4 Crimes From History That Made Absolutely Zero Sense
Everyone loves a good wacky crime story, which is why we keep accosting you with more of them. Over the years, we've covered strip club cocaine subs, gigantic mystical crime pearls, the Manson Family's LSD hamburger, gigantic mystical crime emeralds, fake countries waging dream warfare on the US, and a disappointingly non-mystical gigantic crime diamond. And trust us, this well is nowhere near dry yet. Just consider ...
German Police Became Locked In A Cat-And-Mouse Game With "Scrooge McDuck" And His Many Gadgets
Back in 1993, Germany was being terrorized by a mysterious bomber. The bombs were carefully timed not to kill anyone, but the bomber threatened to plant deadlier devices unless a huge ransom was placed inside an apparently random box of road grit, located on a busy street. Naturally, undercover policemen lurked everywhere, planning to swoop in and arrest the bomber when he tried to collect the payoff. To their surprise, nobody approached. They eventually cracked open the grit bin again, only to discover an open manhole. The bomber had carefully constructed a fake government grit bin with a false bottom, positioned it over a manhole, and was already hightailing it away through the sewers. It was clear that such a brilliant crime could only have been committed by the country's most fiendish master criminal ... Scrooge McDuck.
Okay, so it wasn't actually the cartoon millionaire (although he had to get all that money somehow), but rather a mysterious extortionist using "Scrooge McDuck" as an alias. Also, he actually called himself "Dagobert," the German name for the cartoon character, a fact which we absolutely will not be acknowledging for the remainder of this entry.
McDuck had first struck in 1986, when a bomb went off in one of Germany's swankiest department stores. It detonated at night and nobody was hurt, but the bomber swore to strike again during the day unless the store paid a huge ransom. The police arranged for the store to pay up, planning to arrest whoever picked up the ransom. But they were taken by surprise when Scrooge ordered the bagman to board a long-distance train and throw the bag from the window when ordered via radio. It was impossible to police the whole route and McDuck managed to snag the money and escape despite helicopters hovering overhead. In 1992, he struck again, demanding an even larger ransom. But this time, the police were determined not to be embarrassed. Unfortunately, they were about to be disappointed.
The bomber turned out to be a master gadgeteer, with an endless supply of gizmos designed to get away with the cash. At the first handover, the cops found a complex set of electromagnets, which were used to clamp the cash to a passenger train. At a random point on the route, McDuck remotely deactivated the magnets and grabbed the package. Another time, the drop team was directed to an abandoned railway track, where they found a tiny train built by the bomber. The train sped off into the night with the ransom as a SWAT team sprinted after it, only to duck for cover when the train automatically detonated fireworks along the tracks. At yet another drop, a cop actually managed to grab McDuck, only to slip on dog poop and let him get away again. A police officer was subsequently pictured on the front pages kicking a lamppost in frustration.
McDuck never killed anyone, so repeatedly outwitting the cops made him a national hero. People even made a fortune selling bomber-themed merchandise. Ironically, one person definitely not making any money from the crimes was Scrooge McDuck. After that first successful crime back in the ‘80s, the police had decided not to allow any more ransoms to be paid. Every single package after that was basically filled with torn up newspaper. And yet the frustrated Scrooge kept trying and trying to collect a real ransom, coming up with more and more creative ways to get away with the money, only to discover it was fake every time. He was finally caught when Germany's first criminal profiler kept him on the phone long enough to trace. The police discovered a homemade submarine in his hidden workshop, ready for use in the next ransom handover. Yeah, we're sure that one would have done it man.
A Top-Secret Ring Of Drivers Made A (Very) Small Fortune ... By Being Hit By Trucks
What would you do to make $100,000? If you said, "put a little Sade on the radio, roll my windows down to feel the breeze and then gun my Daewoo Nubira directly into the path of a moving cement truck," then boy do we have some good news for you. Apparently, that was an extremely viable career option, at least if you happened to live in New Orleans between 2015 and 2018. The authorities down there recently uncovered a major organized crime ring, accused of earning millions of dollars by intentionally staging literally hundreds of crashes with unsuspecting big rig drivers. It was kind of like the first Fast & the Furious movie, if Dom hadn't been chasing down trucks to steal VCRs, but to drive his Honda directly into the back of them.
The plan was apparently masterminded by some shady personal injury lawyers, who realized that ambulance chasing was a lot easier if you just pushed your client in front of one. The lawyers recruited a network of "spotters," who identified targets, and "slammers," who actually carried out the crashes. For example, a slammer named Cornelius Garrison is believed to have crashed into more than 50 tractor-trailers in the New Orleans area. Garrison would then sneak into a getaway car driven by a spotter, while a third guy jumped out and claimed to have been driving during the crash. Which is very disappointing for those of us hoping that the same guy sued in more than 50 accidents, claiming to be the victim of a weird trucker vendetta.
The lawyers would then sue the freight company, hoping to get a big out-of-court settlement from their insurance company. They were helped by some very helpful doctors, who certified the drivers with nonexistent injuries and even carried out a bunch of completely unnecessary surgeries in order to juice insurance payouts. Seriously, multiple people agreed to get their neck vertebrae fused in exchange for an extra couple grand in settlements. Meanwhile, this scam was apparently very successful, since they pulled it off at least 150 times in under three years. Seriously, if you were a trucker the roads outside New Orleans were basically like a demolition derby, with cars flying in from every angle.
Multiple people have now admitted to their roles in the scam, including attorney Danny Keating, who is believed to be one of the ringleaders. Although the local papers are being fairly open about hinting that the other masterminds are still out there, possibly helped by the mysterious death of slammer Cornelius Garrison, who was found shot in the head just days after being indicted. So what kind of massive payouts could motivate people to undertake such daring crimes? Well, Keating is estimated to have made around $350,000 over the course of several years, while Garrison is believed to have been paid around $150,000 in return for crashing into over 50 trucks! That ... seems like an insanely small amount of money to orchestrate a high-speed freeway crime spree over. Damn, this really is like the first Fast & the Furious movie.
