December 21, 2023 | Mathew Burke

Crazy Facts About Bank Robberies


Throughout history, clever thieves have found some interesting ways of robbing banks. From disguises to elaborate plots, history has recorded unbelievable heists. No matter the result, there is one takeaway from these events:misconduct doesn’t pay—except when it does!


1. Busted By A Selfie

John Morgan and his girlfriend Ashley Dubhoe robbed the Savings Bank in Ashville, Ohio in August 2015. The two crooks then took photos of themselves posing with the money and posted them to Facebook. After receiving tips pointing to the Facebook posts, authorities detained the not-so-stealthy thieves.

bank robberies

2. The Money Was Never Recovered

Allen Pace was an inspector for the Dunbar Armored Company, and he planned his misconduct while on the job. With the help of five friends and facility passkeys, Pace took control of the depot on a busy cash night. They simply waited for each truck to arrive and overpowered the drivers. The men took almost 19 million dollars and managed to elude capture for years. A group of clues eventually led the authorities to the members of the crew, but the money was never recovered.

Bank Robberies FactsPicryl

3. Small Time Crooks 

The Brink's-Mat deed occurred on November 26th 1983. Six robbers broke into the Brink's-Mat warehouse near Heathrow Airport in west London. At the time, it was described as "the act of the century".

Security guard Anthony Black helped the gang get access to the warehouse. Once inside, they poured petrol over staff and threatened to light them on fire if they didn’t reveal the combination numbers of the vault. The robbers thought they were going to take £3.2 million in cash, but they found £26 million worth of gold, diamonds and cash. Inflation adjusted, they take almost $500 million in valuables.

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4. A Poorly Planned Act Of Passion

In 1972, John Wojtowicz and Salvatore Naturile tried to pull off an infamous bank attack. They didn’t wear disguises and made no effort to hide their fingerprints. The robbers also spent too long looting the bank, giving the officers ample time to surround them. The resulting captive stand-off became the basis of the Al Pacino movie Dog Day Afternoon.

Bank Robberies FactsDog Day Afternoon, Warner Bros.

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5. From Ireland With Cash

The Donegal Square headquarters of the Northern Bank in Ireland was robbed in Dec. 2004, when the robbers assumed the facility would be flux with holiday season cash. The robbers broke into the homes of two prominent bank officials and held their families captive, forcing them to participate in the attack. They were able to make off with millions `worth of bank notes. There’s speculation that the IRA was involved, but the organization has denied involvement.

Bank Robberies FactsWikimedia Commons, Ardfern

6. Among The Richest Heists In History

In 2007, guards in Del El Salaam bank in Baghdad were able to walk away with an estimated $282 million in US Currency. The guards slept in the bank at night, so stealing the money was easy. Unfortunately for them, it also made it easy for the officers to single them out as suspects. The guards were quickly captured and most of the money was recovered.

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7. Another Case Of Oversharing

Hanna Sabata, the “mastermind” behind the Cornerstone Bank Attack in Waco Texas, was a troubled 19-year-old girl who was angry at the government for taking away her child and charging her with neglect. She had growing debt, and no means to pay it off, so instead of getting a job, she decided to rob a bank. She managed to make off with the money, but then foolishly logged into her YouTube account to brag about her exploits. The videos were so amateur and specific that they showed the key to the car she take and the pile of money in the background.

Bank Robberies FactsPexels

8.The Heist Of The Century

In 1992, a group of 10 conspirators kidnapped a family member of a guard working at the Bank of France in Tulon. At the hazard of harm to his loved-one (and the explosives strapped to his body probably helped too), the guard cooperated with the thieves. The crooks made off with $30 million dollars, which was never found. Marc Armando, the suspected mastermind behind the heist, committed self-immolation in lock up while awaiting a trial for drug trafficking charges.

Bank Robberies FactsFlickr, Josh Rushing

9. In The Guinness Book Of Records

The attack of the Banco Central in Fortaleza, Brazil landed a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. In 2006, the criminals posed as landscapers working in a nearby building before building a tunnel underground to the bank. The tunnel took them to the base of the bank, which they bored into over the course of a weekend. The gang take an estimated $70 million dollars, which amounted to 3 tons of currency. Despite capturing most of the gang, only about 10% of the money has been recovered.

