Daring Facts About Crazy Heists

October 24, 2023 | Miles Brucker

Daring Facts About Crazy Heists

Sometimes heists really are just like the movies: disguises, guns, explosives, turtlenecks, double-crossings. Sometimes, not so much: bees, lettuce, maple syrup, Justin Bieber. In any case, the daring and duplicitous world of heists always proves to be an endlessly fascinating and entertaining subject to delve into. Just don’t get any bright ideas...

1. The Pink Panthers

Named after a sequence of comedy films featuring Peter Sellers, the Pink Panthers, mainly comprised of Serbs, is an international network of jewel thieves. They are known for executing some of the most bold and glitzy heists in history. Targeting numerous countries and continents, they tend to just appear and reappear out of thin air. One of their more infamous thefts was the heist of the jewelry store Harry Winston in Paris, December 2008. A gang of four thieves escaped with more than $100 million worth of jewelry, all while dressed in drag. If you’re going to do it you might as well look fierce, right?


2. The Antwerp Diamond Heist

The Antwerp Diamond Heist, February 2003, has been dubbed the "heist of the century," and is one of the largest diamond heists in history. Diamonds, gold, and other jewellery valued at more than $100 million were stolen, and the loot was never recovered. It is believed to have been carried out by a five-man team led by Leonardo Notarbartolo, who moved into an apartment next to the Diamond Center and spent three years posing as an Italian diamond merchant to build credibility. Notarbartolo was eventually apprehended (minus his stolen diamonds), mainly because law enforcement discovered his DNA on a half-eaten salami sandwich near the scene of the incident.

Crazy Heists FactsShutterstock

3. Wiseguys

Perhaps best known as the real-life theft that inspired the classic film Goodfellas, the Lufthansa Heist unfolded on December 11th, 1978 at the JFK International Airport in New York. It was the largest cash heist in American history at that time. An estimated $5 million was stolen in cash and $875,000 in jewels. The heist also inspired the films 10 Million Dollar Getaway and The Big Heist.

Crazy Heists FactsThe Big Heist, Alliance Atlantis

4. Lettuce Take A Minute

Imagine: You successfully execute the daring heist of your dreams and law enforcement officers simply resort to making puns at your expense on social media. Following the theft of a truck loaded with $45,000 worth of lettuce sometime between March 31 and April 1, 2017, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, law enforcement officials urged the public to "romaine calm" and to "lettuce know if you have any tips". No word on how the thieves expected all of the lettuce to romaine fresh after stealing it.

Crazy Heists FactsPublic Domain Pictures

At least they'll eat healthy...

5. Rare Books

In January 2017, three thieves drilled through the skylight of a warehouse near Heathrow Airport in London and rappelled 40 feet to the floor, bypassing the security alarms and making off with more than 160 rare publications worth $2.5 million. The books, many from the 15th and 16th centuries, included early works by Galileo, Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci and a 1569 edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Crazy Heists FactsPexels

6. Possibly The Most Canadian Heist Ever

In 2012, 26 individuals were taken into custody in Quebec in relation to a maple syrup heist.Law enforcement authorities discovered that a shocking 9,500 barrels of maple syrup valued at $18.7 million had been pilfered between August 2011 and July 2012, when they observed that the barrels in a St-Louis-de-Blandford, QC warehouse had been substituted with water.

Crazy Heists FactsFlickr


7. Twinjustice

In January 2009, $6.8 million worth of jewellery was stolen from Kaufhaus des Westens department store in Berlin. Despite having DNA proof of the suspect, German law enforcement could not proceed with prosecution: the DNA belonged to identical twins, and there was no proof to determine which one of them was the culprit.

Crazy Heists FactsGetty Images

8. Bee Theft

Apparently, there’s some serious money to be made in bee theft. A single bee might only be worth a fraction of a cent, but there can be as many as 65,000 bees in each hive; that’s a lot of potential honey to be sold. Earlier this year, about $1 million worth of stolen bees were found in a field in Fresno County in what the local sheriff’s department described as a “beehive chop shop". The alleged thief, Pavel Tveretinov, used the stolen bees for pollination before stashing them.

Crazy Heists FactsMax Pixel


9. Millennium Dome Raid

An attempted theft at the Millennium Dome's diamond exhibition in Greenwich, South East London on 7 November 2000, could have been the largest in history if not for the vigilant surveillance of the Metropolitan flying squad who tracked the robbers almost from the beginning to the end. The local gang planned to raid the De Beers diamond exhibition, which was being held in the dome at the time. Among the jewels on display was the Millennium Star, a flawless 203.04 carat gem worth an estimated £200 million and considered to be one of the most perfect gems in the world. If the heist had succeeded, they would have made off with a haul of £350 million worth of diamonds.

Crazy Heists FactsGetty Images

10. The Gardner Museum Mystery

On March 18, 1990, guards at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston allowed entry to two men who presented themselves as law enforcement officers answering a disturbance call. Once inside, the men overpowered the security personnel, bound them, and swiftly pilfered 13 art pieces estimated to be worth $500 million.Among these were exceedingly valuable works by Rembrandt, Degas, and Vermeer. It’s the largest-value theft of private property in history, yet to this day no arrests have been made and no works have been recovered; as of 2017 the museum is offering a reward of $10 million for information leading to their recovery. Empty frames remain hanging in the museum in homage to the missing artworks.

Crazy Heists FactsGetty Images

11. The Significant Brink's Heist

Often referred to as “the event of the century,” the Great Brink's incident involved an armed heist at the Brink's Building in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts on January 17, 1950. The loot included $1.2 million in cash and $1.6 million in checks and other securities (a combined value of $27.6 million today), marking it as the most significant heist in the United States' history at that time. This was the meticulously executed act of an 11-member gang who, despite leaving few traces at the scene of the incident, were all ultimately apprehended.

