25 Historic Heists


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1. Hi, I'm Craig. Welcome to the salon. This is mental_floss on YouTube and did you know that in 1963, a group of robbers managed to steal over 2.6 million pounds from a Royal Mail train heading to London? Around 15 men detached the engine and two of the train cars without any of the mail sorters noticing. Then they entered one of the cars, held up four workers, and took 120 bags of mail and money. The majority were eventually captured and sent to prison. Don't do crime.

That's the first of many historic heists and robberies that I'm gonna talk about today. I'm not going to talk about the many art heists because we've already done that, so if you're interested, you can check out that episode here. I'm also not gonna talk about the heist that I'm planning.

2. In 2000, a group attempted to rob a diamond exhibition in London's Millennium Dome. The exhibition included the Millennium Star Diamond, worth over 200 million pounds, so if the robbers had grabbed that and some other diamonds, it would've been the biggest robbery of all time. Of all time! They dressed up as workers, drove an excavator through the dome, then released smoke bombs. Luckily police had already been surveilling the group, so they were in the room dressed as cleaners and managed to capture them.

3. Another heist involving robbers dressed as workers was the 2011 Banco Itau burglary in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The bank was being renovated, so 12 men dressed in grey uniforms managed to make it into the building around midnight. They took $58.5 million worth of valuables from around 170 private strongboxes.

4. Another famous Brazilian heist happened at the Banco Central in Fortaleza in 2005. Robbers stole around 95 million dollars after spending three months tunneling under the bank for 78 meters.

5. In 2008, a man robbed an armored truck in Washington after putting an ad on Craigslist, my list for road maintenance workers. About 12 of them showed up to the bank wearing yellow vests and safety goggles, and that's how the robber dressed to grab money from the truck, so when the authorities went looking for him, they found a bunch of men who looked just like him. Genius.

Speaking of yellow and safety goggles, we don't meth around here.

6. In 1997, robbers stole $18.9 million from the Los Angeles Dunbar armored truck depot. They held up the guards during the overnight shift and stole money from the vault. By the time they were caught in the early 2000s, $10 million was gone. Where's the money Lebowski?

7. An even earlier armored car robbery occurred in 1950 at the Brinks car depot in Boston. Eleven criminals staked out the depot for a year to determine what day it would have the most money. Then they stole the plans for the alarm system, they got into the counting room, tied up the guards, and stole around $2.7 million. The robbers were caught just days before the crime's statute of limitations would have expired.

8. China's largest bank robbery every took place in 2007, when two managers at the Agricultural Bank of China managed to embezzle 51 million Yuan or $6.7 million.

One of them stole a smaller amount earlier in the year, 200 thousand Yuan, and you wanna know what he spent it on? Lottery tickets. And he won enough to replace the money and have some left over. But, when he tried to repeat the crime with a partner, they didn't win enough, so they kept embezzling and eventually got caught. The lesson is, work alone, don't try to cooperate with other people. Or don't do crime!

9. In 1997, Valerio Viccei and his gang stole from celebrities, royalty, and millionaires by breaking into the Knightsbridge Safe Deposit Centre in London. They got into the vault by saying they wanted to rent a safe, then they held up the guards and used metal cutters to steal from boxes. Viccei already had around 50 armed robberies under his belt, which helped him bankroll a famous life of luxury. And has a nice belt.

10. In 2013, robbers conducted a heist at the Carlton Intercontinental Hotel and stole a bunch of jewelry worth about $136 million. They took it from a salon in the hotel where the guards didn't have any weapons to fight back with. Otherwise known as ... not guards. One of the suspects was Milan Poparic, a member of the Pink Panther crime gang who had just escaped from prison a few days prior. The hotel, by the way, was the setting for Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief.

11. Speaking of the Pink Panthers, over the course of about 20 years, they managed to steal around 150 million pounds. Perhaps their most famous crime was the reason they got their name. In 1993, they stole a diamond worth 500,000 pounds by hiding it in a jar of face cream, just like in the Pink Panther movies.

12. The 2003 Antwerp diamond heist is one of the most famous heists of all time. In fact, I don't even have to talk about it. Too famous, let's move on. OK. In order to pull off a jewelry robbery worth over $100 million, Leonardo Notarbartolo did a lot of homework. He rented an office in the building he was going to rob, the Antwerp Diamond Centre in Belgium, for over two years. With building access, he later had five men help him rob 123 vaults in the building, then steal the security footage.

