55 Incompetent Criminals To Make You Feel Instantly Smarter
Not all of us will kill Great-Aunt Agnes for the inheritance, but all of us have mentally planned how we would do it. We've also fantasized about robbing banks and smuggling barrels of rare spices, and all of these plans are supremely detailed because none of us want to get caught. However, those who actually do make a career of crime sometimes don't put nearly enough thought into matters, and their crimes blow up in their dumb criminal faces ...
1. The Wanted Poster
When a Taliban commander learned there was a $100 reward out for information related to the terrorist Mohammad Ashan, he went to an Afghan checkpoint to offer all he knew. This was particularly unwise when you learn that this Taliban commander was Mohammad Ashan himself, and he still demanded his reward money as he was arrested.
2. The Fugitive
R.C. Gaitlin was wanted for armed robbery in 1988 when he spotted some police showing off their equipment to children. Curious about how the stuff worked, he asked them to demonstrate their scanner using his driver's license. The police were surprised to find an open warrant out for the guy and immediately took him in.
Drunk and wanting to go visit her sweetheart, Tracy Nadine Ellenburg stole a horse and rode it through town, tying it to a bench outside a convenience store. When police caught up with her, she claimed she was sober -- it was the horse who was drunk. It was unclear if riding drunk was a crime, but disorderly conduct was.
4. Bat Man
Derrick Mosley, a man with a dream, decided to rob a gun store. He armed himself with the best weapon he owned: His baseball bat. Of course, the store owner had a rather stronger weapon within reach, so Derrick was lucky the guy merely held him at gunpoint till the cops came instead of shooting him.
5. The Facebook Killers
In the early days of Facebook, many people seemed to think of it as a sort of dark web, full of criminals-for-hire and invisible to police. One guy was utterly stunned when police spotted his ad offering $600 to kill his rape accuser, while another time, the FBI has to step in when a woman tried to get an assassin to kill anyone wearing fur.
7. Dyslexic Dial Sussex
An East Sussex driver was stopped for driving 103 miles per hour and said that his dyslexia was to blame. He'd looked at the speedometer and thought it said he was doing 31 miles per hour. Police found various flaws with this story. For starters, the speedometer used a dial.
8. Epic Petty Theft
John Fletcher was sentenced in the '50s and '60s for committing over 100 thefts. That sounds like he must have had quite the career. But when you add up all his hauls, he only ever managed to steal a total of $150. Upon his release, he broke into three schools and stole $3.60.
9. Bicycle Thieves
A couple of housebreakers in St. Paul, Minnesota, tried to make off with a desktop computer, among various other items, with their only getaway vehicles being their bicycles. A neighbor managed to block them in with his car. Arrested, the thieves claimed they'd seen the house listed as "free" on Craigslist, meaning its entire contents was free for the taking.
10. Silent Assassin
A Las Vegas Poker Dealer set up HitmanForHire.net, but he didn't actually kill anyone. Instead, he took assassination jobs, approached the targets, and offered to let them pay him off to avoid dying. It didn't occur to him that the victim might instead simply call the FBI and put an end to his scheme.
11. Dumber Than The Average
A New York man's plan to kill his girlfriend involved first killing a bear, then skinning the bear, then using the skin of the bear to disguise himself as a bear. He would kill his victim using bear claws and thus would totally escape detection. Maybe he would have succeeded had he not chickened out on the entire thing and instead asked help from a friend, who called the cops.
12. Always Rings Twice
Russian doctor Alexander Kishko got arrested for stealing a patient's phone, but a judge cleared him and released him. So Kishko stole the judge's phone before even leaving the building. A marshal spotted him, and Kishko found himself facing four years in prison after all.
13. Caught Needles-ly
14. Never Hurts To Ask
Three men robbed Diana Martinez at gunpoint in her apartment building's parking lot in 2009. Three hours later, one of them came by again to ask her out on a date. She didn't say yes, but she did call the police, who arrived in minutes and arrested him.
Police already had considerable evidence that Walter Gafvert was in possession of child porn. But he didn't help his defense very much when he started downloading additional child porn on his phone while police were interrogating him in the station.
16. This City Is Yours
Micah Calamosca followed up a minor crime spree by breaking into the car of the very detective who was investigating him -- while the detective was inside, armed. Calamosca falsely claimed that he was actually acting in The Dark Knight Rises (which really was filming nearby) and had to steal a detective's car for the role.
17. Identity Theft
Plenty of kids who go out drinking use fake IDs. But only one (that we know of) tried to use the stolen ID of the very Applebee's waitress who was serving them the drink. The waitress was not fooled.
