November 13 2010 9:15 PM EST
A Charlotte, NC, man having purchased a case of very rare, very expensive cigars, insured them against fire among other things. Within a month, having smoked his entire stockpile of cigars and without having made even his first premium payment on the policy, the man filed a claim against the insurance company. In his claim, the man stated the cigars were lost "in a series of small fires." The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason that the man had consumed the cigars in the normal fashion. The man sued....and won. In delivering the ruling the judge agreeing that the claim was frivolous, stated nevertheless that the man held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable and also guaranteed that it would insure against fire, without defining what it considered to be "unacceptable fire," and was obligated to pay the claim. Rather than endure a lengthy and costly appeal process the insurance company accepted the ruling and paid the man $15,000 for the rare cigars he lost in "the fires." After the man cashed the check, however, the company had him arrested on 24 counts of arson. With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used against him, the man was convicted of intentionally burning his insured property and sentenced to 24 months in jail and a $24,000 fine.
November 13 2010 9:40 PM EST
21 Dumbest Criminals of the 21st Century (So Far)
Poor Man's Hummer
Jonesville, Virginia: William Anderson, 51, was arrested after attracting attention by applying for welfare at the department of social services while driving an H2 Hummer. Thinking it an odd sight, the local sheriff ran the plates, and the vehicle came up as stolen.
Frank SingletonRepeat Offender
West Palm Beach, Florida: Things were looking up for Frank Singleton, 21, as he was released from jail. However, when he realized that he didn't have a ride home, he walked straight into the prison parking lot and attempted to carjack a woman. He was foiled when he realized that he couldn't drive a car with a stick shift. As he was re-arrested -- this time, for felony carjacking -- Singleton told police that he simply "didn't feel like walking."
Athens, Georgia: Demetrius Robinson, 28, wanted to rob a Golden Pantry store late one night, but he needed to pass the time as naturally as possible until he and the clerk were alone, so he decided to fill out a job application. Not a bad idea, except he left his real name on the application, along with his uncle's phone number. After he robbed the store, it didn't take long for police to track him down. He didn't get the job.
Christopher KronWorst. Burglar. Ever.
Fort Myers Beach, Florida: Amateur criminal and professional dimwit Christopher Kron created his own personal "how not to commit burglary" instructional video when he tried to rob a restaurant after closing one night. Mistake #1: He tripped the alarm when he broke in. Mistake #2: He failed to flee after hearing the (not silent) alarm. Mistake #3: When ADT called the restaurant after being notified of the alarm, Kron answered the phone. Mistake #4: He gave the ADT employee his real name. Mistake #5: When he finally got the bright idea to leave, all he took was a bottle of Grand Marnier and a beer. Mistake #6: Having gotten away with the crime, he returned to the restaurant the next day and was recognized by an employee who had seen the surveillance video. Kron was arrested on the spot.
Dumb in an Elevator
Oslo, Norway: Two men in their early 20s (age and IQ) decided to vandalize an elevator in a train station by violently kicking the closed doors...while they were still inside. The doors jammed, and the elevator stopped, sounding an alarm that alerted security guards. The guards tried to lower the elevator, but the doors jammed even more, so they called the police and the fire department. The two vandals were eventually freed -- and promptly arrested. Their actions were recorded on the elevator's security camera.
Keep Your Eye on the Road
Osternarke, Sweden: A 56-year-old woman's boldly dumb defense in her trial for drunken driving was that the alcohol did not affect her driving because she kept one eye closed to avoid seeing double. She was sentenced to two months in prison.
Randy LewisWorld's Greatest Dad
Bristol, Tennessee: In his stunted way of thinking, Randy Lewis, 43, was at least trying to be responsible by not driving drunk during a beer run. Instead, he had his 10-year-old son drive. The boy proceeded to crash the car at an estimated 90 miles per hour. The elder Lewis had not only a blood-alcohol content of over three times the state limit, but he also had cocaine in his system -- not to mention two other children in the vehicle. Lewis was charged with drunk driving, reckless endangerment and child abuse and was booked wearing a t-shirt reading "Buy this dad a beer."
