5 True Crimes That Had Completely Bananas Plot Twists
Everyone loves a good twist. Remember when people screamed and fainted at the end of Sixth Sense, when the credits revealed that the creepy underpants guy from the beginning was Donnie Wahlberg? But real life has produced some truly bizarre crimes, with twists every bit as weird as anything Hollywood has produced, such as ...
A Guy Was Murdered In A Dispute Over Booze ... On Floating Chunk Of Ice In The Middle Of The Ocean
Back in 1970, a local drunk named Porky broke into a trailer and stole a jug of cruddy alcohol. Now, ol' Porky was well-known around the region for stealing liquor, sometimes at knifepoint, but on this occasion he'd gone too far. The enraged owner grabbed his rifle and burst into Porky's trailer to retrieve the stolen hooch. He discovered Porky drinking with his buddy Bennie Lightsy. A scuffle soon broke out and Bennie was shot dead. Not to stereotype, but you'd already be hearing banjo music if we didn't give the twist away in the entry title, like the fools we are.
Said twist being that the shooting happened at a scientific research station located on an ice floe floating in the Arctic Ocean.
The station was supposedly researching climate patterns, but it sounds more like an experiment to see how far you can push a lab tech before he snaps and tries to marry a seal. The 19 scientists and technicians were stationed in freezing conditions on the floe for months at a time, completely cut off from the outside world, with nothing to do but drink and listen to the base's two eight-track tapes. Since one of the tapes was Jefferson Airplane, they soon went crazy. Porky in particular descended into complete alcoholism and started attacking other scientists with a meat cleaver to steal their booze. This all ended with researcher Mario Escamilla accidentally shooting his boss Bennie Lightsy while trying to retrieve his jug of pruno.
But there was a second twist! Since the shooting took place on an ice floe in international waters, it was technically impossible for any nation to prosecute Escamilla. There are laws that allow for crimes committed on vessels to be prosecuted, but an iceberg isn't a vessel, no matter how many scientists have vomited on it. But don't go building an ice boat and taking to a life of polar piracy just yet ("Captain Cold" is already trademarked anyway). As it turned out, the US was able to find an ingenious solution to the problem, by just ignoring it completely.
American law enforcement eventually gave up on trying to find a legal loophole and just sent a plane out to the ice floe to grab Escamilla and take him back to Virginia. The unusual circumstances meant that the trial was technically illegal, but the issue was never resolved because the rifle turned out to have a faulty trigger and the jury acquitted Escamilla on the grounds that he had probably never intended to fire at all. This convenient solution allowed everyone to go back to ignoring the problem, at least until an astronaut gets space madness and we have to put together an elite team of astro-cops to catch the Martian Man-Mangler.
A Argentinian TV Station Had Wrestlers Kidnap The Beatles ... Who Turned Out To Be A Group Of American Impersonators Called "The Beetles"
Back in 1964, the Beatles had just appeared on the Ed Sullivan show and become international superstars (unlike Ed Sullivan, who was instantly euthanized by the CIA for promoting premarital hand-holding). It seemed like the whole world was going crazy for the three lovable scamps from Liverpool and their pet hobgoblin Ringo.
Soon, all of Argentina was abuzz with the news that the Fab Four would play a series of concerts in the country. It even became a point of national pride. Sure, Brazil kept winning World Cups, but the Beatles were coming to Argentina. Naturally, the country's leading TV stations competed to book the band for a live appearance. Channel 9 ultimately secured a signed contract, but their rivals at Channel 13 were undeterred and simply scheduled the band for the same night. You may sense trouble brewing.
When the band landed, Channel 13 challenged Channel 9's contract and used their government connections to have a judge award the Beatles concert to them instead. That's when Channel 9's CEO deployed his secret weapon: a squadron of muscle-bound wrestlers from the hit show "Titans in the Ring." The wrestlers charged into the airport and physically abducted the band, racing out pursued by the judge, cops and Channel 13 executives. Channel 13 briefly re-kidnapped the drummer, but later released him, presumably after executives realized that Ringo was not going to strap on a one-man-band outfit and carry the evening.