A Brazilian Federal Police agentand journalists..Getty Images

10. The Trench Coat Attack

The Seafirst Bank Heist became famous not only for the staggering take, but for fact that the criminals wore trench coats. Despite the novelty of their clothing, the pair were professional bank robbers and were suspected in at least a dozen robberies in Washington State. William Kirkpatrick and Ray Bowman walked away with nearly $5 million dollars. Unfortunately for them, their conduct after the attack tripped them up. Kirkpatrick was pulled-over for speeding, and a search of his car turned up fake documents, tools from the act, and $2 million in cash. Bowman failed to pay for his storage locker bill on time, and when the owner opened it up, he found a cache or weapon inside and alerted the officers.

Bank Robberies FactsWikimedia Commons, Michael Gil

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11. The Hillbilly Heist

In 1997, an employee of the Loomis Fargo Company set in motion a attack that would net a $17 million-dollar payday. The mastermind was David Ghannt, a supervisor at the regional vault of the company. Shortly after the deed, Ghannt went missing in Mexico. While he was gone, his co-conspirators spent lavishly, and drew attention from the F.B.I. Due to the participants’ lack of shrewdness, it was nicknamed the Hillbilly Heist, and was a popular subject on late night comedy shows. Around 95% of the take has been recovered or accounted for.

Bank Robberies FactsWikimedia Commons, Ajay Suresh

12. The Geezer Bandit

Nobody knows for sure if the Geezer bandit is actually an old man robbing banks, or a younger person in disguise, but whatever his or her true identity, he/she has been associated with 16 deeds across California. At each bank, he enters with a satchel or briefcase, from which he retrieves a intimidation note for the teller. Information leading to his capture is worth $20,000 to the F.B.I.

Bank Robberies FactsPexels

13. Don’t Mess With Norwegians! 

On Monday April 4, the NOKAs cash depot in Stavanger, Norway was raided by 11 heavily-man with weapon in black body armor who pulled off the biggest-ever heist in Norway. Despite warnings that the bank was a possible target, they were understaffed and underprepared because of the Easter holiday. The robbers got away with about $10 million-dollars U.S. and ended a cop in the process. The men were captured and convicted in March 2006, and sentenced to a total of 181 years in jailhouse. In 2007, the court decided that wasn’t enough so they made the sentences even tougher!

Bank Robberies FactsWikimedia Commons, tracy collins

14. A Justified Curse

In June 1995, four masked men burst into a Berlin bank armed with shotguns and pistol and took sixteen hostages. A half hour later, they sent a captive out with a typewritten note demanding a helicopter, a getaway car, and 17 million deutschemarks. (About $12.5 million U.S.) After negotiations, a down payment of 5 million marks was delivered, but after that, they heard nothing from the robbers. Around 4am, a commando team burst into the bank, surveyed the empty room and exclaimed “Oh, f*** me!” It turned out that the robbers had previously dug a 384-foot tunnel to the vault, ransacked it, and escaped hours earlier.

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15. Fleeing Down The River

In Monroe Washington, twelve men showed up outside the Bank of America in response to a Craigslist ad for road contractors. They were told to wear goggles, respirator masks, yellow safety vests, and a blue work-shirt. While they were waiting for the boss to arrive, a 13th man dressed in the same attire, walked into the bank across the street lugging a pump sprayer. The thief hosed down the security guard who was unloading the armored truck, and sprinted 100 yards to a creek that feeds into the Skyomish River. He then removed his disguise and fled down the creek in an inner tube. So far, there are no leads or suspects in the case, but they did recover the inner-tube about 200 yards from where he entered the water.

Bank Robberies FactsFreepik,freepik

16. Prime Suspect: A Kidnapped Heiress!

The Kidnapping of Heiress Patty Hearst from her Berkley apartment made headlines around the world. Even more shocking was when she made headlines again, but this time for helping to rob a bank! Footage from the 1974 attack of the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco showed Hearst wielding a machine weapon. An apparent victim of brainwashing by the militant group who took her, Hearst was later detained for the act and other deeds. She spent two years in lock up before Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence.

Bank Robberies FactsFlickr, Simon Murphy

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17. Hollywood Attack Caught On Film!

In 1997, two man with weapon robbed a Bank of America branch in North Hollywood. The ensuing commotion turned violent, and both robbers, as well as 11 LAPD officers and seven bystanders were injured. 2000 rounds of ammo were discharged. Being Hollywood, the entire battle was captured on film by an aerial news camera.

