dialogue was so bad that the crew screamed with laughter off-camera, which wasn't the ideal atmosphere for passionate sex scenes. At one point, a guy laughed so hard that he had to lean against a supporting pole, and the whole set collapsed on top of the performers. None of the actors had ever ridden a horse before, so dramatic horseback scenes turned into "horse wandering around with a terrified stripper perched awkwardly on top" scenes. Bosque also insisted on shooting scenes at a local fisting club because they offered him free lifetime membership if he featured them.
Sadly, not even that cost-saving measure could keep Bosque from running out of money before post-production. Broke and lonely, he returned to San Francisco in search of Carl Denton. He didn't find his former lover, who had since moved to Texas, but the police, who had been trying to track him down for 15 months at this point, found him. He was super arrested, but there was still the matter of getting Brink's their money back, so their insurance company sued for the rights to the film Bosque made with it. The case was quickly dropped, however, after the director distributed photos of the fisting scene in court. So that's something to keep in mind should you ever find yourself in such a situation. In our experience, that's a good way to get out of any lawsuit.
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