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Famous Heists Throughout History [Infographic]

Author: Dave Landry
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Heists Then And Now

Ocean’s 11. Dog Day Afternoon. The Italian Job. Heat. The Town. Reservoir Dogs. Bonnie and Clyde. Heist movies can be some of the most fun and entertaining moments for us at the movies because of their sensationalized action sequences, larger-than-life characters, dramatic impact and the sheer amazement we feel of watching criminals and outlaws defying the law and sometimes even getting away with it. We even, dare we say it, go as far as sympathize with these shady misfits, angry outsiders, hopeless romantics and desperate vigilantes because they attempt in fiction what most of us would never even dream of partaking in in reality. Fun to watch, dangerous in real life. But what of those of us in history who have defied danger, broken the law and attempted to get away with such criminal activity?

The following infographic, with information chronicled and provided by the financial folks of Deposit Accounts, provides a fascinating list of heists taking place all over the world and dating as far back as 1671 with the “Crown Jewel Heist” by Thomas Blood and also includes facts on infamous robber Jesse James and his gang in 1866 and a shocking 1992 heist of the Las Vegas hotel and casino Stardust, featuring a culprit who remains at large to this very day.

With the inclusion of “marks” and the perpetrators’ punishments also featured, it’s easy for anyone to read the graphic below and be better prepared for keeping their own businesses, homes, vehicles and properties safe from burglary and attempted heists. Hopefully, it will also deter any future assailants from walking the line of crime!


Famous Heists Throughout History [Infographic]

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Famous Heists Throughout History

They Aren’t Just For The Movies

 

1671

The Mark: The Tower Of London

“Colonel Thomas Blood”

The Goods: The Crown Jewels of England (*estimated $14,000 at the time)

How did it go down?

Blood became friends with the master of the Jewel House and even arranged a marriage between the Master’s daughter and his “nephew” (who was actually an accomplice). When the Master took them to see the jewels, they overpowered him, took the jewels, and ran.

Did they get caught? YES

The Punishment: £500

None! King Charles II not only pardoned Blood, but granted him a £500/year estate in Ireland. According to some historians, it was because King Charles was so amused by the attempt.

In addition to the fake nephew, Blood hired a prostitute to be his fake wife.

The thieves flattened and filed the jewels to hide them in their clothes during the escape.

 

1866 - 1876

The Mark: As many as 20 robbers of banks, stagecoaches, and trains throughout the American Midwest

Jesse James and the James-Younger Gang

The Goods: Estimates up to $170,000

How did it go down?

In 1876, the brothers attempted to rob the First National Bank in Minnesota—it was a disaster and resulted in the death of the entire gang except for Jesse and his brother, Frank.

Did they get caught? YES

The Punishment: Death

Jesse was killed in 1882 by Robert Ford, a recruit for a new gang, who hoped to collect a reward for killing James.

Frank turned himself in after his brother’s death but only tied for two robberies and was acquitted for both.

The James brothers were often depicted as Robin Hood-style heroes, but there is no evidence they ever gave away the money they stole.

 

1911

The Mark: Louvre Museum, Paris, France

Stealing the Mona Lisa

The Goods: The Mona Lisa

How did it go down?

Vincenzo Peruggia, a former Louvre employee, hid in the museum until it was closed and then smuggled the painting out under his smock. He hid it for two years before taking it back to Italy, it’s “homeland.”

Did he caught? YES

The Punishment: 1 year and 15 days, though he only served 7 months.

Peruggia was hailed a patriotic hero in Italy.

At one point, the police suspected Pablo Picasso of being the thief.

 

1960

The Mark: Royal Mail train, Ledburn, Buckinghamshire

The Great Train Robbery

The Goods: $7,000,000 (£2.6m)

How did it go down?

A 17-man team tampered with a red light signal to get the train to stop, then moved it to a bridge where they could move 120 sacks of bank notes from the train to a truck. They then drove to a farm 26 miles away, to hide and divide the money.

Did they get caught? YES

The Punishment: Almost all of the men were caught; most received 25 - 30 years.

Scotland Yard put together a team called the Flying Squad to investigate the robbery.

Two of the robbers, Charlie Wlson and Ronnie Biggs, escaped from prison in the mid-1960s.

Wilson was caught in 1968. Biggs evaded recapture for 30 years before returning voluntarily to the UK in 2001.

