8 Clever Bandits

1Victor Lustig: the criminal who managed to “sell” the Eiffel Tower, twice!

In 1925 a con artist called Victor Lustig managed to sell the Eiffel tower, not just once, but twice within two months! France had just recovered from World War I, and Paris was booming, an excellent environment for a con artist. Lustig's master con came to him one spring day when he was reading a newspaper article regarding the debate raging around the maintenance costs of the 36 year old Eiffel tower. Lustig saw the possibilities behind this article and developed a remarkable scheme.

Lustig produced fake government stationery for him and invited six scrap metal dealers to a confidential meeting at one of the most prestigious hotel in Paris, to discuss a possible business deal. There, Lustig introduced himself as the deputy director-general of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs. He told the group that the upkeep on the Eiffel Tower was so outrageous that the city could not maintain it any longer, and wanted to sell it for scrap. Due to the certain public outcry the matter was to be kept secret until all the details were thought out. The idea was not as implausible in 1925 as it would be today. The Eiffel Tower had been built for the 1889 Paris Exposition, and was not intended to be permanent. It was to have been taken down in 1909 and moved somewhere else. Lustig took the men to the tower in a rented limousine for an inspection tour. It gave Lustig the opportunity to gauge which of them was the most enthusiastic and gullible. Lustig asked for bids to be submitted the next day. In reality, Lustig already knew he would accept the bid from one dealer, Andre Poisson. Poisson was insecure, feeling he was not in the inner circles of the Parisian business community, and thought that obtaining the Eiffel Tower deal would put him in the big league. However, Poisson's wife was suspicious, wondering who this official was, why everything was so secret, and why everything was being done so quickly. To deal with her suspicion, Lustig arranged another meeting, and then "confessed." As a government minister, he did not make enough money to pursue the lifestyle he enjoyed, and needed to find ways to supplement his income. This meant that his dealings needed certain discretion. Poisson understood immediately. He was dealing with another corrupt government official who wanted a bribe. That put Poisson's mind at rest immediately, since he was familiar with the type and had no problems dealing with such people. So Lustig not only received the funds for the Eiffel Tower, he also collected a large bribe. Lustig and his personal secretary, a Franco American con man Robert Arthur Tourbillon, hastily took a train for Vienna with a suitcase full of cash. Surprisingly, nothing happened. Poisson was too humiliated to complain to the police. A month later, Lustig returned to Paris, selected six more scrap dealers, and tried to sell the Tower once more. This time, the chosen victim went to the police before Lustig could close the deal, but Lustig and Collins managed to evade arrest.

2Frank Abagnale: the teenager impostor who passed over 2.5 million dollars in forged checks

Frank William Abagnale, Jr. is an American security consultant best known for his history as a former confidence trickster, check forger, skilled impostor, and escape artist. He became notorious in the 1960s for successfully passing US$2.5 million worth of meticulously forged checks across 26 countries over the course of five years, starting when he was only 17 years old. In the process, he claimed to have assumed no fewer than eight separate identities, successfully impersonated an airline pilot, a doctor, a prison inspector, and a lawyer. He escaped from police custody twice (once from a taxiing airliner and once from a US federal penitentiary), all before he was 21 years old. Abagnale's life story provided the inspiration for the feature film Catch Me If You Can. He is currently a consultant and lecturer at the academy and field offices for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He also runs Abagnale & Associates, a financial fraud consultancy company.

3Anthony J. Curcio: the bank robber who fooled the police by hiring decoys through Craigslist

In an elaborate robbery scheme, a crook robbed an armored truck outside a Bank of America branch in Monroe, Wash., by hiring decoys through Craigslist to deter authorities. It gets better: He then escaped in a creek headed for the Skykomish River in an inner tube, and the cops are still looking for him. It appears to have unfolded this way, around 11:00 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, the robber, wearing a yellow vest, safety goggles, a blue shirt, and a respirator mask went over to a guard who was overseeing the unloading of cash to the bank from the truck. He sprayed the guard with pepper spray, grabbed his bag of money, and fled the scene. But here's the hilarious twist. The robber had previously put out a Craigslist ad for road maintenance workers, promising wages of $28.50 per hour. Recruits were asked to wait near the Bank of America right around the time of the robbery--wearing yellow vests, safety goggles, a respirator mask, and preferably a blue shirt. At least a dozen of them showed up after responding to the Craigslist ad. "I came across the ad that was for a prevailing wage job for $28.50 an hour," one of the unwitting decoys said. As it turns out, they were simply placed there to confuse cops who were looking for a guy wearing a virtually identical outfit.

Three weeks prior to the robbery, a homeless man contacted city authorities after seeing someone recover an oddball array of items from behind the same bank branch--a black wig, a reflective safety vest, dark glasses, a two-way radio, a baseball cap, and a can of mace--and provided a license plate number. It's believed that the witness may have seen a test run of the heist-in-progress. Using the license plate data, cops tracked down 28-year-old Anthony J. Curcio, recovered a "significant" amount of money from him, and are holding him in the Snohomish County Jail. His family had apparently recently had some financial difficulties, and had a prior home foreclosed. Curcio also had an infant daughter born 10 days before the robbery, according to birth announcements that the Seattle Times surface.

