6 True Crimes (Starring The Dumbest People Possible)

Being a successful criminal is harder than it looks, and only partly because successful criminals don't like you looking at them all the time. In fact, a whole bunch of people have tried to carry out truly bizarre crimes, only to fall flat on their faces at the first opportunity. So bear the following examples in mind before you try to rob the roller-skate factory on bring-your-marbles-to-work day. (Trust us: everyone there has just finished eating a banana.)

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6
A Bumbling Gang Terrorized Sleepy Museums With Botched Rhino Head Heists

The Rathkeale Rovers were an Irish gang who hit on a brilliant plan. The black markets for rhino horn and Chinese antiquities were booming, and many valuable items were housed in obscure local museums throughout the UK. These small museums couldn't exactly afford Ocean's 11-style security, so the gang figured they could easily grab valuable artifacts without having to backflip through a grid of lasers.

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In Norwich Castle museum, four thieves tried to pry the horn off a stuffed rhino head, but it turned out to have been nailed into place by an enthusiastic taxidermist. So they tried to take the whole head, but the same taxidermist had filled it with clay. They ended up frantically lugging the world's heaviest rhino head through the castle, screaming at confused tourists to get out of the way. They actually made it to the main hall, where they encountered a visiting squad of zoologists, who quickly deployed into zoologist attack formation, surrounding the robbers and kicking at their knees as they teetered toward the exit. When a curator jumped in to "sweep the leg," the thieves finally dropped the rhino head and escaped at speed, leaving behind a spinning car license plate with an incriminating fingerprint on it.

In fairness, this isn't the lightest shit even when it's just full of rhino.Sheila1988/Wikimedia CommonsIn fairness, this isn't the lightest shit even when it's just full of rhino.

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An attempt to swipe a statue failed when the guy panicked and tried to escape the museum by running up a flight of stairs, which obviously did not lead to an exit. We hate to judge, but your art heist should really not be foiled by goddamn stairs. Another guy was sent to swipe a priceless jade bowl, but got confused and grabbed a bamboo bowl instead, since those two substances are so famously similar. They successfully got a fortune in jade out of the FitzWilliam Museum, but can be seen on a security camera accidentally dropping the duffel bag containing all the delicate antiques.

Finally, they managed to grab a Ming Dynasty figurine and bowl worth millions. The heist team then hid the loot on an industrial estate. However, when the gang went back to get the items, nobody could find them, prompting a series of "frantic phone calls" as they swept the estate desperately looking for a tiny bowl, which police later found under a pile of hedge trimmings a neighbor had thrown over his garden wall. The mistake allowed the cops to finally track down the ringleaders after underlings panicked and called them directly during the search for the missing bowl. Everyone was just super-arrested.

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5
The Manson Family Tried To Poison A Witness With An LSD Hamburger

In 1969, Charles Manson was in prison for stealing Volkswagen Beetles and converting them into an army of dune buggies, a crime that would later inspire the hit film Herbie Goes Helter-Skelter! Meanwhile law enforcement were busy unravelling the many murders carried out by his cult. But with little physical evidence linking Manson himself to the killings, prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi knew he'd need some of Manson's followers to testify against him. One particular possibility was Barbara Hoyt, a former Manson Family member who had overheard key details. But Hoyt was reluctant to testify.

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Meanwhile, Manson still had a small group of loyal believers on the outside, led by Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, who would later become famous for trying to assassinate Gerald Ford, in a completely unprecedented case of something interesting happening to Gerald Ford. Fromme's group was also aware that Hoyt might testify. So they hatched a plan to silence her permanently. Step one was to offer her an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii in exchange for not testifying. Hoyt accepted. Inexplicably, there was a step two and it involved poisoning Hoyt with an LSD hamburger.

Manson loyalist Ruth Ann Moorehouse was sent to Hawaii with Hoyt, with instructions to gauge her mood and report back daily. Apparently it wasn't great, mostly because the paranoid Moorehouse insisted they spend the whole trip hiding inside their suite. Concerned that Hoyt couldn't be trusted, the Manson loyalists launched Operation Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. The hit went down at the Honolulu airport, where Moorehouse suggested grabbing a burger. She made Hoyt pay (this was a budget poisoning after all), while she went outside with the burger. After Hoyt ate, Moorehouse remarked "Just imagine if there were ten tabs of acid in your hamburger," then vanished.