Note to Self
Marysville, California: Arthur Cheney, 64, was arrested after police spotted him driving a car that resembled one used in a local bank robbery. Something told them that they had their man when they noticed a yellow Post-It note on the car's center console with a handwritten message reading, "Robbery - 100s and 50s only."
Krystian BalaA Novel Approach
Wroclaw, Poland: Polish author Krystian Bala, 34, might've gotten away with murder...if he hadn't written about it in his book. His 2003 novel Amok became a beststeller in Poland, but he paid the price when police noticed that the details of a murder in the book eerily matched those of an unsolved 2000 case. The similarities led the police to investigate further, discovering connections between Bala and the victim, including the fact that the victim was romantically involved with Bala's ex-wife. Although it wasn't proven that the author was the sole perpetrator, he was sentenced to 25 years in jail for his part in the crime.
Crescent City, California: Krystal Evans, 26, and Denise McClure, 24, were arrested for destruction of evidence when they sifted through a DHL delivery van looking for Evans' probation-mandatory urine sample that was on its way to a forensic lab. The pair knew that Evans' sample would test positive, meaning she'd be sent back to jail, so they attempted to grab the urine before it reached its destination. The driver, however, caught them and called the cops. Ironically, Evans' sample tested negative, but the sample she had to give after being arrested for the pee caper came up positive for meth.
Charles Ray FullerBillion Dollar Dummy
Dallas, Texas: Rule #1 of trying to cash a bogus check: make it out for a reasonable amount. Charles Ray Fuller, 21, broke that rule and all conventions of common sense when he tried to cash a check for 360 BILLION DOLLARS. To top it off, the check wasn't even made out to him. He was arrested on forgery charges.
Billings, Montana: A wanted man with an unusual surname was arrested after police noticed the name tattooed on the side of his head. Officers working on a separate case happened to walk past Sterling F. Wolfname, 26, when they saw the word "Wolfname" tattooed on his head. The name matched that of a suspect in a fatal beating in Wyoming. Wolfname lied about his identity, but his tattoo gave police a "heads up."
Andrew Libby"Porn Inspector"? Nice try.
Longmont, Colorado: Andrew Libby, 33, was arrested for impersonating a cop and demanding copies of pornographic movies from an adult video store. Claiming to be an "age verification detective," Libby told the store's employees that his job was to make sure the movies' stars were at least 18 years old. The workers didn't buy his story (his Fabio hair probably didn't help).
Bills, Bills, Bills
Brooklyn, New York: As Victor Marin, 20, was stealing $218 in cash from an apartment he had broken into, for some reason he decided to take out his own wallet and lay it on a bed. When he left, he forgot something -- wait for it -- his wallet! When Marin returned minutes later, the apartment's resident was back. Standing outside, Marin offered to return the money in exchange for his wallet, which contained his ID and credit cards. The victim told him to stuff the money under the front door, but since the wad included 93 dollar bills, it was too tall to fit, and Marin had difficulty shoving the bills inside. That gave police time to show up and arrest him.
Dartford, England: John Pearce, 32, came to realize the hazards of daylight burglary when in the course of climbing through a window, his foot got caught in the window, leaving him dangling upside-down in plain sight of pedestrians walking down the busy sidewalk. Onlookers proceeded to mock him mercilessly until police arrived.
Gulfport, Florida: Shaquille McKinney, 14, decided to try his hand at telemarketing. Trouble is, he was selling drugs, and the potential buyer turned out to be a policeman. When McKinney cold-called Detective Matt Parks, the cop told him he had the wrong number. Before hanging up, the teen asked Parks if he wanted to buy drugs. The policeman agreed to meet in a nearby parking lot, where McKinney was arrested.
Henry Earl1,000 Strikes?
Lexington, Kentucky: If there's a lifetime achievement award for petty crime, Henry Earl would win hands-down. Since 1970, he's been arrested a whopping 1,333 times (and counting), although he serves an average of less then four days per offense. Dumb or dedicated? You be the judge.
