5 Absurd Heists That Were Bound To Fail From The Start
Not to praise successful thieves or anything, but heists are beyond difficult to get away with. Anything other than flawless precision during a robbery will land a thief in jail, and slip-ups can be all too easy. Of course, not every crime is a close call. Overconfidence, unbridled stupidity, or any combination of the two can lead to a thief not only getting caught but getting laughed at too ...
The British Bank Robber Foiled By His Own Handwriting
Handwriting can be an important piece of evidence in a criminal investigation. In the case of 67-year-old Alan Slattery of the U.K., it prevented a robbery from even happening.
Slattery was arrested and convicted of one successful and two attempted robberies. His first attempt demonstrated the need for legible penmanship. On March 18, 2021, Slattery walked up to a cashier in a bank and handed them a note. The note demanded that the cashier hand over their money and threatened bank customers. Unfortunately for Slattery, the cashier had no idea what the note said.
His handwriting was so bad that the cashiers couldn’t even figure out that this was an attempted robbery. Rather than pressing harder or trying another method, Alan Slattery simply left the bank in defeat. Only after he had gone did the cashiers realize what Slattery’s note said, and called the police.
With his first failure behind him, Alan Slattery tried another bank on March 26. His method of handing over a demand note had not changed, but apparently, he did a really good job perfecting his handwriting in the week between attempts because he was successful this time and made off with £2,400. And then, like a true career criminal, Slattery took a bus.
Yes, after robbing a bank, Alan Slattery used his actual bus pass to board public transportation. This became important to the criminal investigation against him, as police were able to reference his bus pass picture with CCTV footage of the bank robberies. Not that Slattery was a criminal mastermind otherwise, but this didn’t help his case.
Before he went down, though, Alan Slattery had one last crime left him. On April 1 (yeah, seriously), he entered one final bank and handed a cashier one of his trademark notes. Instead of either being confused or caving to the request, the cashier stood up to Slattery. In his grand tradition of giving up when the situation gets tough, Slattery left the bank without any cash. It should come as no surprise that Slattery was arrested. While his handwriting may have been difficult to understand, his guilt was not. He was sentenced to four years in prison, followed by two years of probation.
Four College Students Tried To Do A Movie Heist IRL
In 2004, four college students in Kentucky thought that they could pull off an Ocean’s Eleven heist. Warren Lipka, Spencer Reinhard, Eric Borsuk, and Charles “Chas” Allen II could have made $12 million. Because it’s on this list, you can probably figure out how well it went.
The target of the heist was the Translyvania University Rare Books Room in Lexington, Kentucky. Spencer Reinhard had toured the room during a tour during his freshman orientation, and he learned about the library’s collection of folios from John James Audubon’s The Birds of America. These ultra-rare originals were some of the most valuable books in the country, and the library had minimal security for such treasures.
Reinhard and Warren Lipka started planning a hypothetical theft of the goods. Reinhard was initially less than serious about the plot, but Lipka, who was dissatisfied and burnt out already during his first year of college, wanted to do it. The Audubon collection was only guarded by an elderly librarian named Betty Jean Gooch, and Lipka found a potential buyer for the stolen goods in Amsterdam.
It took time, but after recruiting Eric Borsuk and Chas Allen and “perfecting” their plan, Lipka arranged a meeting with Gooch under the false name Walter Beckman to see the rarest items in the library’s collection. The meeting would take place on December 16, 2004, near the end of the university’s finals week. He would arrive at the meeting disguised as an old man, and he would knock her out with a stun gun. Borsuk would also be in an old man disguise and would come to help carry the heavy folios. Allen would be waiting in the parking lot with a getaway vehicle, and Reinhard would provide lookout support from a nearby location.
When they tried to put the plan into action on December 16, quite literally everything went wrong. Chas Allen was unable to secure the original vehicle planned for the heist and had to settle with another. He also could not find a parking spot close to the library. The stun guns the crew ordered to knock out the librarian had not arrived yet, so Lipka had to find a replacement. As for the old man disguises, they were not convincing. Reinhard, a talented artist, did not have time to make Lipka and Borsuk look good, as he, seriously, had to take a final before the heist. Once the wannabe thieves were in the library, they decided it wasn’t going to work, so they rescheduled.
But if at first, you don’t succeed, reschedule your meeting with Betty Jean Gooch and retry the heist! The second attempt was carried out the next day, and the gang would not back down this time. This doesn’t mean they were successful, though. No old man disguises were used, sadly. Lipka and Borsuk reached the rare books section and knocked out Gooch. Unfortunately for them, they soon realized that the Audubons were too heavy to carry.
These were really big books.
As they attempted to get out of the library, they ran into another librarian, who quickly discovered what was going on. The thieves set down the folios and made a desperate escape. However, they had managed to get a few rare books in their backpacks, meaning that the heist wasn’t a total failure. They continued with their plan, which involved getting the books appraised at Christie’s in New York. They were not able to get a price for these, though, as the appraiser had suspicions about the young men and their collection of books.