13. Another famous heist in 2003 occurred when Robert Mang stole a saltcellar from a museum in Vienna. The sculpture was only about 10 inches long, but it's estimated worth was around $58 million, since it was created by Benvenuto Cellini in the 16th century. Mang and his group stole it from the museum at around 4 AM. They did set off an alarm, but the guard just figured it was a glitch and turned it off. He's also known as not a guard. Three years later, Mang turned himself in.

14. In 2012, a group of thieves rode into a London mall on motorcycles. They rode right up to a jewelry store and then smashed the glass with axes and bats. They took off with $3 million worth of jewelry. I'd like to think they were singing while they did it, like a musical number the whole time. "We are robbers on motorcycles." Something like that.

15. A newsworthy 2013 heist occurred a few hours after a Justin Bieber concert in Johannesburg, South Africa. The robbers dressed as security guards, then entered through holes they carved into the building. They then carved out a wall leading to a saferoom with the cash the stadium acquired that weekend.

16. In 2009, robbers landed a helicopter on the roof of a cash depot in Stockholm, Sweden. They used explosives to get into the building and started loading bags of money into the helicopter. Authorities never figured out how much money they'd stolen, but within a year the thieves had been caught and sent to prison.

17. Speaking of crimes involving air travel, there was a famous plane hijacking in 1971 on an aircraft traveling from Portland to Seattle. A man with the alias Dan Cooper announced they had a bomb and demanded $200,000. He's trying to sell a bomb for $200,000? Oh! Authorities on the ground gathered his money and the plane landed. He received it and then told the pilot to fly him to Mexico. He parachuted from the sky and was never seen again.

18. In 2005, Heather Tallchief turned herself in after around 12 years on the run for robbing the Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas for $2.5 million. She was a driver for an armored car company and just took off with the cash. She fled to Europe where she couldn't even spend the money she'd stolen. Because you know, you can't drive an armored car across the ocean. It just fell right into the ocean, that's probably what happened.

19. In 1303, a wool merchant named Richard of Pudlicott managed to steal the wardrobe treasury of King Edward the first from Westminster Abbey. It's estimated that the items he stole were worth 100,000 pounds, which isn't too shabby in the 14th century. He was eventually caught and hanged. I mean, he'd be dead anyway, that was a long time ago.

20. In 1671, Irishman Thomas Blood attempted to steal the Crown Jewels, probably because his position as parliamentarian in Ireland was taken away after the English monarchy was restored in 1660. Although his plan for dressing as a priest and taking the jewels backfired, he impressed Charles II who made Blood a member of his court.

21. In 2005, a man stole a KLM Cargo truck and drove it to Amsterdam's Schiphal Airport where they stopped another car on the cargo terminal carrying uncut diamonds. They took the diamonds which were worth over $118 million.

22. Another airport heist occurred at JFK International Airport in 1978. Is there anywhere a heist hasn't occurred? The thieves stole about $5 million cash from the vault in the airport. They had an insider helping them out, so they knew how to avoid setting off the alarm. Then they forced the employees to open the vault and took bags of cash, leaving through the cargo terminal.

23. Another airport that has seen heists is the Heathrow airport, where the Brink's-MAT warehouse was robbed in 1983. Robbers got in thanks to a connection with a security guard. They planned to steal around 3 million pounds, but some gold bullion caught their eye and they ended up taking it, which was worth 26 million pounds. If you see gold bullion, take it. That's the lesson here.

24. A group of thieves stole $30 million worth of cash and items from a safe deposit vault at United California Bank in the '70s. The crime took place over multiple nights and involved avoiding a bunch of alarms and dropping down into the bank's vault. One of the deposit boxes that was robbed reportedly belonged to President Nixon. The FBI managed to catch the thieves because they committed an almost identical crime in Ohio and FBI tracked down their headquarters and found fingerprints on their dishes. That's why I wear gloves.

25. Finally, I return to the salon to tell you that in 2009, two men pretended to be customers at the Graff diamonds in London and managed to steal $65 million worth of jewelry. They were wearing prosthetics that took around four hours to apply. Luckily, police managed to find a cell phone in one of their abandoned getaway cars and were able to catch them.

Thanks for watching mental_floss on YouTube, which is made with the help of all of these nice people that I'm gonna rob later. Don't rob anyone! It's rude. And illegal. Bye.