Do you ever wonder what’s going through the mind of a robber while they’re holding up a bank? Well, we might not be able to go that deep, but today we’re at least going to meet some famous bank robbers and even take a look at some unsolved bank robberies. So, whether it was a violent shootout or an old man with a cane (yup, even old people rob banks!), these are the 25 Most Insane Bank Heists That Actually Happened!
North Hollywood Bank Robbery
It wasn’t the robbery itself that was crazy, it was the gunfight afterwards that stuck in peoples’ minds. By the time everything came to a close on this unfortunate February day in 1997, 2 robbers were dead, 11 officers were injured, and 7 bystanders were hurt. And given that it was Hollywood…the whole thing was captured on camera.
Rip’s first mistake when he tried to rob a bank in Connecticut was robbing it right before closing time and somehow getting locked in. His second mistake was not realizing that he’s, well…famous. And it’s hard to hide your identity when you’re famous.
The Cardboard Robbery
In 2008, more than 30 police officers showed up to a PNC Bank with guns drawn. The standoff took several hours and bull horn negotiations with the shadowy figure inside were fruitless. Finally, the SWAT team busted in to find…a cardboard cutout. Apparently the bank’s alarm had accidentally been triggered.
Possibly one of the greatest robbers in history, Dillinger and his men once pretended to be a film crew scouting locations for a bank robbery movie…except they were actually committing a bank robbery.
In 2010, a man dressed as Darth Vader tried to rob a Chase Bank but had to yell “this is not a joke” because people weren’t taking him seriously.
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Hibernia Bank robbery
In 1974, Patty Hearst (granddaughter of the newspaper magnate) was snatched from her apartment in Berkeley by a cult. As crazy as it sounds, they brainwashed her into helping them rob banks like the Hibernia. Patty was eventually pardoned by President Bill Clinton.
Agricultural Bank of China Robbery
The plan was to steal some money, win the lotto, replace what they stole, and keep the rest. The plan had actually worked for Ren Xiaofeng before. The problem was that now he got greedy and stole a much larger amount. Crazily enough, it worked again, but people eventually noticed, and Ren got caught. Unfortunately for Ren and his robber buddies, China gave them the death penalty.
British Bank of the Middle East
On January 20, 1976, a group of robbers from the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) took advantage of the chaos in Lebanon and just blew a hole in the side of the bank. They brought in their locksmiths, took their time with the vault, and walked out with the cash.
San Miguel Valley Bank Robbery
Back in 1889, Butch Cassidy (yes, that was his name) and his buddies decided to rob the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride, Colorado. They made off with $20,000 which would be over $1 million today!
Central Bank of Iraq Robbery
Saddam Hussein managed to pull off possibly the world’s largest heist when he took $1 billion from the Iraqi Central Bank in order to “protect it from the Americans.”
J.L. Hunter Rountree
After going into bankruptcy, Rountree’s wife and stepson died. This downward spiral eventually led the 86 year old to start robbing banks. Unfortunately for him, he was too slow to get away and got stopped before even making it out of the bank. In spite of continuously getting caught, he always went back to robbing banks upon his release. He eventually died in prison at 92 as America’s oldest bank robber.
Bank of Ireland
In 2009, a group of robbers went to the house of a bank employee, took his family hostage, and told him to come back the next day with $10 million from the bank. And you thought you had a hard day at work…
The craziest thing here is robbing banks was just Justice’s hobby. And yes, we know, the name is ironic. But seriously, when we say it was his hobby, he actually threw most of the cash away…like into a dumpster. He gave some to homeless people and kept the $2 bills as souvenirs. And oh yea, he did all his robbing on a bicycle. His downfall came when he abandoned his Olympic dreams and went all-in with bank robbing. The police eventually caught him and he went to jail.
Although he’s not the oldest bank robber on our list, this guy still walks with a hunch. As of this writing, he still hasn’t been caught, so somebody’s grandpa is probably still robbing banks in the San Diego area.
Robert St. John
When it comes to crazy, it’s hard to beat St. John. Originally known as Henry McElvane, he wanted to be a stand up comic so he moved to California and changed his name. As with most entertainers starting out, he needed a job to support himself. So what did he choose? Being a pimp. Things got weird though when some of his prostitutes began robbing banks. They convinced St. John to get in on it, and that’s how he became the leader of a bunch of bank robbing prostitutes. The group wasn’t too smart though because they sometimes accidentally robbed the same bank twice. Perhaps not surprisingly, this led to their eventual downfall.
