Historic Heists And Crimes We Just Heard About

Voting Rules
Vote up the most impressive historic heists.

There's a reason millions of fans love Ocean's Eleven - it's a really good heist! It's entertaining, for sure, but how often do people truly get away with a bank robbery or other big-time crimes like that? Apparently, more often than you might think. 

The greatest getaways don't just belong in the Old West. Train holdups, bank holdups, art thefts, and more - plenty of great heists don't include wagon trains. Some thieves were caught right away, but many never were. The audacity of these crimes will impress you, as will the relative ease at which some of them were pulled off. Perhaps the moral of the story is this: never doubt what you can get away with if you're dressed in the right uniform and have a lick of confidence. 

  • A Gang Pretended To Rob An Argentinian Bank, While The Real Robbery Tunneled In Below
    Photo: Leonidas_from_XIV / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0
    235 VOTES

    A Gang Pretended To Rob An Argentinian Bank, While The Real Robbery Tunneled In Below

    The heist of Banco Rio in Argentina is truly one of a kind. On January 13, 2006, authorities received a call that a robbery was taking place at a San Isidro branch of the large bank. Police established a perimeter and learned that five robbers were inside, holding others hostage. They made contact with one robber, who eventually asked for pizza for the hostages because they were hungry. 

    After that request, all communication ceased. Police worried about what to do, not wanting to risk the lives of the hostages. After hours of no contact, a special forces team entered the bank, finding hostages dispersed in three locations, but none of the robbers. Instead, they found evidence that the crooks had cleaned out 143 of the bank vault's 400 safe deposit boxes. The only items left behind were an unidentified tool, a battery pack, and a stack of toy guns. But where were the robbers?

    The plan was hatched in the mind of one Fernando Araujo, who had an obsession with bank robberies and smoking weed. The real brains behind the project was his childhood friend Sebastián García Bolster, whom he recruited only after promising that no guns or violence would be used. Bolster had a personal vendetta against banks, having seen them take all of his father's and grandfather's money. This would be retribution

    The two decided that to successfully get away, they would create a diversion upstairs, while emptying the vaults below and then escaping underground. Bolster chiseled a tunnel from the underground sewage system into the basement of the bank. He also carefully created just the right tool to break open the vaults, as well as a getaway vehicle - an inflatable boat that would be helped along by the dam that Bolster would also engineer. 

    In all, seven men executed the heist, with five initiating the obvious - and fake - robbery and keeping the police and public engaged as a diversion. Emptying the vaults, loading the boat, paddling upstream, and eventually reaching the getaway car, the men stole an estimated $20 million in cash and valuables.

    One robber started revealing the truth of the immaculate heist when police pulled him over for something unrelated. His wife, who had seen many of the accomplices in their garage, was able to tell police who all but two of the other suspects were. Those who were arrested got short prison sentences (the brainy Bolster, for example, served only 25 months). Not all of the money was recovered, and unsurprisingly, nobody remembers what happened to it. 

    235 votes
  • 2
    174 VOTES

    A Man Posing As A Cop Tricked Four Bank Workers Into Giving Up Their Car In The '300 Million Yen Robbery'

    When you realize what one person dressed as a police officer can get away with, you might wonder why more people don't do it. Japan's "300 Million Yen Robbery" in 1968 was a classic example of someone getting away with a heist simply because he posed as a trusted member of the community. 

    Four workers from Nihon Shintaku Ginko Bank were transporting 300 million yen in bonuses for Nokia employees. During the transport, what appeared to be a motorcycle police officer pulled over the vehicle and warned the employees that authorities had reason to believe there may be explosives aboard their bank-owned vehicle. The workers immediately got out of the car while the "officer" inspected it; then, as it started to smoke underneath, he jumped in and took off with the vehicle. 

    This daring December daylight heist baffled investigators. Officers went through more than 100,000 suspect names, never finding the man responsible. Even after the statute of limitations expired 20 years later, no one came forward to admit guilt. The money and the man disappeared without a trace. 

    174 votes
  • $500 Million Worth Of Art Was Stolen From The Gardner Museum In A Case That Was Never Solved
    Photo: Artwork by various artists, last deceased 1917 / FBI / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    144 VOTES

    $500 Million Worth Of Art Was Stolen From The Gardner Museum In A Case That Was Never Solved

    The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston was the legacy of a longtime arts patron who wanted the public to enjoy her private collection of paintings, tapestries, and sculptures. Unfortunately, the museum fell victim to financial mismanagement shortly after Gardner's passing in 1924. While it was home to million-dollar works, the museum's reputation and security significantly declined. 

    In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, two robbers took advantage of this lax security and successfully pulled off one of the greatest heists in history. Posing as police officers, the men convinced two young security guards to let them in. Upon entering the museum, the robbers made quick work of tying up the guards and duct-taping their mouths. The thieves then proceeded to remove two Rembrandt paintings from their frames, including Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee. They took an additional 11 pieces of art, including Johannes Vermeer's The Concert, as well as a bronze ornament belonging to Napoleon. In a little more than an hour, they succeeded in stealing $500 million worth of art. 

    Although the museum set up a $10 million reward for information leading to recovery of the artwork, no one with pertinent information came forward. Likewise, investigators were stumped by the apparent ease of completing the heist, as well as the artwork selections of the thieves (who left behind some of the most expensive pieces). 