4The woman who robbed a house, was caught by the owner but escaped by saying she was on the wrong house

A woman stole cash and jewelry from a home a Wednesday morning but pretended she was in the wrong house when she was caught by the resident. A Maple Avenue resident told the police that he returned to his house at about 10 a.m. to find a woman standing in his foyer. The woman told the resident she mistakenly entered his house through the garage thinking it was her friend's house. The woman then claimed she was going to a false address, and appeared to call a person she said was her mother before leaving.. The resident called a family member who told him to call police and soon discovered jewelry and cash missing from his house. The woman was described by the resident to police as approximately 5 foot 8 inches tall, with a medium build, medium length hair and in her 20s.

5Colton Harris-Moore: the 19-year-old boy who stole 3 airplanes and a $450,000 yacht barefoot

For more than two years, lawmen had been hunting Colton Harris-Moore, the elusive 19-year-old "Barefoot Bandit" they believe is responsible for hundreds of burglaries and the theft of at least three airplanes and a $450,000 yacht. Harris-Moore is suspected in countless burglaries round the country, including Washington, Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. He is also believed to have committed crimes in Canada and, most recently, the Bahamas. Since many of Harris-Moore's alleged crimes were committed while he was barefoot, the media dubbed him the "Barefoot Bandit." Not only have several folk-hero-style ballads been written about Harris-Moore, but he also has a huge fan following on the Internet. A Facebook fan page dedicated to him boasts more than 89,000 fans.

Harris-Moore was captured in the Bahamas on July 2010.

6The 70-year-old 'grandpa' who has already stolen 11 banks

The FBI has been on the search for an unidentified man nicknamed the “Geezer Bandit,” since he was first suspected of robbing a bank in August, 2009. He tends to wear a baseball cap, glasses and a sweater or blazer, and is occasionally seen with oxygen or a cane. In the latest robbery, he was also wearing latex gloves. The notorious bank robber is suspected of pulling off his 11th heist at a California Bank of America. The police say it is possible the suspect could be a younger man wearing a mask or makeup to make himself look older.

7Angie Sanclemente Valencia: the runaway lingerie model who ran an all-models cocaine-smuggling cartel

Angie Sanclemente Valencia is a Colombian lingerie model, age 30, who is actually the head of a band that carries drugs to Europe while going through Cancun. Angie Sanclemente Valencia used to be married to a drug dealer who was very dangerous. Angie was said to only hire glamour models to transport the drugs from South America to Europe. She describes the women working for her as 'unsuspicious, beautiful angels'. The women are told to be 'nice, but not flashy'. Valencia, who was crowned Colombia's 'Queen Of Coffee' in 2000, left modelling and moved to Argentina in 2009 to establish her network. Her 'angels' were paid £3,200 for each trip they made and one of her gang is believed to have boarded a flight every 24 hours with the packages of cocaine. From Argentina they would fly up to the Mexican Caribbean resort of Cancun and from there they would smuggle them into Europe. However her network began to unravel several weeks ago when one of her 'drug mules' was caught at Argentina's Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires carrying 55kg of cocaine. The 21-year-old woman began to talk and within 12 hours police investigators had arrested a further three people. The drug mule had made no attempt to hide the cocaine in her suitcase because she'd been told no one would stop her at the airport.

Following the arrests Valencia promptly disappeared from a four-star hotel in Buenos Aires. The fugitive model was later apprehended in a K-Lodges Hostel in the Argentine capital's Palermo district after a two-month international manhunt.

8Bruce Reynolds: the man who led a $74 million train robbery using no guns

The Great Train Robbery was the name given to a £2.3 million train robbery committed on 8 August 1963 at Bridego Railway Bridge, Ledburn, near Mentmore in Buckinghamshire, England. The Royal Mail's Glasgow to London travelling post office (TPO) train was stopped by tampered signals. A 15-member gang, led by Bruce Reynolds and including Ronnie Biggs, Charlie Wilson, Jimmy Hussey, John Wheater, Brian Field, Jimmy White, Tommy Wisbey, Gordon Goody and Buster Edwards, stole £2.3 million in used £1, £5 and £10 notes — the equivalent of £40 million (US $74 million) in 2006. Although no guns were used in the robbery, the train driver, Jack Mills, was hit on the head with an iron bar, causing a black eye and facial bruising. The assailant was one of three members of the gang never to be arrested or identified. Frank Williams (at the time a Detective Inspector) claims to have traced the man, but he could not be charged because of lack of evidence. Thirteen of the gang members were caught after police discovered their fingerprints at their hideout at Leatherslade Farm, near Oakley, Buckinghamshire.