Bank Robberies FactsWikipedia

18. The One-Eyed Jack

Robert Vernon Toye was legally blind, but that didn’t stop him from finding a way to rob banks. He could see just well-enough out of his right eye to lock onto the shoes of an elderly passerby, and follow them to the teller’s counter. Once at the window, he whipped out a playing card of a one-eyed Jack that read “be quiet or you’re gone". He would make the teller think he had a weapon, and once his bag was filled, he’d pull out his white cane and leave. Toye was also an escape artist, and after he was finally caught, he attempted to break out of lock up 11 times!

Bank Robberies FactsPicryl

19. Posed As Officers

The heavily-armed gang of thieves involved in the Securitas Depot attack in Kent, England posed as officers, and kidnapped the branch manager and his family. They brought him to the depot where they tied-up his fourteen employees, and forced him to open the cash cages. The heist is one of the largest cash robberies in British history. Most of the crew was caught and convicted, but at least one member remains at large living off of the stolen money in the West Indies.

Bank Robberies FactsGetty Images

20. A Royal Inside Job

The Central Bank of Iraq attack is considered the biggest bank attack in history with a total take of $920 million. But here’s the kicker: the attack was supposedly engineered by Sadam Hussein himself! Reports say that following the heist, a note surfaced that was signed by Hussein, ordering that the money be withdrawn and given to his son. His son then apparently spent hours with an unknown individual loading the money into vehicles and taking it to an undisclosed location. It’s unknown how much of the cash has been recovered, but it’s believed that $650 million was found during a raid on one of Hussein’s places.

Bank Robberies FactsWikimedia Commons, HM Revenue & Customs

21. Blasted Through A Church

In 1976 in Beirut Lebanon, a group affiliated with the PLA blasted through the walls of a church next door to the Bank of the Middle East, and got a crack-team of locksmiths to bust open the vault. The robbers got away with as much as $50 million in stocks, gold, cash, and jewels.

Bank Robberies FactsPicryl

22. I’ll Have Some Drink With That!

It was the morning of New Year’s Day in Chelembra India when the opening shift arrived at the bank to discover a giant hole carved into the middle of the vault-room floor. The thieves had stolen 2.5 million rupees and about 120 gold bars. They cut their way through the floor from a space that they had rented below the bank, under the guise of building a restaurant. Less than two months after the heist, the authorities intercepted one of the attacker’s phone calls and tracked all four bandits to the house where they were hiding. Most of the loot was recovered and everyone involved went to lock up.

Bank Robberies FactsWikimedia Commons, SuSanA Secretariat

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23. Four Guys Walk Into A Bank And…Vanish? 

In January of 2006, four (or maybe five) men walked into the Banco Rio in Buenos Aires, Argentina and held the building in captivity for seven hours. As they emptied the vaults, they allowed themselves to be surrounded by 200 armed officers. They entertained their captives by singing “Happy Birthday” to one and releasing three others in exchange for pizza and soda. 

When the officers finally got fed up and stormed the building, they found the hostages unsupervised, and the robbers were gone. A search uncovered a hole in the basement that led into one of Argentina’s many underground tunnels. The tunnel emptied into the La Plata river where they escaped by boat. They were eventually caught, but only because one of the attacker’s wives ratted him out to the officers. Arrested man by police officer outside next to his car.Kindel Media, Pexels

24. $98 Million Taken

In 1987, Valerio Viccei and an associate entered the Knightsbridge security deposit facility pretending they wanted to rent a security box. They then overpowered the security guards, and took control of the bank. Once their helpers were inside, they proceeded to clean out the safety-deposit boxes. Viccei was detained and jailed. He later passed in lock up under suspicious circumstances.

Bank Robberies FactsPxhere

25. Return Of The Vader

Oddly enough, the Long Island attack wasn’t the only time Darth Vader tried to rob a bank. 

In 2015, a man decided to don a Darth Vader costume and rob a bank while carrying a large weapon. The suspect stormed into the Federal Credit Union in Pineville South Carolina while the building was full of customers and employees, and demanded that the teller hand over cash. He reportedly made off with thousands of dollars, and fled in a grey four-door Chevy Suburban.

Bank Robberies FactsFlickr, Scott

26. What’cha Doin In My House? 

When actor Rip Torn tried to rob the Litchfield Bank in Salisbury, Connecticut, officers found him tipsy and carrying a revolver. He entered through a window, which he reportedly broke himself. The actor pleaded not-guilty, claiming that he was confused and thought the bank was his house.

