We have to give it to Ocean’s Eleven – while what they did was very illegal, they executed it perfectly. Here, police officers reveal the criminals that actually impressed them with their criminal skills.
1. When I was a rookie I got a call at 3:00 AM one night about a hold up alarm going off at an ATM. I respond and don’t really take the call that seriously at first because I’m thinking, “No way a hold up alarm is being triggered at 3 in the morning”.
I get there and start checking the bank when I see a guy walking through the drive through. Stupid me strolls over and calmly says, “Hey man, come over here and talk to me for a minute.” He bolts and I take off after him only to realize I left my handheld in my car. I run back and call it in and my partner shows up shorty after. Well we can’t find the guy and start looking around. The guy spray painted the ATM camera and the drive thru camera, which set off the alarm.
About an hour later I see a vehicle with out of state tags driving slowly through the drive thru and after running the plate, he has fictitious tags. We search the vehicle and can find absolutely nothing but a very long tree branch in the back of the SUV. We write him for fictitious tags and send him on his way per my Sgt.
The next day my investigator gets a call from the FBI because they had this guy’s name flagged and saw where we ran him. He had been hitting ATMs in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee. We were the first department that actually came in contact with him.
He would spray paint the cameras or use the tree branch to turn high cameras away, after the alarms go off, he would wait nearby for police to leave. He would then come back and saw the hinges off the ATMs and take the money. He stole approximately $150,000 over a six month period. He was caught a few weeks later by a guy I went to the academy with.
2. Although no skill was really involved, I arrested a kid for stealing a car. He confessed and told me that he’d be straight up with me. He was walking through a parking lot and saw a lady drop her car keys and keep walking.
He said that’s her fault for not paying attention, grabbed the keys, and took off in her car. He lamented that he knew he’d get stopped eventually, but didn’t think we’d stop him so quickly. When I asked if he had a driver’s license he smiled and said he was planning to take the car he stole to the DMV so he could take his driving test.
We both had a good laugh at that. He said I ruined his plans.
3. Not a cop, or the criminal in question, but…
An acquaintance’s brother was getting pulled over but had several pounds of weed in the car. He managed to stop the car, get out, and run without the cops seeing him. While they were still looking for him, he had time to find a way home and report the car stolen. They had no proof who was in the car or where he was.
4. Saw this one on one of those police chase shows. Police dash cam showed the car in front of him was swerving all over the road in the middle of the night. He followed him for a while, then flipped on the lights to pull him over. Guy pulls over, and before the cop can do anything, he turns off the car, gets out, throws his keys into the woods, cracks open a brand new 5th of vodka, and chugs the whole thing down.
Cut to the interview of the actual criminal with his voice and face obscured. He said he had already had multiple DUIs and had become something of an expert on drunk driving laws. He took advantage of a loophole wherein the cop didn’t have time to see if he was actually drunk behind the wheel of the car.
Chugging the vodka right there would immediately have an effect on any sobriety testing. He hadn’t opened the vodka in the car, so no open container infraction. And he made sure his keys were most definitely out of reach, so there was no way that he could be “operating a vehicle under the influence.” Didn’t know whether or not to be impressed or disgusted with his drunken ingenuity.
5. This guy in high school, we’ll call him Luis, was a known drug dealer. He didn’t make it a secret. Everyone bought weed and harder stuff off of him. The cops constantly pulled him over to search him, and whenever a drug related thing happened at school he was often the first kid they pulled into the principal’s office.
But they would never catch him with any drugs.
The principal used to turn all of his possessions inside out on a weekly basis. Apparently schools can do that, but cops can’t. They regularly cut locks off his gym locker and his regular locker in hopes of finding his stash, but they never found it.
One time there was a rumor going around that his stash was stored in a locker not assigned to anyone, which prompted the administration to search every single locker in the school. I remember we had to stand in the hallway and unlock it so the principal could have a look inside. They definitely caught people with drugs but not the Luis. Turns out he started that rumor (continued).