 

1968

The Mark: Nihon Shintaku Ginko company car

The “300-million Yen Robbery”

The Goods: $817,520 (¥300.000.000)

How did it go down?

A car transporting money for the bank was stopped by a policeman, who told them their car was rigged to explode. As the policeman “check” the car, it began to smoke, and when the employees ran, the policeman drove the car away.

Did they get caught? NO

This was the largest heist and largest investigation in Japanese history.

After 1988, all statute of limitations passed and the robber could come forward without any legal consequences, but he has remained silent.

The money in the car was bonuses for Toshiba factory employees.

 

1971

The Mark: Flight 305, Northwest Orient Airlines

The Infamous D.B. Cooper

The Goods: $200,000

How did it go down?

D.B. Cooper (assigned alias) hijacked the Boeing 727 with a briefcase bomb. He demanded the plane land at Seattle-Tacoma airport where the other passengers would be exchanged for $200,000 and four parachutes. After the exchange, they took off again, and Cooper parachuted from the plane mid-flight.

Did he get caught? NO

The name “D.B. Cooper” came from “Dan Cooper”, which was the name of the one-way ticket purchased by the hijacker.

Cooper bought two drinks on the flight, paid his tab, and insisted the flight attendant keep the change.

 

1976

The Mark: The British Bank of the Middle East, Beirut, and Lebanon

The British Bank of the Middle East

The Goods: $20,000,000 - $50,000,000

How did it go down?

A group from the Palestine Liberation Operation used the chaos of civil war to blast through the wall of the bank. They then found a locksmith to break into the vault, and spent two days unloading the contents.

Did they get caught? NO

The heist lasted an entire week.

Many of the stocks stolen were sold back to their original owners.

 

1978

The Mark: JFK International Airport, New York, New York

Jimmy Burke and the Lufthansa Heist

The Goods: $5,875,000

How did it go down?

When Mafia man Jimmy Burke learned about a monthly delivery of untraceable American currently flown in by Lufthansa, he staged an elaborate, violent heist with a six-man team.

Did they get caught? Some.

The Punishment: Jimmy Burke was not arrested for the heist, but for the murder of a con-man who scammed Burke.

Burke ordered the assassination of most of his associates from the heist.

The heist was the inspiration for the 1990 movie Goodfellas.

 

1983

The Mark: Brinks-MAT Warehouse, Heathrow Airport, London

Brinks-MAT Warehouse Robbery

The Goods: $42,572,400 (£26m)

How did it go down?

A gang of six men broke into Brinks-MAT Warehouse with the help of a security guard, who gave them the keys. They expected to steal £3m in cash, but instead found 3 tons of gold.

Did they get caught? Some.

The Punishment: Two members of the gang were sentenced to 25 years. Several others were caught and convicted as well.

Though the gold was worth £26m at the time, it would not be worth over £500m.

Most of the gold was never recovered as it was melted down and sold legitimately; some speculate anyone who bought gold jewelry in the UK after 1983 is probably wearing Brinks-MAT gold.

 

1990

The Mark: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, Massachusettes

The Gardner Museum Heist

The Goods: 13 works of art (estimated at $500m)

How did it go down?

Druing the city’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration, two thieves gained entry to the museum by dressing as policemen, answering a bogus disturbance call, then “arresting” the guards. They took less than two hours to steal all 13 works.

Did they get caught? NO

The stolen art included works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet, and Degas.

The museum has left many of the empty frames in place, waiting for the return of the paintings.

 

1992

The Mark: The Stardust Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

The Simplest Vegas Robbery

The Goods: $500,000

How did it go down?

William John Brennan, a sports book-cashier at the Stardust, simply walked out the door with a bag full of cash and chips. Some say he had an accomplice, but there’s no evidence either way.

Did he get caught? No.

At the time it was the largest casino theft without the use of violence.

The Stardust was demolished by implosion in March 2007, but Brennan is still on the FBIs Most Wanted List.

 

1994

The Mark: Carlton Hotel, Cannes, France

Carlton Cannes Diamond Heist (#1)

The Goods: $60,000,000

How did it go down?

Right before the Hotel’s jewelry shop closed, three masked men came into the store and started firing machine guns. As people panicked and fled, the men swept the jewels in the bags and escaped into the chaos.

Did they get caught? No.

No one was injured—the machine guns were actually firing blanks.

