The Smartest Money Heists in Real Life!!!
Hey everyone, welcome back to another article! We are always amused by a good heist story.
Witnessing a group of people with different mindsets coming together, having a certain role in the scheme which is perfected by skill, experience and being thorough, following an elaborate master plan down to the smallest detail, and ultimately coming out successful is actually pretty mind-blowing.
The chances of having such a master plan succeed however are very thin in real life. Maybe that’s why we allow ourselves to be fascinated by a robbery and root for the criminals against our better judgment, because deep down inside, we know that it’s fiction and couldn’t have come true in reality.
However, we have 7 instances here that sound like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster, but are actually real stories: But before we begin, make sure you subscribe to the Newsletter and hit the bell icon so that you don’t miss out on anything! Let’s begin.
7 Smartest Money Heists in Real Life–
7. The Gardner Museum Art Theft
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a Venetian style palace situated in Boston, originally the residence of philanthropist, Isabella Stewart Gardner. The museum houses her art collection which includes significant pieces of history, which according to her will cannot be moved or replaced.
So what happens if a piece gets stolen from the museum? The spot of the piece that is stolen remains empty as a memorial to the lost art. 13 of such spots exist in the Gardner Museum today in the hope of the art’s return. It was past midnight on St. Patrick’s Day in 1990. Two watchmen guarded the museum; one patrolled the galleries, while the other sat at the security desk. They were visited by two policemen who claimed to be there in response to a disturbance.
They were buzzed into the museum. Only, they were not policemen. The two men subdued the two guards one by one and took them to the basement without asking for directions, and tied them down there. They smashed the alarm that would go off if anyone got too close to a painting.
After that, the two robbers took out 13 pieces from the museum, of which no one has yet been able to make sense, since the robbers left more valuable pieces like Michelangelo’s untouched, but chose to take away a few thousand dollars’ worth ancient Chinese beaker.
Collectively however, the stolen artwork was valued to be worth about half a billion US dollars. The thieves left no clues whatsoever, and remain at large to this day, with the artwork still missing.
6. The French Vacuum Gang Robberies
This one is a series of robberies performed by a single group using a common instrument and methodology. This group of French robbers, popularly known as the French Vacuum Gang, found a weak link in the money handling system of French supermarkets.
The targeted supermarkets use pneumatic suction tubes to transport cash from checkout counters to the vault. Break-opening a vault requires advanced tools and skill, and the risk of getting caught remains high due to the security measures around it.
However, this group solved the problem by intercepting the money in the suction tubes before it reaches the vault. The robbers drill a hole in the tube, attach a high powered vacuum cleaner to the hole in the tube, and suck the money directly out of the tubes.
This ingenious and yet such a simple idea has enabled the group to steal over 800,000 US dollars without triggering any alarms. From 2006 to 2010, they’ve done the drill (pun not intended) a total of 15 times, with the only time they gained some heat was their last hit in 2010 in which they were caught by the security camera.
This was the first time the truth to how the money was getting stolen was actually uncovered by the authorities. Although the ski masks hiding their identities make the footage useless, the gang that was smart enough to come up with such an idea for heists was smart enough to realize when to quit. The gang is still unidentified to this day.
5. The Dunbar Armored Robbery
This heist was orchestrated by Allen Pace, the Dunbar Armored facility’s own regional safety inspector – the irony. Pace brought his childhood friends along to carry out the heist. They gathered at a party specifically set up to give them alibis. They would depart from the party, make a pit stop to change attires and vehicles and go to the facility.
Pace used his key to enter the facility with his group. He knew the security cameras viewing angles and timings, and had devised a way to reach the staff cafeteria undetected where they set up ambushes for the security guards.
At lunch time, the guards were picked on one by one and subdued efficiently before they could get a chance to set the alarms off. The vault was already open to assist in the overwhelmingly high number of transfers that are made on Fridays; a fact that Pace knew and abused.
So the gang took 18.9 million US dollars from the vault, loaded it all in a U-Haul truck, and went back to the party after changing back into their party clothes at the pit stop.
The group slowly started laundering money and all of it was going smoothly until one of the members used the original stack of stolen money to pay off a broker and got caught. Eventually, the whole gang’s identities were disclosed and some of the money returned. About 10 million US dollars have still not been recovered.
4. The 2007 Harry Winston Heist
Harry Winston is a high-end luxurious jewelry brand with boutiques across the globe. On October 6th, 2007 at a Harry Winston’s in Paris, when the import-export director authorized a guard to unlock the entrance, everything seemed normal.
The director and the security guard entered the store first and had no reason to believe that the robbers would already be inside the store, but they were. How and when they got inside is a mystery still unknown. The gang subdued the director and guard in the bathroom and then the rest of the employees who entered the store.
They forced the manager on gunpoint to open the safe and swept it clean. The gang was well informed about all the goods and the employees’ personal information.