Channel 9 ultimately got everyone to a hidden recording studio they had secretly constructed in an isolated hotel. Frankly, the world would be a better place if all businessmen resolved their contract disputes with similar Wrestlemania-style antics, but in this case there was about to be an incredible twist: that wasn't the Beatles. It was actually a group of unconvincing American lookalikes called the Beetles. They had been performing as a Beatles cover band in the US when a shady Argentinean promoter spotted them and booked them for a lucrative South American tour -- without telling anybody they weren't the real deal.
Why do they all seem to have rickets?
This was actually a pretty common scam in the '60s, when many people had only heard their favorite band on the radio. Even James Brown once performed as Little Richard, while there were multiple fake versions of the Zombies touring at the same time. But in this case, the fake Beatles were so unconvincing that nobody was fooled for a minute. So picture the scene: every Beatles fan in Argentina is glued to the TV, practically drooling with excitement, and then the curtain comes up and out trots Jon, Pog, Jorge, and Flungo. The country took it with good humor, all things considered, and the American Beetles actually became minor celebrities who completed their tour, albeit now with the audience throwing coins and rocks at them.
Gunmen Stormed The Canadian Embassy In Beirut And Took Everyone Hostage ... On Behalf Of A Failed Theme Park
In 1976, masked men armed with AK-47s stormed the Canadian embassy in Beirut, taking 20 Canadians hostage at gunpoint. The previous year had seen a wave of embassy hostage-taking by terrorists, including lengthy standoffs with the likes of the Japanese Red Army and the Baader-Meinhof group, while Canadians still vividly remembered the October Crisis of 1970, when attacks by separatists led to the military being deployed in Quebec. So the whole country waited nervously to discover who the kidnappers were and what they wanted. As it turned out, the gunmen gave Canada an ultimatum: hand over Rattlesnake Island, or face the consequences. Which is an incredibly metal demand, although it starts to pale a little when you realize they just wanted to finish work on the putt-putt course.
Yes, the embassy attackers were acting on behalf of a failed theme park, located on Rattlesnake Island in British Columbia. It's like if Disneyland went under so the staff all grabbed uzis and tried to storm the White House in their Goofy costumes (make this the next Olympus Has Fallen sequel, cowards). The park was built by Eddy Haymour, a Lebanese-Canadian businessman who bought Rattlesnake Island after falling in love with the area around Lake Okanagan. Haymour thought that the island would be the perfect site for a Middle East-themed park, which featured a replica pyramid and a 30-foot tall camel with an ice-cream parlor in its stomach. He hoped the park would become a major tourist attraction where Canadians could learn about Middle Eastern culture while enjoying fun rides and activities.
Unfortunately, the plan was opposed by local residents, for typical local resident reasons. And the local MP happened to head the entire provincial government, so they had a lot more clout than your typical lake-dwellers. The BC government opposed Haymour every step of the way, denying him the necessary permits, then shut the park down on opening day when he went ahead and built it anyway. At which point, things took a non-explosive turn when Haymour was accused of threatening to send a letter bomb to the provincial premier. No actual letter bombs were ever found, but Haymour was still committed to a mental hospital and forced to sell Rattlesnake Island at a huge loss.
After being released, Haymour went back to Lebanon, rounded up some cousins and stormed the embassy. He eventually surrendered to the Lebanese police, who let him off with a $200 fine (embassy storming being more of a misdemeanor). The Canadian government was equally understanding and never tried to press charges. He actually returned to Canada shortly afterward and took the less dramatic step of suing the provincial government. The courts found that the premier had indeed broken the law to force Haymour to sell Rattlesnake Island and he was awarded $250,000 compensation. And let's take a moment to salute Canada, probably the only country where you can hold a government official at gunpoint and they'll just be like, "Well, you know what? He's making some good points."
A Bitcoin Exchange Suddenly Collapsed After Its CEO Died ... And The Whole Thing Turned Out To Have Started On A Literal Forum For Ponzi Schemers
For years, humans have dreamed of a way to make money by directly melting the Arctic ice caps, producing nothing of value along the way. With bitcoin, we finally achieved that dream, and the cryptocurrency now attracts a huge volume of investment. But to convert bitcoin into actual money, you have to trust a bitcoin exchange, which are largely unregulated and have an unfortunate tendency to say "oh sorry, we got hacked, all the bitcoins are gone" before the entire staff retire to suspiciously large mansions in the Seychelles.