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Drug dogs were a regular occurrence. Once a month they brought them into the school, and they were present at every sports game.
Luis was one of the only, if not the sole supplier for the whole school. The administration had no idea what to do. They would catch kids with weed and the kids would flat out say, “I bought this from Luis” Luis would encourage them to say it. They would then flip Luis’ stuff inside out, cops would search his car, and he consented to all of it, and laughed when they found nothing.
This was probably close to 15 years ago now. The Vice Principal loves to tell the story about how they eventually “caught” him. VP’s younger son asked for these shoes for Christmas that had a secret compartment in them. Light bulbs go off in his head. The first day back after holiday break, he calls the school’s DARE officer and pulls Luis out of class. They bring him into to office and flip all of his shit out on the table. Then the VP tells him to take his shoes off. Turns out his hunch was right. He had hidden compartments in his shoes.
But there were no drugs in there. I guess Luis is laughing his ass off at this point. This was pre-everyone owned a cell phone era. Luis has the audacity to explain that he hasn’t seen any of his classmates for 3 weeks, he had not take any orders yet. Had the VP waited a day, he would have caught him.
6. A Fire Marshal once told me about his nemesis, a fire bug naturally. Apparently the arsonist had a thing for burning old barns. Never a building that was in use, always an old abandoned one.
Anyway, his modus operandi was to take a balloon filled with accelerant like gasoline or kerosene and suspend it by a string it 20ft+ off the ground. Under the balloon he’d light a candle and start the balloon swinging on a long arc. He’d have a good 20+ minutes before the arc of the swing slowed enough that the candle would ignite the balloon. The balloon ignites, the accelerant is spread evenly across all surfaces and the balloon, string and candle disappear in the fire. It was like the entire interior of the structure caught fire at the same time, with no trace as to how.
He said it was damn near the perfect crime, until some cop happens to notice a car parked in a field a mile away and thinks to jot down the license plate number.
7. I was an MP at Fort Carson. The young man was in the service for two years before a dishonorable discharge sending him back home to Pennsylvania. When he got home he used his uniform to get discounts and praise. One day he decided to hop on a plane to Colorado. He arrives in full uniform but with Lt. rank on. Gets off the plane and uses the government transportation to get on base. He doesn’t have an ID but damn he is an officer so they let him on.
Then he stayed at the in-processing barracks without paperwork because hell, he is an officer. Stays there for weeks. He goes walking to the PX and comes across a woman with a flat tire. He helps her change it out and she invites him over for dinner.
There he meets her husband and their kids then convinces them that he is waiting for housing and they let him live with them for a month. He cleans the house and babysits the kids.
One time he went to this guys unit and chewed a supply sergeant out to help the guy he was living with. The only reason this came to light is because of one phone call he made to his mother from the in-processing barracks. She became worried about him and called them. His mother let the people know he was not in the military. After that the search began. I was in MPI and got to pick him up. He gave me a straightforward statement and was genuinely nice.
I just remember sitting on the office couch with him watching TV waiting for him to get transferred from my custody. I told him that I was genuinely impressed and that after what ever happens to him, happens, that he could get it together and do well. He wasn’t the brightest kid but damn he had balls. I guess that is what it really takes.
8. Once had a guy who shoplifted on an industrial scale. He stole hundreds and sometimes thousands of pounds-worth of merchandise from a particular well-known high-street clothing store. Every day.
He’d go to different branches all over the country. He spoke nicely and was smartly dressed. He just used to fill up bags with high value products and walk out.
He had a warehouse-type unit somewhere (police never found it) with his own till because he would generate till receipts for these items and go back to return them (at a different branch) and get cash refunds.
He was at it for years – made enough to put his kids through private school. When he got caught he was jailed for about a year (our shoplifting sentencing guidelines are absurdly low).
When he came out he got back on it. Police still couldn’t find his base. He was being investigated and was on bail. One occasion when he answered his bail at the police station, the police had a 6-man surveillance team ready to tail him and track down the warehouse he was using. He lost them within 2 minutes of leaving the station.