This same hotel was the set for Hitchcock’s famous 1955 film To Catch a Thief, starring Cary Grant as a retired jewel thief.

 

2003

The Mark: Antwerp Diamond Centre, Antwerp, Belgium

The “Heist of the Century”

The Goods: $100,000,000

How did it go down?

Mastermind Leonardo Notarbartolo rented an office in the Diamond Centre for two years establishing himself as an Italian diamond merchant and gaining 24-hour access. He worked with a 5-man team to break into the vault and empty 123 of 160 safe-deposit boxes.

Did they get caught? YES.

The Punishment: 10 years in prison; he is now out on parole.

Notarbartolo was arrested after his DNA was found on a half-eaten sandwich.

In an interview with Wired, he claimed he was hired by a diamond merchant as part of an insurance fraud scheme.

The jewels were never found.

 

2005

The Mark: Banco Centrla, Fortaleza, Brazil

The Funnel Under Banco Central

The Goods: $69,800,00 (R$160m)

How did it go down?

In an ingenious feat of engineering, 6 - 10 robbers pretending to be a landscape company dug a 256-feet tunnel to get underneath the bank, then broke through the 3 feet of steel-reinforced concrete to enter the vault.

Did they get caught? Some.

The Punishment: Over 50 people have been arrested on suspicion, but police are still investigating.

GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS

In the Guinness Book of World Records as the Largest Bank Heist.

Only $3.8m has been recovered.

 

2008

The Mark: Bank of America branch, Monroe, Washington

The Craigslist Robber

The Goods: $400,000

How did it go down?

The robber, Anthony Curcio, “hired” by decoys for his heist by posting an ad on Craigslist for workers for a road maintenance project. Over a dozen people came to the bank wearing the same outfit, allowing him to elude the police.

Did he get caught? YES

The Punishment: 6 years in federal prison, Curcio was released after 5.

After leaving the bank, Curcio used an inner-tube to escape down a river.

The robbery has been compared to “The Thomas Crown Affair” films.

The Craigslist job promised wages of $28.50/hour.

 

2008

The Mark: Harry Winston Diamond Salon, Paris, France

The Heist in Drag

The Goods: $108,000,000

How did it go down?

Four men dressed as women used a gun and hand grenade to threaten employees while they broke open display cases in the Harry Winston jewelry store.

Did they get caught? NO.

The robbers are believed to be part of “The Pink Panthers,” a jewel-stealing gang that operates throughout Europe.

There is still a $1m reward for information on the thieves.

 

2009

The Mark: Vastberga ATM Depot, Stockholm, Sweden

The Swedish Helicopter Heist

The Goods: The depot held $146m in cash—the exact amount stolen is unknown.

How did it go down?

The robbers used a stolen helicopter to land on top of the building, and kept the place away by planting homemade bombs on the street around the building.

Did they get caught? YES.

The Punishment: 7 men were arrested and sentenced to prison, for terms from 1 - 7 years.

The first helicopter used in a robbery in Sweden.

The helicopter was only on the roof for 20 minutes.

 

2013

The Mark: Carlton Hotel, Cannes, France

Carlton Cannes Diamond Heist (#2)

The Goods: $136,000,000 (€103m)

How did it go down?

A masked man walked into a temporary diamond exhibition “Extraordinary Diamonds” and pulled a gun on the employees, forcing them to fill his suitcase full of gems and diamond jewelry. He escaped through an open door, but dropped some jewels on his way out.

Did they get caught? NO.

This is the largest jewel heist on record.

The heist took less than 60 seconds.

Officials suspect this case is also tied to the Pink Panthers gang.

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1 Comment

  1. I want to add one of the best fictitious heists the list:

    Inside Man – this movie demonstrates a near perfect plan to rob a bank and adds high-stakes negotiations and corruption to the mix.

    Great movie!

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  • Ocean’s 11. Dog Day Afternoon. The Italian Job. Heat. The Town. Reservoir Dogs. Bonnie and Clyde. Heist movies can be some of the most fun and entertaining moments for us at the movies because of their sensationalized action sequences, larger-than-life characters, dramatic impact and the sheer amazement we feel of watching criminals and outlaws defying the law and sometimes even getting away with it.
  • We even, dare we say it, go as far as sympathize with these shady misfits, angry outsiders, hopeless romantics and desperate vigilantes because they attempt in fiction what most of us would never even dream of partaking in in reality.