Daring Facts About Crazy Heists

October 27, 2017 | Mathew Burke

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...

Crazy Heists Facts

26. The Pink Panthers

Named after a series of crime comedy films starring Peter Sellers, the Pink Panthers is an international jewel thief network composed mainly of Serbs, and they are responsible for some of the most audacious and glamorous heists in criminal 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 jewellery store Harry Winston in Paris, December 2008. A gang of four thieves escaped with more than $100 million worth of jewellery, all while dressed in drag. If you’re going to do it you might as well look fierce, right?

Crazy Heists FactsShutterstock

25. 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 later caught (sans his stolen diamonds), largely because police found his DNA on a half-eaten salami sandwich near the crime scene.

Crazy Heists FactsShutterstock

24. Wiseguys

Perhaps best known as the heist that inspired the classic gangster flick Goodfellas, the Lufthansa Heist took place December 11th, 1978 at the JFK International Airport in New York, and was the largest cash robbery in American history at the 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

22. Lettuce Take a Minute

Imagine: You pull off the badass heist of your dreams and police just resort to making puns at your expense on social media. After a truck containing $45,000 worth of lettuce was stolen sometime between March 31 and April 1 2017 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, police asked 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...


21. 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

20. Possibly the Most Canadian Heist Ever

26 people were arrested in relation to a maple syrup heist in Quebec in 2012. Police found that a staggering 9,500 barrels of maple syrup valued at $18.7 million had been stolen between August 2011 and July 2012, after it was discovered that the barrels in a St-Louis-de-Blandford, QC warehouse had been replaced with water.

Crazy Heists FactsFlickr


19. Twinjustice

In January 2009, $6.8 million worth of jewellery was stolen from Kaufhaus des Westens department store in Berlin. Despite having DNA evidence of the suspect, German police could not prosecute: the DNA belonged to identical twins, and there was no evidence to prove which one of them was the culprit.

Crazy Heists FactsGetty Images

18. 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


17. Millennium Dome Raid

An attempted robbery of the Millennium Dome's diamond exhibition in Greenwich, South East London on 7 November, 2000 would have been the biggest robbery in history—had the Metropolitan Police flying squad not been monitoring the thieves almost from start to finish. 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


Sign up to our newsletter.

History’s most fascinating stories and darkest secrets, delivered to your inbox daily. Making distraction rewarding since 2017.

Thank you!
Error, please try again.

16. The Gardner Museum Mystery

On March 18, 1990, guards at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston admitted two men dressed as police officers responding to a disturbance call. Once inside, the men subdued the guards, tied them up, and promptly stole 13 works of art valued at $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


15. The Great Brink's robbery.

Also dubbed “the crime of the century,” the Great Brink's Robbery was an armed robbery of the Brinks Building in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts on January 17, 1950. $1.2 million in cash and $1.6 million in checks and other securities were stolen (a combined total of $27.6 million today), making it the largest robbery in the history of the United States at the time. It was the meticulously executed work of an 11-member gang, who, despite leaving few clues at the crime scene, were all eventually arrested.

Crazy Heists FactsGetty Images


14. 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.

Crazy Heists FactsShutterstock

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

12. "D.B. Cooper"

On a rainy night in 1971, a man the media dubbed “D.B. Cooper” hijacked a Boeing 747, extorted $200,000 (not adjusted for inflation), and then jumped out of the plane with the bags full of money. Though a lot of the money was recovered, Police still haven't found Cooper. The FBI is no longer actively investigating the case but it has nonetheless cemented itself in American legend.

Crazy Heists FactsWikimedia Commons, Tank67

11. The Great Train Robbery

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. Police later arrested almost every member of the gang.

Crazy Heists FactsMax Pixel

10. The Baker Street Robbery

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 caught some of the transmissions and called the police, who couldn’t identify which bank was being robbed, and scrambled to about 700 banks before realizing the robbers had gotten away.

Crazy Heists FactsGetty Images


9. 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

8. 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

7. Helicopter Heist

In September 2009, a cash depot in south of Stockholm, Sweden was robbed after a group of armed thieves landed on the roof in a stolen helicopter. It was the first robbery involving a helicopter in Sweden’s history.

Crazy Heists FactsMax Pixel


6. Knightsbridge Security Deposit Heist

The Knightsbridge Security Deposit robbery took place in July 1987 in Cheval Place, Knightsbridge, England. Career criminal Valerio Viccei and company posed as customers interested in renting a safety deposit box and overpowered the guards, stealing $98 million worth of valuables ($174 million today). Viccei got away clean initially, but bafflingly returned to the UK to retrieve his favorite car at a later date and was promptly arrested.

Bank Robberies FactsPixabay

5. 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

4. 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



3. 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

2. The Crown Jewels

In 1671, Irishman Thomas Blood attempted to steal the Crown Jewels from the heavily guarded (now there’s an understatement) Tower of London in England. Posing as aristocrats, he and his gang actually managed to swindle a private viewing of the jewels, during which they wasted no time flattening the jewels with mallets so as to more easily smuggle them 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

1. 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:  12345678910111213141516171819202122232425

More from Factinate

Featured Article

My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.

Featured Article

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.

More from Factinate

Featured Article

I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.

Featured Article

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.

Dear reader,

Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to contribute@factinate.com. Thanks for your time!

Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at contribute@factinate.com. Thanks for your help!

Warmest regards,

The Factinate team

Want to learn something new every day?

Join thousands of others and start your morning with our Fact Of The Day newsletter.

Thank you!

Error, please try again.