To the surprise of no one, they were eventually found and arrested by authorities. Among the many mistakes made during their heist, the crew had used the same “Walter Beckman” email to book meetings with Betty Jean Gooch and with Christie’s. For their crimes, the four men received equal seven-year prison sentences and a shitty Hollywood adaptation:
Ohio Man Lives Out A Tragic Love Story
In 2009, Columbus, Ohio man Stephfon Bennett and two others were robbing a couple’s apartment. Why they chose the apartment they did is anyone’s guess, and in true mediocre criminal fashion, they attracted the attention of a neighbor. When this happened, Bennett’s crew fled the scene, only managing to snag a wallet and handbag from their victims.
Except Bennett left with more than just a wallet and a handbag; he left with feelings for his female victim and absolutely needed to act on them. For this reason, he returned to the scene of the crime two hours after fleeing to ask out the victim. Now, going back to the apartment you robbed is almost always a bad idea, but for Bennett, it was a severe miscalculation. Firstly, the victim was not single. Maybe Bennett didn’t notice, but he robbed a couple’s apartment. Not that anyone would say yes to a date with a person who just stole from their home, but come on. Have some respect for the relationship.
More of an issue for Bennett, though, was that the victim recognized the lovestruck assailant. Uninterested in going on a date and reasonably angry that someone would rob her, she instructed a relative to report the incident to the police. This led to Bennett’s arrest.
When the story gained attention in 2009, the two other robbers in the Bennett case had yet to be identified. Sure, Bennett got himself in legal trouble and humiliated himself in the process, but he also got something that no one else in the case did. He got closure about a doomed crush.
A Guy Tried To Rob The Bank He Used
There is no “perfect” crime, but there are certainly imperfect crimes. An example of this, hypothetically, is robbing the bank that already knows who you are while wearing a bad disguise.
This is exactly what Dean Smith of Wales did back in 2014. Smith had gone to his local bank to change his address like a good citizen, but while he was there, he thought of the money available at the bank and came up with a devious, foolproof plan. Half an hour later, Smith returned to his bank to rob the place. Don’t worry, though, because he was carefully disguised to make sure that no one recognized him. He wore sunglasses, put socks over his shoes, and had his hood up. Smith was armed too … with a bread knife.
Dean Smith did not get any money from the bank. The cashiers refused to give him anything. An old man who was also there to do his banking offered Smith £20 to leave, which is about the biggest slap in the face an attempted robber can get. Smith ultimately fled as the bank alarm went off.
To the surprise of no one, he was easy to track down. The disguise did little to throw off authorities, and he made the arrest even easier by updating his address right before committing the crime. Smith was hit with a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence, but not before he admitted that his plan was stupid.
Replacing A Salvador Dalí Painting With An Obvious Fake
Imagine that you walk by a Salvador Dalí painting every day at work. Next to the painting is a plaque with its estimated value: $1,000,000. If you could just nab it, your fortune would change. Now, imagine that your workplace was Rikers Island, and the Dalí was placed in the middle of a prison, foreshadowing your future if you acted on the urge to steal it. This is what happened on March 1, 2003, when guards at Rikers lifted the painting.
At 1 a.m., the guards started a fire drill. This would keep all of the inmates and guards who weren’t involved in the plot away from the lobby where the Dalí was located. While one guard kept watch and another made sure that the drill kept going, guards removed the painting and replaced it with a replica.
If this sounds like a bad idea, that is because it is. The original painting itself was nothing special by Dalí standards. It was quickly painted by Dalí in 1965 as a sort of apology to the prison for being unable to make a scheduled visit due to an illness. Still, it was professionally done and was displayed in a mahogany frame. The replacement was so terrible that it would convince no one. It was smaller for starters, and its frame was cheap and used painted wood. Still, though, the art thieves thought that no one would care. These were prisoners and corrections officers, not art connoisseurs.
It took a matter of hours for other guards to notice the painting had been stolen. The theft was reported, and investigators quickly determined that it was an inside job. Investigations were made easier when one of the thieves, Timothy Pina, felt so guilty about it that he confessed as quickly as he could. Another guard involved, Gregory Sokol, also confessed quickly and agreed to work with investigators.
Both men claimed that two guards were at the head of the plan, Mitchell Hochhauser and Benny Nuzzo. All four men were arrested, and three pleaded guilty. Benny Nuzzo did not. It was believed that Nuzzo was the mastermind behind the plot and that he hid the painting in his mother’s house. A thorough search found nothing, though.
When Nuzzo’s case reached the jury, they, to the surprise of many, ruled that Nuzzo was not guilty. Pina and Sokol received probation after cooperating with the investigation, and Hochhauser served a short prison sentence. As for the original Dalí painting, it was never found. The crime was a botch with its immediately recognized fake, but maybe, just maybe, someone did get away with something. Maybe the painting did reach a black market buyer. If that someone is Benny Nuzzo, he has never backed down from his plea of innocence.
Top Image: Patrik Storm/Unsplash