Bank Robberies FactsGetty Images

27. My Lottery Winnings Will Cover It!

In 2007, two vault managers at the Agricultural Bank of China take a total of 6.7 million dollars from the bank with the help of two security guards from the branch. They purchased three Chinese Lottery tickets with the stolen money, with the intent of winning a large enough prize that they could return the stolen money before it was missed and still come out ahead. One of the managers had tried it before and won, so he teamed up with the other manager to try it on a larger scale. This time, they weren’t as lucky, and they were later executed for their deed.

Bank Robberies FactsShutterstock

 

28.The Devil Is In The Paperwork!

In 2007, a $300 million-dollar heist took place at London’s Sumito Bank, but failed when the hackers, unfamiliar with the SWIFT system for transferring money internationally, made mistakes in the transfer form. They unsuccessfully made 23 attempts over 2 days to transfer the money, and two Belgium men and the security chief of the bank were identified as culprits. The Bank Chief later explained that he agreed to the plan after it had already been formulated and his family was threatened.

Bank Robberies FactsPexels

29. Robbed His First Bank At 87

JL Hunter “Red” Rountree was left alone and aimless when his wife passed. He had a grudge against banks after a loan nearly drove him to bankruptcy when he owned a business, so he decided to try robbing one. He walked into a bank and asked the teller for money without the use of guns or aggression. He was caught on his way back to the car and got 3 years of probation. Less than a year later, he robbed another bank, and this time was sentenced to 3 years in jailhouse. When he decided to try it again at age 91, he was detained for a third time, and passed in lock up in 2004.

Bank Robberies FactsPexels

30. Picnic In A Vault

In 1976, Albert Spaggiari, along with a team of 20 men, broke into a vault in the Societe Generale Bank in Nice, France. Over the course of several weeks, they had carved out a 25-foot tunnel from the sewer system into the bank. They spent the weekend in the vault breaking into the safety-deposit boxes, and drank booze, cooked meals, and used antique silver bowls as toilets. The gang left no clues, but Spaggiari liked the limelight and couldn’t keep his escapades to himself. He was eventually detained, but escaped from the magistrate’s office by jumping out a window. A waiting friend on a motorcycle whisked him away, and he spent the rest of his life on the run before dying in Italy in 1989.

Bank Robberies FactsFlickr, jcw1967

31. Foiled By A Spelling Mistake

In February 2016, a group of hackers seized the systems of the Bank of Bangladesh. They used four stolen SWIFT codes to make the bank fire off requests to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, asking for millions of dollars to be sent to anonymous accounts in Asia. The bank blocked 32 requests, but authorized four. Those four allowed them to transfer $101 million dollars into untraceable accounts. A fifth request for a billion dollars was on the verge of being authorized, but a spelling mistake in the transfer form blocked it. And who says spelling isn’t important?!

Bank Robberies FactsPexels

32.The Nazis Took It! 

The thieves behind the 3 billion dollars stolen from the German Central Bank at the close of WWII are largely believed to have been remaining members of the German SS. The attack took place just as the Russians were arriving in Germany, and the nation was in chaos. Where the money ended up isn’t known, but it’s thought that either the Nazis hid it somewhere or kept it for themselves.

Arnold Schwarzenegger factsGetty Images

33. Robbed By An Offender

On Dec 10, 1968, a offender got away with over 300 million yen, stolen from a bank in Tokyo. It was the greatest bank job in the history of Japan. The money was loaded into one of the bank’s transportation cars, and was to be delivered to a local business. While driving, the man was stopped by a policeman, who got him out of the car by claiming there were explosives on it. The officer then got into the car and drove away. It turned out that the officer was simply another offender in disguise.

Bank Robberies FactsWikimedia Commons, katorisi

34. Not Exactly Sherlock Holmes…

Over the course of several weeks in 1971, a group of robbers dug an underground tunnel into a bank on Baker Street in London. They used explosives to break through the bank floor, and emptied the vaults. The officers were notified that a attack was happening somewhere in London, but had no idea which bank it was. They ended up searching 750 banks to find the thieves, but the robbers got away and took around 3 million British pounds in cash.

Bank Robberies FactsFlickr, Leonard Bentley

35. And The Money Just Disappeared

In October 1977, four million dollars was placed in what was supposed to be a very secure bank vault in Chicago’s First National Bank. At the start of the following week, the money was counted again, and officials were shocked to discover that ¾ of the money was gone! Nothing was out of place, and there were no signs of a break-in, which made the attack all the more mysterious. To this day, nobody knows what happened to it.