Crazy Heists FactsGetty Images


12. Doing The Right Thing...Eventually

In 1993, Heather Tallchief robbed the Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas of $2.5 million. She was a driver for an armored car company and just took off with the cash. 12 years later and tired of running, she turned herself in.

what happens in vegas

13. Biker Gang

In November 2012, a group of thieves rode into a London mall on motorcycles and went to town on a jewellery store with axes and bats. They took off with $3 million worth of jewellery.

Crazy Heists FactsMax Pixel

14. "D.B. Cooper"

On a rainy night in 1971, a man the media christened "D.B. Cooper" took control of a Boeing 747, demanded a ransom of $200,000 (not adjusted for inflation), and then leaped from the plane with the bags full of money. Even though a significant portion of the money was retrieved, law enforcement agencies still haven't found Cooper. The FBI has ceased its active investigation of the case, however, it has indelibly embedded itself in American lore.

Crazy Heists FactsWikimedia Commons, Tank67

15. The Grand Train Heist

In August 1963, 15 unarmed assailants used a fake conductor signal to stop a postal train heading from Glasgow to London, boarded the car, dealt with the guards, and made off with the equivalent of $41 million in today's cash.Authorities later apprehended almost every member of the gang.

old steam freight train during dayPixabay, Pexels

16. The Baker Street Heist

London, September 1971: A gang of thieves rented rented a leather goods store as a front and blasted their way to a Lloyds Bank vault on Baker Street, making off with about $4 million (not adjusted for inflation). While digging, the crew communicated with a lookout via radio. A local radio operator intercepted some transmissions and alerted law enforcement. However, they couldn't ascertain the specific bank being burgled and had to rush to roughly 700 banks before discerning that the thieves had already escaped.

Crazy Heists FactsGetty Images

17. The Banco Central Burglary

Another one of the world’s largest heists was the Banco Central burglary at Fortaleza, Brazil, 2005. The robbers managed to tunnel beneath the vault and made off with about $52 million. 25 people were suspected to be involved, and several of the gang members are thought to have been victims of kidnapping. Arrests and recovery of the money have been ongoing, and most of the dough is still unaccounted for. The tunnel was notably well-constructed, complete with rudimentary air conditioning and electric lighting systems.

A Brazilian Federal Police agentand journalists..Getty Images

18. The Banco Itau Burglary

Another one from Brazil, this time the Banco Itau burglary in Sao Paulo in 2011. 12 men dressed in grey uniforms made it into the bank around midnight during renovations, taking $58.5 million worth of valuables from around 170 private strongboxes.

Crazy Heists FactsWikipedia

19. Helicopter Heist

In September 2009, a cash depot situated in the southern region of Stockholm, Sweden, was targeted by a group of armed thieves who arrived via a stolen helicopter landing on the roof. This marked the first incident involving a helicopter in a heist within Sweden's history.

Crazy Heists FactsMax Pixel


20. Knightsbridge Security Deposit Heist

The incident at Knightsbridge Security Deposit unfolded in July 1987 in Cheval Place, Knightsbridge, England, involving a significant breach of security. Valerio Viccei and his associates, infamous for their law-breaking careers, masqueraded as customers wanting to rent a safety deposit box. After subduing the guards, they made off with valuables worth $98 million ($174 million today). Viccei managed to escape without any issues initially, but in a perplexing turn of events, he returned to the UK at a later date to collect his favorite car and was swiftly taken into custody.

Bank Robberies FactsPixabay

21. Saddam Hussein Makes A Last Minute Withdrawal

As the US rained fire on Baghdad in March 2003, Saddam Hussein sent his men and his son Qusay to the Central Bank of Iraq to make a little withdrawal. In total, the men made off with almost $1 billion in cash. Later, an army sergeant would find $650 million stashed in one of Hussein’s palaces, but the rest may never be found.

Crazy Heists FactsGetty Images

22. Blending in

This one is kind of genius: In 2008, a man robbed an armored truck outside a Bank of America in Washington after putting an ad on Craigslist looking for road maintenance workers in specific attire. About 12 of them showed up to the bank wearing yellow vests, safety goggles, and respirator masks. The thief dressed the same way when he grabbed the money from the truck, so when the authorities went looking for him, they found a bunch of dudes matching the same general description.

Crazy Heists FactsShutterstock


23. Probably Too Late To Say Sorry

Another notable heist took place a few hours after a Justin Bieber concert in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2013. The thieves entered through holes they’d dug into the stadium Bieber had played at, and then carved out a wall leading to a safe room with the cash the venue had acquired that weekend. They made off with well over $300,000.

Crazy Heists FactsPixabay

24. The Crown Jewels

In 1671, Irishman Thomas Blood endeavored to swipe the Crown Jewels from the heavily protected Tower of London in England, a phrase that barely covers the intensity of the security. Posing as aristocrats, he and his gang successfully swindled a private viewing of the jewels. In this period, they promptly flattened the jewels with mallets for easier smuggling out of the tower. They didn’t make it very far, but Blood amused King Charles II so much that he actually gave him his own title and estate in Ireland. Not too shabby.

Crazy Heists FactsWikipedia

25. Just A Flesh Wound

When King Edward I caught a thief (named Richard de Podelicote) stealing from the Royal Treasury at Westminster Abbey in 1303, he made sure it never happened again by ordering the thief to be hanged and flayed. Richard had stolen gems, antique gold and coins, estimated to be worth approximately £100,000, equivalent to a year's tax revenue for the Kingdom of England at the time. a dozen of Richard's accomplices were also hanged, and several (disputed) sources claim Richard's skin was nailed to the door of Westminster Abbey to deter other criminals.

Crazy Heists FactsGetty Images

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

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