That's where Quadriga came in. As Canada's largest bitcoin exchange, it handled billions in transactions every year and had a reputation as a reliable, stable company. It did business with top Canadian firms and even made plans to list on the Toronto stock exchange, which would bring a ton of financial scrutiny. For many people, it really seemed like a company you could trust ... right up until founder Gerald Cotten mysteriously died on a trip to India. His employees then reported that Cotten was the only person who knew the passwords to the company's bitcoin wallets, containing over $200 million in customer money, now irretrievably lost
That sounds like a terrible way to run a company, but it gets weirder. Investigators were able to determine that the wallets in question never held any money in the first place, meaning the $200 million had vanished some other way. Backup passwords were supposedly stored in a safe in Cotten's attic, but the entire safe was mysteriously missing. The company kept accepting funds for over a month after Cotten's death, despite being unable to pay them out. Quadriga itself turned out to be a virtually hollow company with almost no staff or internal records. And nobody did an autopsy after Cotten's sudden death in rural India ... you see where this is going.
Naturally, investigators expected to find a complicated hidden history behind such a high-profile scandal. Except that they immediately discovered that the whole thing should have been obvious from the beginning. Cotten and co-founder Mark Patryn had literally met on a public forum for aspiring Ponzi schemers. They went on to run a series of scams together, evidence of which remains littered all over the Internet, including a Ponzi scheme also called Quadriga. Mark Patryn was a pseudonym for Omar Dhanani, who had changed his name after serving a prison sentence for running a money-laundering operation. And it wasn't a hard pseudonym to crack: Patryn was just his old user name on the Ponzi scheme forum. They might as well have built a blinking neon sign saying "Ponzi Scheme" and people still queued up to give them money.
The IRS Investigated A Mysterious Bank ... And Somehow Ended Up Breaking Up Creedence Clearwater Revival
In the early 1970s, the IRS were starting to get worried about America's rich people, who all suddenly seemed to be flat broke. Even the Pritzker family, who owned Hyatt, were so hard up for cash that their hotels couldn't afford to pay any taxes at all. The IRS were so moved by this rapid fall from grace that they launched an investigation, probably with the intention of holding a canned food drive for the very poorest tycoons. Instead, they discovered Castle Bank & Trust, an offshore bank in the Bahamas that specialized in helping wealthy people dodge taxes.
The IRS suspected this involved a lot of illegal activity, but overseas tax havens were still a fairly new concept and they just couldn't crack the case ... until they turned to a pair of grizzled Miami private eyes named Norman Casper and Sybil Kennedy. They quickly took the job, probably figuring that the IRS was very unlikely to double-cross them in a shadowy alley, like all their other clients. The pair went undercover to befriend top bank officials, gaining valuable information in the process. The breakthrough came when Casper tricked a top bank executive into going on a date with Kennedy, leaving a suitcase full of incriminating evidence in her apartment. Casper then let himself in and photographed every document, revealing one of the craziest financial schemes ever.
The documents revealed that Castle Bank was running illegal money laundering schemes linked to gangsters like Meyer Lansky and Moe Dalitz. The IRS moved to bring charges, while Castle quickly collapsed. So far, that's no more shocking than like half the banks in the Bahamas, but then the IRS suddenly dropped all further investigation, apparently at the behest of the CIA. Yeah, Castle turned out to have been founded by CIA agent Paul Helliwell, who specialized in setting up front companies, and was acting as the agency's money-launderer of choice in the Caribbean.
One of the bank's best clients turned out to be Creedence Clearwater Revival. All of the band's royalties since 1969 were paid straight to Castle, allowing them to avoid paying US taxes. Seriously, guys? You wrote a hit song about this! Was Fortunate Son supposed to be an instruction manual? Anyway, the whole thing backfired when the bank collapsed and Creedence lost all their savings. Singer John Fogerty blamed their record label for introducing them to Castle and the whole thing led to a string of lawsuits, including one between John and his brother (a founding member). The strained relationships heavily contributed to the band breaking up. And that's how the CIA accidentally destroyed the only listenable band in your uncle's record collection.
Top image: American Bandstand