Bank Robberies FactsPicryl

36. Pizza Delivery! That’ll Be $250,000 Please.

Brian Wells was a middle-aged Pizza Delivery Man who robbed the PNC bank in Erie Pennsylvania with fatal consequences. On Aug 28, 2003, he walked into the bank and passed the tellers a note giving them 15 minutes to place 250,000 into a bag, or else the explosive he had tied to his neck would explode. They gave him about $8000 and he escaped, but was quickly surrounded by officers. Before the explosives team could arrive, the explosive went off, literally blowing his head off. Before he passed, he claimed a group of men had attached the explosive to his neck and forced him to commit the deed.

Bank Robberies FactsFlickr, Tim Evanson

37. Billion Dollar Hiest

Moldova is one of the poorest nations in Eastern-Europe. In 2014, it made headlines when over 1 billion dollars was stolen from three of the country’s banks.Officers know that a large portion of the money was passed through UK and Hong Kong companies, but the investigation met some road blocks. Internal reports detailing the activities of the banks were lost, and electronic data was deleted. A van that was transporting crucial files was also stolen, and the files burnt. Ilan Shor, a 28-year-old Israeli businessman and chairman of the board of directors for one of the banks, was tied to the robberies, but denied the allegations.

Bank Robberies FactsPexels

38. Women Can Rob Banks Too!

Monica Proietti grew up in a large, poor family, and was taught to take at an early age to help make ends meet. When her second husband (who taught her the bank-robbing trade) was detained, she set out on her own. Her handling of a machine weapon and her nerves of steel made her a media darling, and Anglophone papers named her “Machine Molly". Her theft of over $100,000 from twenty different banks in Montreal made her one of the most famous and successful bank robbers in the city’s history. Her legacy came to a close when she was fatally shot by officers on Sept 19, 1967.

Bank Robberies FactsFlickr, Marco Verch Professional Photographer

39. A Notorious Villian Of The Wild West

On June 24, 1889, Butch Cassidy and his gang robbed the Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride, Colo., stealing the modern-day equivalent of $450,000. Cassidy walked into the bank and gave the teller a cheque to cash. When the teller bent over, he put a pistol under his nose, and told his gang to enter. They escaped using safe-houses set up by the Sundance Kid. This heist made Cassidy one of the most hunted thieves of his era.

Bank Robberies FactsPicryl

40. America’s Greatest Bank Burglar

The 1972 attack of the United California Bank was perpetrated by Amil Dinsio and his brothers, and Dinsio was dubbed “America’s Greatest Bank Burglar” by the F.B.I.

The gang used dynamite to break through the concrete roof of the bank vault, and they take $30 million dollars. It was the largest bank-heist in U.S. history. What made this case especially interesting was that the vault contained $12 million dollars of Richard Nixon’s money. At least $1 million of that had supposedly been bribes paid to Nixon by Teamsters Union President Jimmy Hoffa. Dinsio was supposedly led to the vault by Hoffa, who wanted his money back.

Bank Robberies FactsPicryl

41. America’s First Bank Attack

The earliest recorded bank attack in the United States took place in 1798 in Philadelphia, in the Bank of Pennsylvania at Carpenter’s Hall. Patrick Lyon, a young blacksmith was contracted by a man named Samuel Robinson to forge locks for the bank’s new location. With him was Isaac Davis, who turned out to be one of Robinson’s conspirators. After completing the work, Lyon and his apprentice fled the city to escape the Yellow Fever epidemic. When Lyon learned that he was a suspect in the attack, he returned to Philadelphia to clear his name, but was detained. After spending three months in lock up, his name was finally cleared when Davis started depositing his stolen money in the same bank he had robbed. When questioned by the officers about his newfound wealth, he caved and confessed to the attack.

Bank Robberies FactsPicryl

42. He Traded His Lightsaber For A Pistol

Back in 2010, a man dressed as Vader (except for a pair of camouflage pants) walked into the Chase Bank in Setauket, Long Island, and walked out with a bundle of cash. One customer found the getup so funny, he started ribbing him when he walked into the bank. Vader wasn’t kidding around, however, and he won a shoving match with the customer before using his pistolto order him to the ground.

Bank Robberies FactsFlickr, Christchurch City Libraries

Sources 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14





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