The Catt Family
Scott Catt wanted to start a bank robbery gang but just didn’t have the contacts, so he did what anybody would do…he asked his kids! His son agreed because he needed money for college, and his daughter was eventually convinced. They scouted their target by pretending to be construction workers wanting to open accounts. After the robbery, police reviewed the tapes and thought the construction vests looked too clean. They tracked them to a local Home Depot, got Scott’s credit card details, and nabbed the Catts.
Pacific National Bank
In 1978, Stanley Mark Rifkin stole $10 million without even touching it. As a computer consultant, he became familiar with how wire transfers were completed between banks in the region. It turns out that passwords were changed everyday so sometimes they had to be written down. Long story short, he stole the scrap paper with the passwords, ordered a transfer, and walked away rich.
Banco Central Robbery
In 2005, a group of thieves pretending to be a landscaping company rented a property next to Brazil’s central bank. Why landscaping? Because then nobody would suspect all the dirt they were removing from the tunnel they had dug! Only a few suspects have been caught.
Robert Vernon Toye
The craziest thing here…Toye was blind. He would wait outside New York Banks for a slow old person, follow them to the counter (because otherwise he couldn’t find it), and then whip out a card that said “be quick, be quiet, or you’re dead.” Once, the guard even held the door open for him on the way out. Unfortunately, his luck eventually ran out and the guards weren’t so kind!
Following his service as an Army medic in Iraq, Walker’s life fell apart. He got divorced, got into heroin, and eventually, he decided to rob banks. Somehow, it provided relief from his PTSD. As with some of our previous robbers, he wasn’t really concerned with the cash. He gave most of it away, burned some, and bought heroin with the rest. He was eventually caught, diagnosed with PTSD, and received treatment in prison.
Hakki Bahadir Atahan
An immigrant to Australia, Hakki’s life took a turn for the worse when he got divorced and developed a gambling problem. Eventually, he traded in his taxi for an assault rifle and started robbing banks. He managed to pull off some lucky heists but wasn’t too good at getting away. His plan unraveled when he drove his car onto a drawbridge, the police raised it, and he came sliding down. He didn’t survive the following firefight.
After serving time in a torture squad during the Algerian war, Mesrine went on a bank heist spree throughout France and Canada. When he got caught, he escaped by taking a judge hostage. Although he had become famous in his native France, he lost popularity after torturing a reporter that ran a negative story on him. He eventually died in a shootout with police.
Knightsbridge Security Deposit Robbery
From what was once called “the most secure building in the world,” three robbers made off with nearly $70 million. Apparently, two posed as customers while the other pretended to be a guard and turned people away at the door. The Italian mastermind behind the crime was eventually killed in a police shootout.
To make a long story short, Attila escaped communist Romania by hanging to the bottom of a train. Upon arriving in Hungary, he tried out for the local hockey team and was so bad that the coach let him on out of pity. Although he never missed a practice, Attila started robbing banks for extra cash. His style, however, was quite flamboyant. He would even hand out flowers to all the female tellers during the robbery. His antics eventually caught up with him, and he got nabbed.
Anthony carried out what is possibly the craziest heist on our list. He put out a craigslist add for workers telling them to stand across the street from the bank he planned to rob. He then robbed the bank wearing exactly the same clothing he had asked the workers to wear. When police showed up, they found a large group of people wearing the same clothes as the robber. That’s a lot of suspects! Unfortunately for Anthony though, a homeless man spotted him, and he ended up getting caught.
Featured Image: shutterstock, 25. pixabay (public domain), 24. Alan Light via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 23. pixabay (public domain), 22. wikimedia commons (public domain), 21. pixabay (public domain), 20. wikimedia commons (public domain), 19. anonymous, ZhongGuoNongYeYingHangWaiGuan, CC BY 2.5, 18-15. pixabay (public domain), 14. Ardfern, Bank of Ireland, Lisburn, November 2010, CC BY-SA 3.0, 13-12. pixabay (public domain), 11. shutterstock, 10. pexels (public domain), 9-1. pixabay (public domain)