Thursday, January 13, 2011

The 5 Most Successful Heists In The Last 100 Years

We always hear about the criminals who do things like hold a bank up over the phone but what about the ones who are actually good at what they do?  These are the Ocean's Eleven of the real world who have planned some of the most skilled and organized thefts to have occurred in the past 100 years.

Banco Central

On the weekend of August 6, 2005 in Fortaleza, Brazil a gang of at least 6 men tunneled 255ft up into the vault of Banco Central.  Once there they stole 5 containers filled with uninsured cash worth an estimated value of $69.8 million and weighing a combined total of roughly 3.5 tons.  The government had been trying to decide whether they should reintroduce the money back into the economy or if they should simply destroy it.  This meant that the money was not sequentially numbered which made it nearly impossible to track once it was stolen.

Eventually, 5 men were later found in the possession of $5.4 million and would eventually admit to being involved in the digging of the tunnel.  The mastermind was also found dead on the side of a road.  Despite these arrests and investigations, only $7 million of the original sum has ever been found with the assumption that the rest is with the remaining members of the gang.  

Mexico City National Museum of Anthropology

On the Christmas of 1985, an unknown number of thieves broke into the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City and stole 140 artifacts from the Mayan, Aztec, Zapotec, and Miztec cultures.  Just one of these pieces is estimated to be worth $20 million if a buyer could be found.  What's more, none of the guards realized the fact that they had been wiped out until three days later when the museum was set to reopen.  

This particular heist was the result of great planning for several reasons.  For one, the location of the artifacts was so perfect that pulling off the heist would entail almost no risk.  See the museum's entire security system was broken which meant that there were no electronic sensors and no working cameras.  Oh, and it had apparently been broken for 3 years.  Okay, I get that maybe it's a different culture in Mexico, but how the fuck do you let one of the most important pieces of your security system fail for that long?  Is it that you have that great of a security team that you don't need it?  Apparently not because the guards that night were so filled with Christmas joy that apparently they figured they didn't really need to make those rounds they were hired for.      

The other reason that this heist was perfect was the size of the actual loot.  In most robberies, size and weight is something of a problem as you can only carry so much.  This was not a problem here though because of the fact that each of the pieces was no more than a inch tall.  As a result this means that the thieves would have been able to carry all of the 140 pieces in two briefcases or just one pair of Ron Jeremy's pants.

Criminal mastermind?

Brinks Mat Warehouse

On November 26, 1983 six men broke into the Brinks Mat warehouse at Heathrow Airport expecting to find roughly $4.5 million in cash.  Instead, they found 10 tons of gold bullion worth $45 million.  Naturally they simply took that instead without any real complaint and were able to get out with relative ease thanks to the help of a security guard named Anthony Black who was the brother-in-law of the plan's architect, Brian Robinson.  This would ultimately become the heist's undoing.

It did not take long for Scotland Yard to discover the family connections and Black would eventually confess to his involvement.  As a result both Robinson and Michael McAvoy, the gang's leader, are now doing 25 years.  However, this is not the end of the story. 

Prior to his arrest, McAvoy had handed his share of the gold off to John Perry who then gave it to Kenneth Noye to fence.  Basically the gold would be melted down and then recast into new pieces which could then be sold off.  Unfortunately the Treasury noticed the sudden influx of gold and alerted police who would eventually arrest Noye and sentence him to 14 years for conspiracy.  Despite the arrest 3 tons of the gold has never been found and it is rumored that anyone wearing gold purchased within the UK after 1983 is wearing the Brinks Mat gold.

The Great Train Robbery

On August 8, 1963 in Buckhamshire, England Bruce Reynold's led a gang of 15 men to rob the Royal Mail's Glasgow to London Traveling Post Office (TPO) by forcing it to stop with tampered track signals.  In the end they made off with 120 mail bags filled with used currency that added up to $74 million (in today's money). 

Bruce Reynold and his gang.
Oh and did I mention that they did this all without any guns at all?  Yes at a time in which most criminals were holding people up with guns these men just said "Fuck it."  Of course people were still hurt and train driver suffered a severe injury, presumably from being hit over the head by their massive balls.  

Unfortunately for them the CSI's of the sixties were able to match the prints of 13 members from the gang's hideout to those at the train.  But just 15 months into their sentence, Charlie Wilson and Ronnie Biggs would famously escape from prison.  Wilson would eventually be apprehended in Canada four years later but Biggs would only be sent back when he turned himself into the Brazilian police in 2001.

The Antwerp Diamond Heist

Quite possibly the most famous diamond heist in history, the Antwerp heist was the work of Leonardo Notarbartolo and his team of master criminals called the School of Turin.  This is one of the most meticulously well planned and complex heists ever.  It was the result of 3 years of planning and work in which Notarbartolo posed as an Italian diamond merchant to gain trust and credibility amongst the other diamond dealers.  

In the end, the plan went off without a hitch and the only problem was that they were unable to carry all of the diamonds and ended up stealing only 123 of the 189 deposit boxes in the vault.  Despite this Notarbartolo was eventually apprehended and is now serving 10 years in prison.  However, none of the diamonds have ever been recovered and were estimated to be worth $100 million.  The events of the heist were so complex that Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell would write a book titled Flawless which detailed the entire heist. 

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