    In 2015, there seemed to be a break in the case when the FBI declared it was confident the two suspects were Leonard DiMuzio and George Reissfelder, associates of the Carmello Merlino mob. However, both suspects passed shortly after the heist, and after FBI agents followed the artwork's trail on the black market to Philadelphia and Connecticut, the trail went cold.

    144 votes
  • 4
    113 VOTES

    A Group Pretending To Run A Tax Investigation Stole Jewelry From The Mumbai Opera House

    In Mumbai (formerly called Bombay), the most exclusive and expensive jewelry stores once did business inside the Royal Opera House. India's Central Bureau of Investigation would regularly run raids or inspections on the stores to keep criminal activity at bay.

    On March 19, 1987, what appeared to be a CBI raid took place on the highest-end jewelry store, Tribhovandas Bhimji Zhaveri. Agents entered the building, pulled down the blinds, and told employees and customers to stay where they were while jewelry was inspected and some of it bagged, and while the cash register contents were counted. 

    What appeared to be a legitimate inspection turned out to be one of the smoothest heists in history. The mastermind, known as Mohan Singh, had recruited a team of unknowing thieves by publishing a job ad for intelligence officers. He assembled the best applicants into this team, telling them they'd be going on a test raid at TBZ. 

    After completing their "raid," Singh instructed his team to wait there while he went to inspect a nearby shop. Instead, he hopped on the bus that held the jewelry and cash, then took a taxi, and then a private vehicle. Eventually, someone in the jewelry store got wise to the fact that it was not a legitimate raid and called the police. By then, however, Singh was long gone and his trail was already cold.

    113 votes
  • The Irish Crown Jewels Were Stolen And Never Found
    Photo: Dublin Police / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    118 VOTES

    The Irish Crown Jewels Were Stolen And Never Found

    In 1907, the Crown Jewels of Ireland were inexplicably stolen from Dublin Castle; they comprised a star, a badge, and collars, all heavily adorned in diamonds, emeralds, and rubies. Although not crown jewels in the same sense as their British counterparts, the jewels were the unique sign of the Most Illustrious Order of St. Patrick.

    Crafted and gifted by King William V, the jewels were a symbol of Ireland's place in the United Kingdom. They usually stayed in a locked safe belonging to a security-obsessed jeweler in Dublin. When the king or queen was visiting and had occasion to wear the jewels, they moved to an even more secure safe within Dublin Castle, which also served as police headquarters. 

    On July 10, 1907, King Edward VII, Queen Alexandria, and Princess Victoria would be in town, thus the jewels were held at Dublin Castle. However, four days before the arrival of the royals, the collection went missing. 

    The safe holding the jewels sat in a lightly secured library in the castle, due to some behind-schedule renovations. Then, earlier in the summer of 1907, a series of security mishaps occurred - lost keys, doors left open - that went largely ignored. On the morning of July 6, the collars, which had been cleaned, were dropped off. When the sentry went to store them in the safe, he realized the safe was unlocked; not only were the star and badge missing, but so were additional golden collars and jewels with historical importance.

    It became clear the thief had had plenty of time to do the job; a finicky ribbon attached to the jewels had been carefully untied and left behind, and all the tissue paper was neatly folded up and placed back in the pristine boxes where the jewels once lay. No one had broken into the castle; all doors leading to the jewels, including the safe, had been unlocked with a key.

    Scotland Yard came in to solve the case, but then Dublin police sent them packing. The staff, particularly Arthur Vicars (who was in charge of keeping the jewels safe), became both laughing stocks as well as suspects. As journalists, authorities, and wannabe sleuths alike attempted to solve the puzzle, rumors of sex scandals and orgies came flying out, yet no real news of the jewels was forthcoming.

    Theories included a gay aristocrat being blackmailed into the theft, a group of nationalists attempting to embarrass and discredit British rule, or an employee taking advantage of a drunken Vicars and stealing the keys. Yet despite all the theories, it's been more than a century and there are still no suspects, and no hint at where the Irish Crown Jewels might be. 

    118 votes
  • Vincenzo Peruggia Walked Out Of The Louvre With The 'Mona Lisa'
    Photo: Leonardo da Vinci / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Prior to her abduction, Mona Lisa hung on a wall with dozens of other pieces of art. She did not stand out, and she was not even well known. But on August 21, 1911, Vincenzo Peruggia forever changed the fate of the not-quite-smiling dame. 

    Peruggia was a handyman at the Louvre in Paris, so he knew his way around. On that August morning, he simply grabbed the painting off the wall when the museum was open, slipped it under his coat, and walked out. If he was so familiar with the museum and the hundreds of art pieces it contained, why steal off with only the little-known Mona Lisa? Simply put, Peruggia believed the painting had been stolen from his homeland of Italy during the Napoleonic years. He was just doing his patriotic duty to return her where she belonged. 

    Workers didn't even notice the painting was missing until the next day, when it was already safely hidden in Peruggia's apartment. Investigators began their search, interviewing a handful of suspects (including the one and only Pablo Picasso), with no luck. Meanwhile, news of the theft spread globally, and soon everyone knew about the Mona Lisa

    The painting's newfound fame handicapped Peruggia's plans to bring it back to Italy immediately. He waited for the hype to die down, and after two years became impatient and reached out to a contact in Italy to discuss the purchase. His contact notified the authorities after their meeting, and Peruggia was arrested. He was imprisoned for six months, but hailed as a patriot in Italy. 

    The Mona Lisa now hangs on her own wall, behind a bulletproof case. 

    186 votes