18. Le Big Mac
Two armed robbers held up a McDonald's in France in 2016, which should have been an easy target. But that day, 11 members of French paramilitary forces happened to be dining there. They didn't respond till one of the robbers tripped on his way out, but then they pounced.
19. The Olympics Bomber
When police identified Eric Robert Rudolph as the man behind the bombing at the 1996 Olympics, they said his military experience meant he'd be an expert fugitive and should only be approached with the utmost caution. Instead, a rookie cop saw him in a supermarket parking lot and easily took him in, despite the man ducking behind a milk crate.
20. Galadriel's Secret
21. The Fake Cross-Dresser
A Bratislava woman hired a governess to poison her husband. When this took too long, she told him the governess was actually a man in disguise -- and when he confronted the (not a man) governess about this, she tried to seduce him, then instead just shot him in the head. He survived the shooting long enough to get confused and go out in search of the shooter and then to tell the police everything.
22. The LoJack Thief
A 40-year-old porch pirate from Wisconsin stole the package belonging to a neighbor under house arrest. It was not a wise theft. The package contained the hub for the neighbor's ankle monitor ... meaning, it was roughly the easiest possible item to track.
23. Think Different
Apple phones often upload photos directly to the owner's cloud account. Criminals don't seem to realize this, so several have been caught by taking selfies on a stolen phone. One Disney cruise employee stole a guest's phone then took photos of himself with his company nametag clearly readable.
24. See You Later
Bryan Zuniga figured the cop who stopped him was about to book him for a DUI. So he got out of his car and fled. Police next heard from him when the hospital got him. He'd run behind a water treatment plant and right into the mouth of an alligator.
25. The Bearded Lady
Dennis Hawkins took care to disguise himself as a woman when he robbed a Pennsylvania bank, complete with a blonde wig and fake breasts. He did not make any attempt to conceal his mustache or goatee. Somewhere around the point that the dye pack exploded all over him in a car he stole, he gave up and just waited for capture.
26. The Times Square Bomber
It's been more than 10 years now since Faisal Shahzad failed to blow up Timed Square because he didn't know how explosives work. He also didn't know how keys work: He accidentally left his home and car keys in the vehicle with the dud bomb, so he had to use the train for his getaway and was quickly caught.
28. Four Men And A Cheese
Aspiring model Jessica Booth spotted a pile of cocaine in a neighboring home, apparently owned by a gang. She hired an assassin to steal the cocaine for her and kill the men (as well as any children who might be witnesses). Turned out, though, that the hitman was an undercover cop, the men were just innocent friends living together, and the cocaine was actually a block of queso fresco cheese.
29. Just Borrowing It
A thief stole a Chrysler 300 in 2012, but then he returned it to the same street that same day. Later that week, he stole the same car again, this time having to break into the house to steal the keys. Once again, he returned it. He showed up a third time too, and now, he got caught in the act.
30. The To-Do List
After an investment partnership went bad, with fraud on all sides, Joe Hunt put together a plan to murder his partner and dispose of the body. He pulled it off. But police caught him because they found his plan. He'd written a literal plan, a to-do list with all the steps he was going to take.
31. Bad Neighborhood
Right after he robbed a Brazilian pharmacist, Mauricio Fierro found that his car had been stolen -- his stolen car had been stolen again by someone else. Soon after, an unrelated robber approached him and mugged him of all his loot. Fierro went to the police station to report his bad luck. Also, in line, there was the pharmacist he'd just robbed.
32. The BTK Killer
Dennis Rader killed 10 -- he accomplished that much. Then in 2004, he sent the police the following message: "Look, be honest with me. If I send you a disk, will it be traceable? Just put in the newspaper." The police announced that they had no way of tracing disks, so Rader sent in a floppy with taunting messages ... and with enough metadata that investigators easily figured out who he was.
33. Evening, Gentlemen
When Joseph Meacham was caught driving drunk in 2013, he knocked the cop aside and fled. Luckily for him, the cop didn't immediately fire on him. Unluckily for him, the building he fled into happened to be the St. Louis police headquarters.
35. No Names Exist and No Fingerprints
To become the perfect criminal, Robert Phillips got a doctor to graft skin from his belly to his fingers, successfully removing his fingerprints. Then he went on a crime spree. The problem was, he still left palm prints everywhere he went. And leaving palm prints with no fingerprints actually left him more identifiable than ever ...
36. Victim Strangles Back
The owner of a porn shop paid his janitor to break in and kill his wife, Susan. But when the janitor arrived, swinging a hammer, Susan managed to overpower him. She offered to call an ambulance for him, but he kept fighting, and she had to strangle him -- and the police realized her husband was responsible when they read his day planner.
