A bank heist is kind of like the Super Bowl for criminals. It’s where all the money is, after all. But robbing a bank is a little trickier than robbing a convenience store or a KFC. It typically takes some advance preparation. Sometimes these plans are clever and diabolical. Other times they’re just idiotic. In this feature, we’ll share ten of the worst bank robbery plans ever hatched by the criminal mind.
Invisible Robbery, 2002
Robbers have used many disguises to make their entrance as low-key as possible, but for one robber in Tehran, his “disguise” proved to be his undoing. The unnamed criminal was hoaxed by a self-proclaimed sorcerer who charged him five million rials (about $625 at the time) in exchange for making him completely invisible. The crook obviously didn’t take the time to check his invisible self before rushing into a bank and trying to snatch money out of the hands of customers. Because he wasn’t actually invisible, they quickly got the better of him and wrestled him down until police could arrive. It’s not known whether the faux sorcerer was ever apprehended.
Rob a Closed Bank, 2011
One of the most important parts of planning a bank robbery is learning everything you can about the bank – its hours, the layout, the security personnel on hand, etc. The best place to start, though, is probably verifying that the bank still exists. A German crook only known as Siegfried K. blew that part pretty hard when he tried to rob a bank in Osnabruck in May 2011. He stormed into the lobby and took a female hostage with a toy gun, demanding that tellers open the vaults and give him 10,000 euros. Unfortunately for him, the bank that once occupied the space had moved out 17 years ago. It was a physiotherapy center now. After Siegfried realized his mistake, he forced a passer-by to withdraw money from an ATM and fled the scene, only to be caught shortly after by the cops.
Be GPS Trackable, 2009
They say that criminal behavior is habitual, but if you’re already in trouble with the law you might not want to rob a bank too. Santa Clara scumbag Garry Lee Damon was arrested and convicted for assault with intent to commit rape in 2009 and cops fitted him with a GPS tracking device so they could keep tabs on his movements. He didn’t care, obviously, and went out to rob a Citibank branch while wearing his GPS anklet. Needless to say, it was child’s play for cops to tie him to the heist and put him away for a long, long time.
Rob Your Own Bank, 2002
One cardinal rule of bank robbery is to pull your heist on a bank you can’t be connected to. High school history teacher Alvin Jumpp from south Philadelphia didn’t follow that rule. He robbed his own bank – the Mount Laurel Farmers & Mechanics branch – for $10,233 in April 2002. Then, he immediately went back in the same bank and deposited some of the money, including marked “bait bills,” into his own account. When a teller recognized his voice, the cops quickly busted him. His students were shocked, noting that he’d always tried to steer them away from crime.
Use a Zucchini Gun, 1984
You pretty much can’t pull off a bank robbery without some kind of weapon, although people have tried. If you can’t get your hands on a real firearm, it’s common to use a realistic-looking toy one. But what if you can’t even get one of those? White Plains, NY crook Walter Strong improvised by bringing a small zucchini in his pocket to a local Village Savings Bank. And no, he wasn’t just happy to see you. He actually got away with $2,000, but blew his whole plan by showing a next-door neighbor the zucchini in his fridge. Strong was apprehended but actually managed to escape police custody three separate times before finally being put in jail.
Finish Your Beer, 2011
One of the most important parts of a bank robbery is the getaway. You want to move yourself and your new cash as far away as possible as quickly as possible. For Florida robber John Robin Whittle, that was the part of his plan he cared the least about. One December day in 2011, Whittle stopped by the Hayloft Bar in Port Richey, ordered a beer, and drank half of it. He then stepped out, returning about a half hour later to finish the beer. While he was gone, he ran over to a Wells Fargo bank around the corner, robbed it of some cash, and realized he’d left his beer unfinished. Needless to say, the police busted him about ten minutes after he came back to the bar.
Use a Tree Disguise, 2007
As we’ve mentioned, a good disguise is important for a successful bank robbery. You want to blend in and not draw too much attention to yourself so that eyewitnesses won’t be able to give a clear description of you. James Coldwell of Manchester, NH robbed a bank in 2007 with a disguise that would have been better suited for hunting ducks. Coldwell walked into a Citizens Bank in Manchester slightly after opening with a number of tree branches duct-taped to his head and upper body and demanded that a teller give him cash. Befuddled by the weird sight before her, she did, and Coldwell escaped out the front door. Unfortunately, he didn’t manage to blend into the foliage quite as well as he thought and somebody recognized his face and called the police.
Go Back for More, 2012
That old adage about criminals returning to the scene of the crime is actually pretty much true. For some reason, bad guys love going back to where they did bad things. But for bank robber Arthur Brundage, that impulse was just part of a really lousy plan. In October 2012, Brundage walked into a Syracuse, NY bank and passed a teller a note demanding $20,000. Even though he didn’t present a weapon, the teller put some money into a bag for him, and he left without incident. After he counted the cash, though, Brundage realized that the amount was a little short of 20 grand. So he then returned to the bank and attempted to get the rest. Needless to say, the police were already there and took him into custody.
Call Ahead, 2010
The most essential part of any bank robbery is the element of surprise. Crooks need to get in and get out before the police can arrive on the scene or it’s all over. So what idiocy could have possessed Connecticut criminal Albert Bailey to call in his own bank robbery? Ten minutes before hitting a bank in Bridgeport, Bailey called the financial institution and told them to put cash in a bag in the middle of the floor. He then sent an accomplice in to get the loot, and the pair attempted to make a getaway by car. Unfortunately for these time-sensitive criminals, the ten minutes advance warning gave cops plenty of time to get there and allowed bank employees plenty of time to hide an exploding dye pack in the bag. The two foolish crooks were promptly arrested.
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Want to Get Caught, 2011
Let’s close this feature with what must be the most passive-aggressive bank robbery of all time. The end result of any successful bank robbery is to evade the cops with tons of cash in your hand. But James Verone had a different endgame in mind. The Gastonia, North Carolina man had been employed as a Coca-Cola truck driver for 17 years before losing his job. Suffering from chronic back pain and a mysterious lump on his chest, Verone walked into a Wells Fargo bank and passed a teller a note…demanding $1. Verone’s plan was to get thrown in prison, where he could get the health care he needed but couldn’t afford.