They used fire extinguishers to cover the traces of their stay from the night before the store opened. 480 pieces worth 37 million US dollars were taken that morning and still haven’t been recovered to this day.
3. The Antwerp Diamond Heist
The Antwerp World Diamond Centre in Belgium is one of the densest wealth centers in the whole world. Leonardo Notarbartolo, believed to be the mastermind behind this robbery, spent 18 months in preparation for what was to be the “heist of the century”. He posed as an Italian diamond dealer and rented an office in the diamond centre.
This gained him 24/7 access to the building, and a safe box in the vault that is two stories below the ground and houses millions of dollars’ worth of jewelry. Notarbartolo and his group conducted detailed surveillance by regular visits and hidden cameras. They acquired the vault’s combination and the details of the security measures this way.
Notarbartolo used women’s hair spray on the thermal-motion sensors a day before the heist to buy them time and leniency required to disarm the systems completely. On the day of heist, Notarbartolo played the role of getaway driver while the group performed the series of tasks swiftly. They had the vault’s layout memorized as they had been practicing their tasks on a full-size replica.
They entered the building from an adjoining office building and used polyester shields to hide from the infrared sensors. Security cameras facing the vault were covered with black plastic bags to mimic darkness in the antechamber, while they used a duplicate key, the combination from footage, and an aluminum plate to prevent the magnetic sensor from going off, in order to open the vault.
The team then worked in darkness, counting their steps, disabling the systems, blinding the heat sensors with Styrofoam and light sensors with tape. They broke open more than 123 of the 160 safe deposit boxes and fled the scene with a 100 million dollars’ worth of loot stuffed in duffel bags.
Their only mistake was not disposing off the plans properly because one of the members was having a panic attack at the moment and messed up. This got them caught later; however most of the stolen diamonds could not be recovered.
2. The Bangladesh Bank Cyber Heist
In this era of technology, robberies can be performed without guns and masks by abusing the Internet of Things with a genius enough to pull such a feat off. The target of this cyber heist was the Bangladesh Bank.
In February 2016, a group of hackers managed to install a backdoor malware in the bank’s system using an employee’s email. From there, they were able to gain access to the bank’s SWIFT credentials.
SWIFT is an international system that allows banks to send and receive highly secured payment orders upon which the banks then act. The hackers used the Bangladesh Bank’s SWIFT credentials to send 951 million US dollars into Bangladesh’s account in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York which is used by Bangladesh for large transactions in international settlements.
From there, they rerouted the money spreading across 35 transactions to several bank accounts in Asia. The timing of the attack and these transactions was so well-thought, it took the entities too long to act on stop orders due to holidays and even a Chinese New Year. Long story short, all but four transactions were stopped. These four transactions totaling 81 million US dollars still made it through and the money was stolen.
Even though the final amount that made it through is less than the original billion, it is still a hefty chunk of wealth, and for a short period of time, the billion was technically stolen before stopping the transactions. The intelligently planned timing of it is what makes this heist so remarkable.
1. Brazil’s Banco Bank Heist
This one is a classic where the robbers eloquently hid in plain sight and employed brilliance in engineering to carry out the tasks involved in the heist. Luis Fernando Ribeiro, the mastermind behind the plot gathered a group of 24 robbers and rented a commercial property near the bank where they would start digging the tunnel to the Brazil’s Banco Central bank at Fortaleza.
Their front was a fake landscaping company to avoid suspicions on vans full of dirt moving out of the property regularly. They even distributed flyers to market their fake company and legitimize their front, so nobody suspected that they weren’t actually renovating but digging a tunnel to the Banco Central bank’s vault.
Their tunnel was 13 ft deep below the natural ground level, with a 28 ft diameter and a length of 260 ft to the bank’s vault. They used light tools to avoid noise and supported the tunnel’s walls with wood paneling.
Moreover, the tunnel even had its own lighting and air ventilation system. The robbers also had to cut through 3.6 ft of reinforced concrete at the end of the tunnel to get into the vault, but no alarms were triggered thanks to an insider involved in the heist.
They took 3.5 tons of almost untraceable cash worth 70 million US dollars from the vault before the weekend, transported it back to the rented property and took it all away, once again in vans.
The authorities found out the next Monday but couldn’t start a chase because the tracks were covered with chalk. The whole plan can’t possibly be carried out without ingenious engineering and a well-thought master plan.
That is why it was recognized by the Guinness World Records as the world’s greatest bank robbery. Even after the genius of the mentioned heists, lack of clues, perfect timing and all the skill involved to pull these off, all of the heists are solvable. Sooner or later, justice prevails and the perpetrators always meet the end that they deserve.
It is okay to be fascinated with the finesse in carrying out a complex plan; but to retun our moral compass, we have to ask ourselves: is money really worth all this dishonest trouble, only to meet a deplorable end?
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