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Hoyt then began to feel increasingly disoriented, forced herself to throw up, and began running in a blind panic, before blacking out entirely on the steps of the Salvation Army building. She was rushed to hospital and treated for a massive overdose. Luckily, the plan had a few problems. For starters, an LSD overdose won't kill you. Secondly, don't tell the victim you're poisoning them. All they managed to do was convince Hoyt to testify, right after they had successfully bribed her not to. Literally her final words before she blacked out were "call Mr. Bugliosi." So good job there guys.

4
Assassins Kept Subcontracting The Same Job Out For Less And Less Money Until The Whole Thing Collapsed

In 2013, Chinese property developer Tan Youhui was being sued by a former business partner. So he paid a hitman 2 million yuan (then worth $328,000 US) to take the guy out. Which is a pretty disturbing way to resolve a legal dispute, although we have to admit it would make Judge Judy way more entertaining if it catches on. But what Tan didn't realize is that the rise of the gig economy has everybody subcontracting their shit out and assassination is apparently no exception.

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The first hitman, figuring that 2 million yuan was a lot of money, just found another guy and paid him 1 million yuan to do it, keeping the other half for himself. That guy also just kept a chunk of the money and subcontracted the job out to a third assassin. Who then subcontracted it to a fourth guy, who subcontracted a fifth guy. At which point we're surprised the whole thing didn't end up on Craigslist with a note that there was no pay, but the murder would definitely be great exposure.

So in a very short period of time Tan Youhui's expensive professional hit had turned into a worthless 100,000 yuan job taken by an idiot named Liang Xiansi. Who then turned around and tried to subcontract it to the victim. Seriously! Liang's fee was so low that he certainly never considered actually killing anyone over it. Instead, he asked for a meeting with the target and tried to talk him into staging a photo shoot of his own murder so that Liang could go back and collect the payout.

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The guy actually agreed, and posed bound and gagged for a series of photos. These were then relayed all the way back up the murder-chain to Tan. Except that the intended victim obviously then contacted the police with all his evidence. Tan was promptly arrested, as were all five hitmen. All six were convicted in 2019. There's probably a lesson in that, but the plumber we hired on TaskRabbit to write this article couldn't think of one.

3
Iowa's Wildest College Snapchat Tycoon Tried To Steal A Domain Name At Gunpoint

Rossi Adams was an Iowa State University student who set up State Snaps, a group of Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts where college kids could submit videos and photos of wild parties. They quickly became a social media hit, with fans chanting "Do it for state!" during various drunken shenanigans and competing to tattoo the slogan on their ass. Think of it like "Worldstar!" but for stuff that'll derail a bunch of Senate confirmations in about 30 years. (Although things will get much worse in another 30 years, when some poor kids are going to take a family trip to the beach and learn all about grandma's ass tats.)

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Adams quickly found himself making decent money from his viral accounts, but he had a problem: fellow Iowans Chris and Ethan Deyo had bought doitforstatesnaps.com and were using it to sell merchandise and promote their own parties. In a text to a party promoter, Ethan Deyo bragged "I have DoItForState.com set up with all social media handles im about to take this guys business over and ride his wave." When Adams confronted them, the Deyo brothers demanded a hefty fee for the domain, which Adams refused to pay. The feud between the rival State Snaps camps quickly escalated, with the two sides promoting rival parties and spring break events.

Oh no, our rivals are spraying our party with foam! We're ruined!!Carl Roett/Wikimedia Commons"Oh no, our rivals are spraying our party with foam! We're ruined!!

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In 2017, a masked gunman burst into the Deyo residence, pressed a gun to Ethan's head, and screamed, "Okay motherfucker! Godaddy.com!" This was not the most aggressive GoDaddy marketing campaign yet (although they're getting there). Instead, it turned out to be Adams' cousin, bearing a note reading "Go to GoDaddy.com. Sign in. Go to domains. Click/check transfer domain, DoItForState.com. Enter 96676333 RJ_Mr_Adams123@yahoo.com." Yep, they were mugging a guy for a domain name, because all great crimes involve waving your contact information in the victim's face.

There were just so many problems with this plan. For starters, GoDaddy also requires a physical address, meaning the gunman had to call his cousin, who was hiding outside, and give his home address to the guy they were robbing. They also didn't realize that GoDaddy doesn't transfer accounts instantly, but instead checks back in a couple of days to confirm. And finally, Ethan Deyo somehow managed to wrestle the gun away and non-fatally shoot the guy three times. Adams' cousin testified against him in return for a reduced sentence (Adams had also bought the burner phone the guy was carrying). As an added bonus, Adams's latest business partner didn't see any point running a social media business through an actual website in this day and age, making it unclear why he became so obsessed with the domain name in the first place.