Victorian England's Most Sheltered Poet Had To Defy Her Father To Take On London's Sinister Dognapping Crime Lord
These days, poetry is kind of like sewer maintenance: It's definitely going on out there somewhere, but most people would prefer not to hear about it. But back in 19th century England, poetry was huge. And no poet was more beloved than Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who became so famous that you're probably still vaguely familiar with her work today ("How do I love thee? Let me count the ways" was one of her bangers).
Like most Victorian poets, Barrett Browning had a laudanum addiction and a vague recurring illness that kept her bedridden for months. But the fun didn't stop there! She was also basically held prisoner by her controlling father, the wealthy heir to Jamaican slave plantations. The guy forbade his children from ever marrying or moving out of his house, keeping them under tight control well into their forties. By 1846, Elizabeth had secretly become engaged to a distant admirer, but it seemed like she might never find the strength to break free of her father and elope. But then she crossed paths with London's most terrifying crime ring: The Fancy.
Despite being named like villains in an unsuccessful Reba McIntire musical, the Fancy were a powerful ring of cockney dognappers, who raked in a fortune by swiping the purebred dogs of London's rich and famous. And these weren't charming dognappers like beloved children's movie hero Cruella de Vil. The Fancy were known for stalking potential targets for up to two years, while owners who refused to pay the ransom could expect to receive their dog's severed head in the post. Which sounds pretty monstrous, but perhaps we're being too harsh, and all their parents were murdered by puppies when they were children or something.
When Elizabeth's beloved dog Flush was kidnapped by Fancy boys while she was getting into a carriage, her cruel father refused to pay the ransom. In fairness to him, this was the third time the dog had been kidnapped, and at some point you gotta start popping a leash on that thing Liz, but the news was still devastating. Especially after a Fancy man informed her ,"You'll never see your dog again." Her fiance wrote her a letter in which he fantasized about beheading the dognapper after declaring, "I will be the death of you and as many of your accomplices as I can discover," but since he was a wimpy poet who was then lying in bed with an vague recurring illness (told you), she failed to be impressed. Instead, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
Unfortunately, that didn't mean going full John Wick, regardless of her boyfriend's fantasies. But she did sneak out of the house at night and take a cab to Whitechapel, then London's most dangerous slum. If you wanted a pack of dog-sized feral rats to mug you in an alley, Whitechapel was the place to go, whereas Elizabeth was a sheltered aristocrat who had never encountered anything more unpleasant than a particularly ugly daffodil. But she mustered all her nerve and made her way through the smoke-filled streets to engage in a high-stakes negotiation with the Fancy. Just weeks later, she would find the courage to leave her father's house for good, escaping to Italy with her fiance ... and the dog, retrieved safe and sound in return for a small payment.
A Mysterious Racer Turned Heads At The Indy 500 ... Only To Turn Out To Be The Country's Most Wanted Weed Smuggler
The Indy 500 motor race was first held in 1911. Unlike NASCAR, which famously has its origins in dirt-road bootlegging, the first Indy 500 had a fairly large proportion of trust fund kids in expensive European cars. It immediately proved a massive success, despite the fact that the scoring system broke down and nobody could tell who was in the lead for most of the race. With all four of the track's scoreboards showing a different leader, the crowd quickly lost interest and spent most of the race getting drunk, sprinting back only to gawp at particularly grisly crashes.
When a crashed car did a flip in midair and ended up teetering vertically upright on its grill, hundreds of drunks became so mad with excitement that they vaulted over the barrier and sprinted across the track, despite cars swerving around trying to avoid them. Meanwhile, the judges were running in the other direction after a car veered out of control and headed straight for their booth. It was a hell of a show.
By 1986, the Indy 500 had become the biggest race in America. Chuck Yeager drove the pace car, while David Hasselhoff performed the National Anthem, which we believe was actually the Baywatch theme for most of the ‘80s. But the media only had eyes for rookie driver Randy Lanier, who had qualified for the main event despite almost no racing history. Experienced drivers were so surprised all their monocles popped out simultaneously, and they demanded he take his test lap again, only for Lanier to obliterate the Indy rookie record. Nobody knew quite where he came from, or how he could even afford to enter, but Randy Lanier was going to race in the Indy 500.
As it turned out, Randy Lanier was one of the biggest drug smugglers in the US at the time. After starting out running weed from the Bahamas in an ultra-fast speedboat, Lanier ultimately built a small fleet of smuggling vessels and earned an estimated $68 million from his high-speed empire. And that was in the 1980s, when a dollar could buy you two New Cokes and an Oingo Boingo cassingle, with enough change left over to get your shoulder pads resharpened. In fact, he possibly could have gotten away with it for way longer if he hadn't drawn the FBI's attention by inexplicably deciding to become a high-profile race driver.
Lanier ultimately fled the country, only to be arrested and extradited in Antigua, and was sentenced to life without parole, plus an additional 40 years, presumably to be served in some kind of otherworldly death prison. It was such a crazy sentence for weed smuggling that they quietly let him out of prison in 2014 anyway. Incidentally, the investigation revealed at least four other drivers on the International Motor Sports Association circuit were also major drug smugglers, leading to the nickname "International Marijuana Smugglers Association." In a way, it made perfect sense that racing's big performance enhancing drug scandal would involve people selling them to buy better cars. As for the Indy 500, Lanier finished 10th and was crowned 1986 Rookie of the Year. Hey, at least the bootleggers made it there in the end.