When he came for trial based on the CCTV evidence we had from the various shops the case got thrown out. (The footage wasn’t good enough to make out his features exactly and the officer who purported to identify him hadn’t followed procedures).
After he was thus acquitted he was due to be investigated for some other matters – but he gave the police and security the slip from the Court before he could be arrested.
Even I was impressed – and I was prosecuting him!
9. Had a guy when I first started would twist locks. The art of twisting a lock works mainly in businesses that secure their double front doors using a deadbolt style lock.
He would use a tool to twist this lock and in turn, open the doors. Guy probably got away with 25 businesses before he was finally busted. He later said his style of breaking and entering worked so well because the alarm systems have a set delay when opening a business. Say 30 seconds.
Given the glass wasn’t broke or large movements were observed by the system, it would act as if the store we’re opening and give the employee time to reset the alarm. Those 30 seconds were plenty for him to get in, get to the register, and leave.
10. We get a call reporting that the phone system of a major UK bank has been hacked and that the caller has had several thousand pounds stolen from their account as a result. Seems unlikely, but officers went round to see what had happened. Obviously the bank’s system was fine, but scammers had done something fairly clever.
Turns out that there is a way in the UK of keeping a phone line open when only the recipient hangs up. The scammers called the victim and pretended to be from the bank, before asking for account details. Victim was suspicious so hung up and called the bank back at their real telephone number.
However, the scammers held the line open and played a dial tone down the line so the victim thought that she was making a new call, then they played a “ring ring” sample before a new scammer answered the call and took the details pretending to be the bank.
I’ve heard of it a few times since in the press, but the first time I came across it was on duty and no one had any idea what was going on.
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11. So my professor arrested Ted Kaczynski. My professor always told me that they would have never caught him because of how ingenious his IEDs were. He used random pieces of wood from the sawmill next to his cabin as containers and always peeled the labels off of the batteries he used as power. The only reason he got caught was because he had sent a similar manifesto to his brother before the one he sent to the New York Times and his brother notified the police.
12. Used to work with law enforcement and during a Friday night a guy on PCP managed to shut down a major roadway during a foot pursuit. This guy ended up taking several shots from a 9mm and a shotgun shell and then wriggled out of the grasp of several officers trying to subdue him and get into a police car and drive off with it.
He only managed to get about 10 feet before crashing into a cement barrier and knocking himself unconscious. The guy ended up living too.
PCP is a hell of a drug.
13. Not a cop, nor the criminal, but in the Blue Mountains of NSW, Australia, my (now deceased) uncle went on a string of armed robberies where he would run into a store with a gun, then shove the attendant against the wall and super glue their hands to the wall before stealing the money in the cash register.
He had no intentions of using the gun, and it was actually never loaded. He just thought it would be funny to glue people to the wall and steal their stuff.
14. I was 13 years old and took my dad’s truck out for a joy ride while my parents were out of town for the night. I wasn’t so good at driving stick, and got pulled over. I ran for it. I hid in a field for a half hour or so while watching more and more police show up to investigate. When I heard the dogs, I knew it was my time to make it or break it.
So I ran, and boy did I run. I made it to a road and hopped a fence into someone’s yard, and hopped a few more fences (I was, and still am, very athletic).
Lost the dogs, but the cruisers were everywhere. I made my way to my house and there were cops on every corner of the street. But a bit of stealthy fence-hopping and I was at my basement window and I crawled in, with the cops literally outside my house. I gathered my things in the dark, and was ready to head off to my buddy’s place, but I was surrounded.
Thirteen-year-old me gave the police a very entertaining chase, and they even said so. I felt so complimented that they enjoyed the chase, too. They also said I had no chance of getting away.
I remember eating a grapefruit and trying to ‘play it cool’ while they were questioning me.
15. Smartest criminal: suspect would go door to door saying he was with Publisher’s Clearing House. He would tell people they were one of several finalist. He then explained he would need their name, date of birth, and social security number to verify who they were.