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2
A Defense Contractor Tried To Become A Top Spy For The Russians ...To Make More Money For The Woman Catfishing Him Online

Gregory Justice was born with the perfect name for a career as a hotshot lawyer who breaks hearts and the rules. Instead, he boringly flunked a boring-ass engineering degree, then spent 15 long years putting the "R" in Boeing. While a contractor for the company, Justice was assigned to work on US spy satellites, the least exciting thing to ever have the word "spy" in it. Seriously, Greg, you could have had a cheesy TV commercial and a wisecracking partner called Linda Judge. We are just so mad at you.

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In 2016, Justice suddenly placed several phone calls to the Russian consulate in San Francisco, offering to become a mole. The Russians obviously 100% ignored him. We don't care what your uncle said, you can't get a job in espionage just by pounding the pavement and getting your CV out there. But the calls did catch the attention of the FBI, who had an agent go undercover as a Russian spy and contact Justice, presumably while doing the very best Russian accent the Quantico amateur drama club can provide.

Justice explained that he was drowning in medical debt and wanted to sell state secrets to pay it off. He also
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talked a lot about the show The Americans, as well as online courses he had taken called things like "Spy Escape and Evasion". Over the next few months, Justice handed over classified satellite data in return for cash. In fact, he approved to be an adorably eager secret agent, even suggesting he could take his handler as his guest on a tour of Boeing facilities to secretly record everything with a pair of smart glasses.
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But the FBI were puzzled to learn that Justice didn't have much medical debt at all. They also discovered that he was sending around $1,000 per week to a woman named Chay, who he had met online. All the FBI money went straight to her, either in cash or in gifts purchased on Amazon, including televisions, a barbecue, and a Dyson bladeless fan. They were even more surprised when they did a reverse image search on Chay and discovered that all her photos were stolen from a stock model -- dude was just being catfished. Which does undercut the whole cool spy fantasy a bit. We haven't seen the show, but we assume Bob and Mona-Lisa American didn't get into espionage to help out their good friend, the prince of Nigeria.

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1
The King Of The Darkweb Spent $500,000 Paying A Con Artist To Murder Himself

Silk Road was the Amazon of the dark web, a massive online marketplace for a whole bunch of illegal stuff. But mostly drugs, with millions of dollars in sales running through Silk Road each month. The site was run by a person or persons under the username Dread Pirate Roberts, who law enforcement have subsequently identified as Ross Ulbricht. Ulbricht ordered multiple murders while running Silk Road, but nobody actually ended up being killed. Which is unsurprising given that his favorite hitman turned out to be a scammer who was getting paid to murder himself.

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We're about to throw a lot of screen names at you, so feel free to imagine each one wearing a different fancy hat if that helps you keep track. The whole thing started when a user called FriendlyChemist messaged Ulbricht, claiming that a user named LucyDrop had scammed him out of $700,000, leaving him in debt to a terrifying Canadian gang. FriendlyChemist demanded Ulbricht repay him or else he would reveal the real identities of high-profile Silk Road users. Ulbricht refused and began messaging LucyDrop, demanding FriendlyChemist's identity so he could be "threatened with violence."

Have you pictured anyone in a Carmen Miranda hat yet? It's the best one.Billboard Yearbook, 1943Have you pictured anyone in a Carmen Miranda hat yet? It's the best one.

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LucyDrop demurred, but introduced Ulbricht to a user called redandwhite, who claimed to work for the Canadian gang owed money by FriendlyChemist. They reassured Ulbricht that "we have kidnapped friendlychemists partner Xin," which is indeed a comforting sentence. However, Xin had repaid the debt, so they weren't interested in FriendlyChemist, who was still threatening to expose the usernames. Ulbricht then tried to hire redandwhite to murder FriendlyChemist in a hilariously amateurish conversation containing messages like "I've only ever commissioned the one other hit, so I'm still learning this market. I have no problem putting my faith in you, and I am sure you will do a good job."

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That positive attitude turned out to be misplaced, because FriendlyChemist, LucyDrop, and redandwhite were almost certainly the same person, running an elaborate scam. It's not clear if they had the whole thing planned out or if the scammer quickly created the assassin persona after Ulbricht refused to pay the extortion money. Either way, the whole thing ended with Ulbricht paying redandwhite over $500,000 to murder himself. It would be a con worthy of a movie, if only there was a jazz soundtrack snappy enough to make 90 minutes of people typing look exciting.

Top image: Alexander Kirch/Shutterstock

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