Monday, January 17, 2011

10 Impressive Heists that Shocked the World

What 10 Impressive Heists Shocked the World? The Criminal Justice Degrees Blog often has some great crime-related lists, and today they answer that question. A good heist takes complicated planning and execution. As the site mentions, one needs to have guts and brains to pull it off. So here are 10 impressive heists that shocked the world.

1. DB Copper Hijacking. The only unsolved US aircraft highjacking took place on November 24, 1971, on a Northwest Orient flight from Portland to Seattle. Cooper gave a note to a flight attendant saying he had a bomb in his briefcase and demanded $200,000 in unmarked bills and two sets of parachutes. This was delivered upon arrival to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The plane then flew to Reno, but not long after takeoff, Cooper jumped out of the plane, vanishing and leaving behind two of the four parachutes,  his tie and mother of pearl tie clip. Despite an extensive manhunt, he was never found. A portion of the ransom: $5,880 in dollar bills — was recovered on the banks of the Columbia River in 1980. The true whereabouts and identity of Cooper remain unknown despite several men being suspected and others coming forward through the years. The Subject of DB Cooper pops up at Bouchercon conventions.

2. Schiphol Airport Truck Hijacking. The Schiphol Airport truck hijacking on February 25, 2005 came with an estimated loot of $118 million in uncut diamonds. The thieves, using a stolen KLM truck, KLM uniforms and guns, drove up to the truck that was carrying the stones — which was en route to a plane bound for Antwerp — forced the drivers onto the ground face-first, jumped in and took off. None of the trucks’ cargo has been recovered, nor have any of the thieves been caught.

3. Antwerp Diamond Center Heist. The Antwerp Diamond Center was the target of thieves on February 16, 2003, when 123 of 160 vaults were plundered and more than $100 million in gems were stolen. No one knew about the massive breach in security until the next day, when workers stumbled upon the ransacked area, which was littered with gold, money, cut and uncut diamonds and jewels. After DNA was taken from the vault and a half-eaten sandwich found in a bag dumped by the thieves alongside a road, the heist was traced to a group of thieves named The School of Turin — one member was a diamond merchant who worked in the Diamond Center and had seen the vaults several times before. Even though law enforcement found the culprits, they have yet to recover the diamonds.

4. Harry Winston Heist. On December 4, 2008, more than $100 million in jewelry was stolen from the Paris branch of Harry Winston, one of the world’s most famous jewelers. Four armed men — three  disguised as women with long hair and winter scarves — stormed into the store and left with bags full of diamonds, rubies and emeralds. In June of 2009, 25 people were arrested in connection with the heist and some jewelry was recovered. Good news for Harry Winston, which had another robbery just 14 months earlier when $20 million in jewelry was stolen.

5. ABN Amro Bank Heist: In early March of 2007, Carlos Hector Flomenbaum managed to steal $28 million in diamonds from the ABN Amro Bank in Antwerp. The heist was a year in the making for Flomenbaum, who charmed employees and ultimately won their trust, as he was given a special key to access his diamonds when he pleased. Almost four years later, authorities still haven’t uncovered his true identity nor have the diamonds been recovered.

6. Central Bank of Iraq Heist: The largest bank heist of all-time was orchestrated by one of the world’s biggest criminals. During the lead -up to the US invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein ordered for approximately $1 billion to be taken from the Central Bank of Iraq and given to his son Qusay, who would oversee the loading of three large trucks. According to Saddam, the action was taken "to protect this money from American aggression." About $650 million was later found by US troops in the walls of Saddam’s palace. Some people might not consider this a heist since Saddam was in power at the time.

7. Dar Es Salaam Bank Heist: Post-Saddam Iraq was the setting of another massive bank heist, though the almost $300 million in US dollars taken was only a fraction of what Saddam 'stole' four years earlier. Employees discovered three of their colleagues, who happened to be guards, were missing and had left the front door open.

8. Mona Lisa Heist:  On August 21, 1911, Vincenzo Peruggia , a custodian at the Louvre in Paris, stole the Mona Lisa. He did it by hiding in the closet during closing time, eventually walking out with the painting hidden beneath his coat. The Italian immigrant later claimed that he had taken it for patriotic reasons in an effort to ensure Leonardo’s painting was put on display in his homeland, but he was caught when he tried to sell it to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. The painting was displayed throughout the country before it was returned to France in 1913, and Peruggia was lauded by Italians for his supposed deed.

9. Gardner Heist: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston has a collection of 2,500 works of art, but it’s best known for the heist of 1990. Early on March 18th after the city’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities were winding down, thieves dressed as police officers handcuffed two security guards and walked out with thirteen works of art worth more than $500 million — the largest art theft in American history. Included were Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee and Johannes Vermeer’s The Concert. More than 20 years later, the frames still hang empty in the museum, and the thieves have not been caught, though some have hypothesized that gangster Whitey Bulger or a faction of the IRA were behind it.

10. Stardust Heist:  Bill Brennan heisted from the Stardust Resort and Casino in September of 1992. The then-cashier at the casino loaded up a backpack and left unchecked during his lunch break and never returned. He did it alone, it wasn’t elaborately planned, and to this day, nobody knows his whereabouts. Considering the suffocating security presence at most casinos and the elaborately schemed heists that have failed in the past, Brennan, though a bad guy, deserves a bit of credit. Oceans Eleven is based on this heist.


Anonymous said...

Janet - Thanks for this. It is pretty amazing how, even in today's world of higher security, people who want to badly enough can pull off some pretty daring heists.

monalisamissing said...

Hi Janet

If you want to know more about Vincenzo Peruggia and his unthinkable theft of the Mona Lisa, check out the documentary I'm doing about him: It features exclusive interviews with his daughter. By the way, Peruggia wasn't a custodian. He worked for the subcontractor who had put 1600 of the Louvre's masterpieces behind glass. and he didn't hide in a closet. He walked into the Louvre on a Monday morning when the museum was closed -- dressed as a workman.

Janet Rudolph said...

Thanks, Joe, for the update. Your documentary sounds fascinating. Will check it out. Perhaps you'd like to guest blog here about it??

monalisamissing said...

Sure. Thanks for the offer. And in the meantime you can check out my blog at I'm a little behind updating it because I've been madly editing, trying to make some film festival deadlines.