After that, he would ask what hours they weren’t home so they could ensure if the victim won the prize, they would be home. Naturally, he would break into their homes when they weren’t home and steal all their valuables.
To top it off, he would steal their identity and open a bunch of credit card / payday loans in their names afterwards. After over 50 cases, I finally caught the guy. Made off with over a half million dollars in 3 months before he was caught.
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16. Am a police officer, but the story is actually from my dad who was a lawyer.
He had a couple of guys who had scratch built an ATM. This would have been back in the 80’s before the days of skimmers and cameras to clone cards, so they built their own ATM and installed it in a wall on a public street in order to collect card details to use later on. I don’t know if it actually dispensed money – I’m guessing it just showed an error message.
He told me that very occasionally he had come across criminals who had worked so hard for their spoils that he felt they had kind of earned them. These guys were his example. He was also confused that two people smart enough to do this chose not to make an honest living.
17. Friend’s dad was a cop.
A few years ago, my friend’s dad had the duty of patrolling the streets to make sure there was no criminal activity. After a long day he was called by a distressed man who had left his car keys inside his new Mercedes Benz and after trying for two hours, they both realized there was no way but to call the company to get it out which would result in a 200 dollar bill.
Luckily for that owner of the car, a suspiciously looking man walking down the street told him he would do it for him for $20, my friend’s dad and the owner seemed skeptical, but honestly couldn’t give a shit so they let him after being tired of their attempts.
The guy in less than 2 minutes, went to the top of the car, punched the roof extremely hard then bumped the driver seat door, and voila, it opened. The owner gave the guy his 20 bucks and off he went.
Two weeks later the cop arrested the guy for stealing a car.
18. In the 70s there was a notorious gangster in Copenhagen who ruled the roost.
It was harmless stuff, really. Cigarettes from the Eastern block. Booze. That kinda thing.
He would mostly have it brought into the country via small boats.
On one occasion he had a big load of cigarettes set to arrive in the morning on a beach. Beaches are generally empty as we have incredibly shit weather.
But lo and behold, on the morning of the arrival the skies were blue and everyone and their mother was on that beach.
So he went to a production company and rented equipment for a small film shoot. Cameras, Directors chair, megaphone, etc. He then went around the beach and casted good looking young males to be extras in a movie about a cigarette smuggler.
When the boat came in he lined them up in a long line from the truck to the boat, called “ACTION” and had them unload the cigarettes into the truck. “CUT” thank you very much, and drove away.
19. One of the guys I know escaped from a new prison by climbing the fence. He was always great at climbing things, he would get to the tops of pine trees no trouble.
When he was running from the police helicopter he had underneath a shed with hay bales inside it. This gave off a heat signal so they couldn’t pick up where he was.
He walk/ran the same loop, this was to make the dog handlers think the dog had got onto a false positive.
He was found hiding in someone’s cupboard eating their food about two weeks after escaping from prison.
20. Not me but a friend of the family (I’ll call him Bob) was a police officer who was stationed in the boonies. Bob had to find someone to bring to court. He found him, but this dude jumped on a horse and took off.
Bob followed in the cop car. The guy on the horse refused to … halt? Bob pulled out his taser, took aim and missed the guy. He got the horse though, which threw the man and Bob took him in.
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21. I’m not a cop, but a cop told me about this. There were these two twin brothers, big, tall, muscular fellows. Their scam was ingenious. Both brothers would go into Home Depot separately and each begin shopping, filling up his cart with high-value stuff, each filling up his cart with identical items.
The first brother would go to the cashier and legally pay for his purchases. He’d show his receipt at the door and take his purchases out of the store.
The second brother would hang around the entrance, far enough from the exit not to arouse suspicion. The first brother would take his car to the entrance and give the receipt to the second brother. First dude then takes his purchases to load up in their vehicle.
Second brother then takes the cart full of items, plus receipt, back to the returns counter and says he changed his mind and wants his money back. Home Depot would refund the “purchases”. Dude basically just sold Home Depot their own items.
Evidently they pulled this trick off and on for years before someone caught on. Cop said they probably would have kept on getting away with it for years if they hadn’t hit the same store so often.