Ice Cream Men
La Plata, Maryland: Wesley Jumper, 36, and Shawn Stewart, 36, are apparently very dirty and very stupid. How else could you explain their decision to 1) steal $500 worth of soap and shampoo from a CVS drug store, and 2) use a Good Humor ice cream truck as their getaway vehicle. The truck, which Stewart used for day job, was easy enough for the police to spot, and the men were promptly arrested. No word on what happened to the confiscated Nutty Buddies.
Drunk Driving Test
Bendorf, Germany: A 27-year-old man arrived for his road driving test smelling of alcohol. Although he insisted to the instructor that he hadn't had anything to drink, he proceeded to drive erratically, at which point the instructor directed him to pull into a parking lot...at a police station. The man was booked for driving with a blood-alcohol content of three times the legal limit. And he failed the test.
Eloise ReavesThis Crack's Wack
Hawthorne, Florida: Eloise Reaves, 50, stretched the limits of "to serve and protect" when she approached a policeman and asked him to help her get her money back for the poor-quality crack cocaine she'd just purchased. She showed him the crack, which she had tucked away in her mouth, and he placed her under arrest. The accused salesman was not charged.
Boyds, Maryland: While awaiting trial for murder and armed robbery, inmate Quinton Thomas sent a friendly letter to a chum suggesting that he kill any witnesses who were planning to testify against him. He figured he could be so bold because he knew that the prison staff didn't screen outgoing mail. However, he must've sent the letter to the wrong address or affixed the wrong postage, because it was sent back "Return to Sender," making it INCOMING mail, which IS screened by the staff. He was convicted on three new counts -- one of solicitation to commit murder and two of witness intimidation -- in addition to the original charges.
November 13 2010 9:46 PM EST
Pick the Right Equipment!
Bringing a weapon to a crime causes more grief than it's worth. But if you do decide to arm yourself, it ought to be with something that will actually scare someone.
Earlier this year, 19-year-old Justin MacGilfrey allegedly entered a Daytona Beach, Florida, store, pointed his index finger -- yes, his index finger! -- at the clerk, cocked his thumb, and demanded all the money in the register.
The clerk assumed it was a joke. But MacGilfrey, who has pleaded not guilty to robbery, was serious. After determining the finger wasn't loaded, the clerk emerged from behind the register. That's when the finger-slinger holstered his digit and ran from the store. He was later arrested and, presumably, fingerprinted.
Remember! The police don't care for criminal types. So don't initiate a relationship.
ﾕ Phillip Williams was an unhappy consumer. So he stopped two Tampa, Florida, police officers, handed over his crack pipe, and asked if they wouldn't mind testing the crack cocaine that he'd bought earlier, just to make sure it was the real deal. Good news! It was. Bad news! They arrested him.
ﾕ A 17-year-old suspected arsonist approached a car in Lambertville, Michigan, intending to siphon gas from it. What he forgot to do was ask permission from the detective sitting in the front seat.
The best criminals all have colorful aliases. Names like Jimmy Nostrils and Joe Bananas really liven up a criminal's résumé. Look what happens if you don't have one prepared.
ﾕ When Sheboygan, Wisconsin, police pulled over a car for not having proper registration, a passenger did what many criminals do -- he supplied the cops with an alias. Bad move. Turns out, that particular alias was wanted for vehicular homicide.
ﾕ Steve Lent was pulled over in Peekskill, New York, for a traffic violation. Since there was already an outstanding warrant for his arrest, police say, he passed himself off as his brother, Christopher. Too bad he didn't remember there was an arrest warrant out for Christopher too.
Remember! Whether your crime calls for aliases or an elaborate fraud, do your homework.
ﾕ Alexander D. Smith walked into an Augusta, Georgia, bank and tried to open an account with a $1 million bill. Great idea -- except there is no such thing as a $1 million bill.
ﾕ Two machete-wielding men barged into a Sydney, Australia, bar demanding money. Because they didn't know the club was hosting a bikers' meeting, one ended up in the hospital, the other hog-tied with electrical wire.
