4 Criminals Who Jumped in and Helped Law Enforcement
Criminals and law enforcement are natural enemies. Just like the innocent and law enforcement. Or protesters and law enforcement. Or bystanders and law enforcement. Or law enforcement and law enforcement. Damn law enforcement. They ruined law enforcement.
And yet, sometimes, the authorities get help from those very criminals whom they’re supposed to fight. Sometimes, criminals have good intentions and are willing to lend a hand. However, don’t count on those criminals following the rules for what’s legal or acceptable. When you team up with Batman or Hannibal Lecter, they might take things a little far.
The FBI Had a Mob Enforcer Beat a Confession Out of a Klansman
For decades, the FBI kept as a special informant Gregory Scarpa, a member of the Colombo crime family. The special informant role is normally just what it sounds like: The criminal informs on their organization to the FBI (until the organization discovers this, resulting in stitches). Sometimes, though, it goes further. Scarpa went on committing mob hits while the FBI paid him, sometimes with what sure seems like information he got from the FBI.
Then there was the case of what he did to Lawrence Byrd. In 1966, the KKK murdered Vernon Dahmer, a Mississippi NAACP leader who’d opened his grocery store to register Black voters. They burned down his house, and even though Dahmer had been expecting an attack — he had a shotgun ready and fired at his attackers — he escaped the house too late to avoid dying. The FBI suspected Klansman Lawrence Byrd. So, they sent an agent and Scarpa to go pay Byrd a visit. They drove him out to the swamp, where Scarpa beat a confession out of him, getting him to rat out all seven other men involved in the murder.
While this is maybe the most satisfying way to get a confession, it is not the most effective way to close a case. Even armed with this signed confession, on top of their other evidence, the FBI only got convictions for three of the men. Scarpa would go on bragging to his friends for the rest of his life about the time he’d beaten up a Klansmen to solve an FBI case, leading to many reports that he’d done the same thing in a different, more famous case, the one that inspired the film Mississippi Burning.
The FBI believed Scarpa himself murdered eight people, unrelated to either of these cases, and a court finally sentenced him to life in 1993 for three of these murders. By this point, he was already emaciated from AIDS and half-blind. He lasted less than half a year in prison before dying.
One Hacker Said He Was Untouchable. Another Hacker Nailed Him
In 1999, a British hacker named Raphael Gray noticed that a whole lot of sites played it loose when it came to securing customers’ credit-card data. So, he decided to publicize this security vulnerability — by stealing credit-card information from 23,000 customers and sticking it all in a database on his own website. Clearly, this was a crime more punishable than whatever those sites were guilty of, but Gray was sure police couldn’t link him to the database. “They never catch anyone,” he said. “The police can’t hack their way out of a paper bag.”
In fact, far from unsuccessfully pursuing him, people were outright rejecting Gray’s attempts to be found. He was reaching out to the media, hoping to set up some kind of secure interview, but no one was interested, perhaps because they didn’t believe his claims. The only news sources interested in talking about him were dedicated hacker websites, where some more ethical hackers objected to Gray’s stunt. One of these hackers, Chris Davis, who could hack his way out of a paper bag, traced Gray’s home address and tipped off the FBI. Though Gray lived in Wales, it was the FBI and Canadian Mounties who then showed up at his door.
Gray had done millions in damage, said the FBI — not the cost of various fraudulent transactions but just the cost to the credit-card companies for replacing all those cards. But when he went to trial, the judge sentenced him to psychiatric treatment instead of prison. He hadn’t benefited financially from the crime. One of the few purchases he’d made was to prank Bill Gates. He’d used Gates’ credit card to send the man Viagra.
With Drive-Bys on the Rise, a Mexican Gang Said They’d Kill Anyone Sent to Prison for a Drive-By
Los Angeles had a problem with drive-by shootings in the early 1990s. Every year saw more than 1,000 of these shootings. Hundreds of people died, and around half of the 9,000 people hit were just random bystanders.
This was all getting to be a bit much. So, in the fall of 1993, the Mexican Mafia put out the word that while, sure, you can still kill who you have to kill, these reckless drive-bys had to stop. If anyone committed a drive-by, it would still be up to the LAPD to arrest them. But from this point on, when they went to prison for a drive-by, the Mexican Mafia would tack on a death sentence, by telling all gang members already incarcerated that this new inmate was fair game for slicing open.
Drive-by shootings did drop after this. “It’s none of my business why it happened, but I think it’s beautiful that the killing has stopped,” one anti-gang activist told a newspaper, relieved that gangs had now killed only 13 people in his neighborhood that year. Yes, you might hear people claiming crime’s high nowadays, but that’s because they’ve totally forgotten what life was like 30 years ago.
Texas Inmates Left Their Cell to Save a Guard
When prison inmates work toward the cause of justice, sometimes, it doesn’t involve taking people’s lives. Sometimes, it involves saving lives. In 2016, a group of guys were in a Texas holding cell, on offenses related to drugs and assault. The officer outside the cell suddenly slumped over. So, the inmates broke out of the cell.
From the security footage, it doesn’t look like breaking out required a lot of work, but reports still describe them as forcing the door open. The security tape also shows the men wearing black and white stripes, something you may not have known prisoners still wear, but we assure you, the footage is real.
The prisoners, still cuffed, checked the officer for a pulse and found none. They summoned help from elsewhere in the station, and paramedics managed to magic the guard back to life. The man would have stood no chance had the emergency personnel taken any longer to reach him, the police later announced.
For saving the officer’s life, the prisoners received the highest reward possible: They were escorted back to their cell — with thanks. And without facing additional charges for breaking out of the cell, something that had always been a possibility.