22. I’m not a police officer… but know some guys who are. Best one I heard was a guy who would drill a tiny hole beside a window to open the latch. He would then enter at night, and go straight to the front door and open it, so he could make a quick exit if needed. If he couldn’t open a door, he would leave again immediately. He stole stuff, then closed the window and locked the door behind him.
Most people had no idea they had been robbed. He took wallets off bedside desks while people slept beside them. Or sometimes just took some cash and cards but left the wallet. When he got caught, he was making a plea deal, so it was in his interest to admit all crimes so he couldn’t later be prosecuted again for them.
He took police round dozens of houses, and each had a tiny drill hole…
And every house owner thought they had lost wallets and credit cards never knowing they had been burgled.
23. My mom’s good friend tells me stories about his chop shopping days. He was notorious with the police for never getting caught. What he use to do was steal the car, bring it to a random’s friend’s garage and pay them, gut the parts, and unload them slowly to his contacts.
The cops knew it was him, he would constantly get arrested as a suspect but always get tossed out after clearly not having enough evidence.
Eventually the local PD had enough and got him an amazing repo job. Now he makes 6 figures a year doing what he loved. He actually got coffee with an old retired cop that was essentially his arch enemy. He told the cop all the stories and how he did it. He was so dumbfounded how smart his tactics were, that the cop started laughing uncontrollably.
24. Hatton Garden heist is my favourite. Huge water-cooled drill, 50cm of concrete, all dressed as builders. Safety deposit boxes totalling 14m were robbed and they rolled them out wearing overalls, in wheelie bins. A proper movie-worthy heist.
25. In 8th grade, my football coach robbed a bank in a small town in Washington State. He had a great elaborate plan. He posted an ad on Craigslist for job offerings telling people they had to wear very specific clothes, at a specific location at the exact same time an armored vehicle was supposed to arrive at a bank.
So when the armored vehicle arrived he was dressed in the same clothes as everyone else, he robbed the armored car then proceeded to run down to a nearby river, and he got in a tiny inflatable raft and floated down the river.
The day after he robbed the bank he threw a fat pizza party for our football team and then he went to Vegas. He was honestly one of the nicest coaches I ever had, everyone loved him.
He was caught by a homeless man who recognized the car that he drove up to the bank in. He was just recently released from jail I think. I’m pretty sure he made a huge turn around with his life and was writing children’s books in jail and now travels the country as a public speaker. Honestly he is kind of an amazing human, even though he has a troubled past.
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26. Had a call to the IT help desk, from a department of the company I was working at. Asking, “When are the new computers going to arrive?”
This caused some consternation, as we didn’t know what they were talking about. But it wasn’t an order that had ‘gone missing’ as much as the entire department’s computers.
Someone had – in broad daylight – rocked up in a transit van, done a masterful piece of blagging and convinced everyone (security included) that this was part of IT’s rolling hardware update program.
So they loaded their “old” computers in the van, and he said he’d be back “soon” with the new ones.
27. In school we would stuff tissue up the hole where change comes out of the snack machines. The change would get stuck here until the end of the day, then pull out the tissue and blam! You got some change.
28. I locked up a guy a few years ago and he had an unusual crime on his criminal history. “Theft of an ATM”.
I asked him about it and he told me he was with 4 others and they all turned up at a local bank in overalls with a large truck. They asked for the manager and told him “We’re here to repair the ATM. The manager helped them load the ATM on to the truck (full of cash) and they drove away.
He got snapped when his girlfriend got mad and turned him in.
29. Not a cop or a criminal, heard this one from a guy who was trying to turn his life around at college after a drug addiction and being in and out of prison.
He and a friend of his would go into supermarkets or electronics stores and one of them would pocket something small then walk out the door to set the alarm off and get security to search him as he kicks up a huge fuss about it.
Whilst the alarm is going off and first guy is being searched and causing a scene, second guy would walk straight out with a trolley loaded with expensive stuff and nobody would bat an eyelid.