Make the Cops Work for a Living
In general, broadcasting one's whereabouts is a bad idea.
Convicted of receiving stolen property, James Wombles, 37, had to wear an ankle bracelet as part of his parole. The bracelet came complete with a GPS monitoring system that let cops track his every move. Over the course of a few weeks, the Riverside, Ohio, man allegedly broke into six homes. You know where this is going -- just as the cops knew where Wombles was going. Following the signals from his bracelet, they tracked him to his car, where they found him sitting on the stolen booty.
Remember! There are these people called lawyers. They help people who have been arrested. If you are ever arrested, get a lawyer, and let him or her do all the talking for you.
ﾕ When Ellis Cleveland was arrested in Honolulu, a detective informed him he was suspected of robbing four banks. ﾓFour?ﾔ responded Cleveland, according to the detective's affidavit. ﾓI didn't do four; I only robbed three banks.ﾔ
Publicity is great for starlets. But criminals really should shun the spotlight. Robert Echeverria, 32, scammed a Rialto, California, Del Taco by calling up and pretending he was a local CEO whose order had been botched.
Echeverria was so pleased with the $15 in free eats, he and two friends shot a short movie called How to Scam Del Taco and posted it on YouTube. It proved popular, especially among cops, who watched it and promptly arrested the would-be executive.
Remember! Try not to focus attention on yourself.
ﾕ Consumers in northern Alabama became suspicious when they received recorded messages urging them to go to a website where they could ﾓupdateﾔ their bank account records. How did victims know it was just a ﾓphishingﾔ expedition? Their caller IDs read ﾓThis is a scam.ﾔ
Have a Plan
If the past few years have taught us anything, it's this: No matter what venture you undertake, have an exit strategy.
Receiving a report of a man banging on a door at 3:30 in the morning, police responded to a mini-mart in Ossining, New York. When officers arrived, they chased Blake Leak, 23, through the streets and down an embankment. It looked bleak for Leak, until both cops took a tumble. Seizing the opportunity, he sought refuge on the grounds of a large building.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be a well-known local landmark, the Sing Sing maximum security prison, where he was nabbed by a guard.
Remember! Make a plan, and don't deviate from it.
ﾕ Scottish shoplifter Aron Morrison was picked up after pinching a bottle of vodka from a liquor store.
It didn't take Sherlock Holmes to find Morrison, especially since he'd left his name and phone number with the clerk after asking her out on a date.
Beware of Witnesses
Good criminals arrange it so no one is aware that a crime has taken place. Last year a German psychologist was accused of taking advantage of three of his patients. He had sex with one, named Kathrin; convinced another, Finja, to buy him some shoes and shirts; and conned the third, Leonie, into cleaning his house and paying for his vacations. This all came to light when a fourth patient, Monika, became suspicious and called the police. Why would she do that when the three victims hadn't? Because the four are one person: Kathrin, Finja, and Leonie are Monika's multiple personalities. When Monika confronted the psychologist, he refused to discuss the matter, saying it would violate therapist-client confidentiality, something he owed all his clients, including alter egos.
Remember! Don't leave incriminating evidence at the crime scene.
ﾕ A convenience-store robber in Des Moines, Iowa, got away with $115 but left his coat. Inside: his W-2 tax form.
ﾕ A Target store in Augusta, Georgia, agreed to take back a printer from a dissatisfied customer. Then the clerk noticed some property the customer had left in the machine: counterfeit bills.
ﾕ After getting into an argument with a woman at a bus stop, Justin John Boudin of St. Paul, Minnesota, punched her in the face. He then attacked a Good Samaritan with a folder, which fell to the ground when Boudin fled. But cops tracked him down, thanks to what was inside that folder: his anger-management homework.
November 13 2010 9:48 PM EST
In Belgium, an ex jail worker took 2 of his colleagues hostage. After several hours of waiting for the ransom to be brought in, he decided to take a smoke.
The cops were waiting outside to get a chance to get in but when they saw him come out, their waiting was over.
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