37. The Son-In-Law
Thomas Mines was due in court for violating his parole, and he figured this wouldn't end well for him. So he called in a bomb threat. To camouflage what he was doing, he also called in bomb threats to two schools. This never stood a chance of exonerating him, but he might have at least escaped getting caught for this additional crime ... if he didn't make the calls from his mother-in-law's house.
38. Step 3: Profit
Cincinnati police in 2007 realized Kim Leblanc had broken into a car when they discovered him inside it, naked from the waist down. According to Leblanc, leprechauns had let him into the car. Police have been unable to confirm the veracity of this statement.
39. Pot Ransom
When police found a marijuana grow house in Marathon, Florida, they jokingly left a note, offering to return the confiscated plants in exchange for a ransom. The grower, Steve Locasio, took them up on their offer. He called to the police station and negotiated a ransom of $200. An officer came to the meeting spot all right, but not to hand the pot back.
40. Never Talk To Cops
A New York cop pulled over a Tennessee driver for a missing license plate, and the driver admitted that he had a gun on him. Then he added that he also had pipes in the car, and drugs, and cuffs, and hollow-point bullets. The passenger then perked up and added that he had a couple blunts in the ashtray. The cop hadn't been planning to search the vehicle.
41. F Tha Police
42. Be More Like Sweden?
A 57-year-old Swedish man contacted a 13-year-old online, sent her money, and made an appointment to meet up for sex. She didn't show. Frustrated, he came to her home and spoke with her father to request a refund. All told, he was lucky to escape with just having to pay the police a fine.
43. Tweakers of Walmart
Apparently, it's possible to cook meth in mini-batches using portable equipment. We know this because multiple people have been caught doing this while shopping at Walmart.
44. My Karma Hit Your Dogma
CCTV in Bogota caught an interesting sight in 2013. A mugger took the phone off a victim and ran away -- right into the path of an oncoming bus. The victim retrieved the phone, then helped the man up and sought medical attention for him.
45. "Gunsmoke, Guns for Hire"
This Phoenix company organized themed parties. It did not actually offer gunmen for hire. But housewife Sharleen Bath called them anyway, after seeing them in the Yellow Pages and figuring she now knew how to kill her husband. The company thought she was pranking them at first, then called the police when they realized she wasn't.
46. Butt-Dialing 911
Yes, multiple criminals have pocket dialed 911 while in the middle of discussing their crimes, leaving enough clues so that the police manage to nail them. One criminal, Scott Simon, managed to get himself on police tape this way describing a murder he planned to commit ... and that he did go on to commit, and go on to be arrested for.
47. Don't Mess With Texas
Three Texan burglars broke into a home and forced the owner into his own closet so they could loot the place. What they did not realize was that this closet was, specifically, the man's gun closet. And so ends the story of the three Texan burglars.
48. The Wrong Way To Woo
49. The Werewolf Defense
When police confronted Thomas Stroup about drunkenly starting fights, he said he couldn't help it. He had recently been to Germany, where a werewolf had bitten him, and so he no longer had control of himself. His passport confirmed his Germany trip, but police still doubted the story. Also, Stroup threatened to kill the deputy's cousin Keith. The deputy did not have a cousin Keith.
50. Civic Duty
David Thompson appeared to have good intentions when he entered a police station in 2012, offering a tip on a case. But then he stole a bag of marijuana right off the evidence counter. "The bud smelled so good," he later told the police, surprised they were arresting him.
51. Real Estate/Immobilier
A husband and wife staged a robbery in their home, and police stopped by to investigate. The cops were surprised to hear the wife explaining to her father, within earshot, that this was all an insurance fraud scheme. Perhaps she thought they wouldn't understand her since she was speaking French. But this was in Canada, where French is an official language, along with English.
52. Placebo Boxes
Gary Bolton sold devices that he said could detect bombs -- as well as drugs, ivory, and even cash. The devices were actually empty boxes with handles and antennae stuck on top, as was easily proven the first time a buyer X-rayed one, leading Bolton to a seven-year prison sentence.
53. Location, Location, Location
Cannabis growers in Wales set up a massive operation, growing plants in some 9,000 square feet of floor space. The set up this grow in a warehouse right next to a police custody center. Seriously, right next to it, so police quickly smelled something odd coming from next door.
A Michigan man was already facing fraud charges. Then when submitting his fingerprints, he had to pay a $16 fee. He paid by credit card -- a stolen credit card. Maybe he didn't know the police can detect that sort of thing?
55. My Torched Kentucky Home