15 Times the Police Were Genuinely Impressed by Criminal Genius

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Crime is bad, we all know that. We’ve known it since we were little because everyone told us that. But, every once in a while, a crime can be so immaculately planned and executed that it’s just straight up impressive. I mean, when career criminals – who everyone knows are doing it – still manage to get away with their misdeeds over and over again, that’s pretty remarkable.

I’m not saying it’s good, just to be clear. In fact, sometimes it can be really horrible. But everyone excels at something, and some peoples’ wheelhouse just happens to be breaking the law – just like the subjects of these 15 AskReddit users’ outrageous stories:

1. ATM Bandit

When I was a rookie I got a call at 3:00 AM one night about a hold up alarm going off at an ATM. I respond and don’t really take the call that seriously at first because I’m thinking, “No way a hold up alarm is being triggered at 3 in the morning”.
I get there and start checking the bank when I see a guy walking through the drive through. Stupid me strolls over and calmly says, “Hey man, come over here and talk to me for a minute.” He bolts and I take off after him only to realize I left my handheld in my car. I run back and call it in and my partner shows up shorty after. Well we can’t find the guy and start looking around. The guy spray painted the ATM camera and the drive thru camera, which set off the alarm.

About an hour later I see a vehicle with out of state tags driving slowly through the drive thru and after running the plate, he has fictitious tags. We search the vehicle and can find absolutely nothing but a very long tree branch in the back of the SUV. We write him for fictitious tags and send him on his way per my Sgt.

The next day my investigator gets a call from the FBI because they had this guy’s name flagged and saw where we ran him. He had been hitting ATMs in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee. We were the first department that actually came in contact with him.

He would spray paint the cameras or use the tree branch to turn high cameras away, after the alarms go off, he would wait nearby for police to leave. He would then come back and saw the hinges off the ATMs and take the money. He stole approximately $150,000 over a six month period. He was caught a few weeks later by a guy I went to the academy with.

2. Driver’s Test

Although no skill was really involved, I arrested a kid for stealing a car. He confessed and told me that he’d be straight up with me. He was walking through a parking lot and saw a lady drop her car keys and keep walking.

He said that’s her fault for not paying attention, grabbed the keys, and took off in her car. He lamented that he knew he’d get stopped eventually, but didn’t think we’d stop him so quickly. When I asked if he had a driver’s license he smiled and said he was planning to take the car he stole to the DMV so he could take his driving test.

We both had a good laugh at that. He said I ruined his plans.

3. Clever Escape

Not a cop, or the criminal in question, but…

An acquaintance’s brother was getting pulled over but had several pounds of weed in the car. He managed to stop the car, get out, and run without the cops seeing him. While they were still looking for him, he had time to find a way home and report the car stolen. They had no proof who was in the car or where he was.

4. “Drunken ingenuity”

Saw this one on one of those police chase shows. Police dash cam showed the car in front of him was swerving all over the road in the middle of the night. He followed him for a while, then flipped on the lights to pull him over. Guy pulls over, and before the cop can do anything, he turns off the car, gets out, throws his keys into the woods, cracks open a brand new 5th of vodka, and chugs the whole thing down.

Cut to the interview of the actual criminal with his voice and face obscured. He said he had already had multiple DUIs and had become something of an expert on drunk driving laws. He took advantage of a loophole wherein the cop didn’t have time to see if he was actually drunk behind the wheel of the car.

Chugging the vodka right there would immediately have an effect on any sobriety testing. He hadn’t opened the vodka in the car, so no open container infraction. And he made sure his keys were most definitely out of reach, so there was no way that he could be “operating a vehicle under the influence.” Didn’t know whether or not to be impressed or disgusted with his drunken ingenuity.

5. Secret Stash

This guy in high school, we’ll call him Luis, was a known drug dealer. He didn’t make it a secret. Everyone bought weed and harder stuff off of him. The cops constantly pulled him over to search him, and whenever a drug related thing happened at school he was often the first kid they pulled into the principal’s office.

But they would never catch him with any drugs.

The principal used to turn all of his possessions inside out on a weekly basis. Apparently schools can do that, but cops can’t. They regularly cut locks off his gym locker and his regular locker in hopes of finding his stash, but they never found it.

One time there was a rumor going around that his stash was stored in a locker not assigned to anyone, which prompted the administration to search every single locker in the school. I remember we had to stand in the hallway and unlock it so the principal could have a look inside. They definitely caught people with drugs but not the Luis. Turns out he started that rumor

Drug dogs were a regular occurrence. Once a month they brought them into the school, and they were present at every sports game.

Luis was one of the only, if not the sole supplier for the whole school. The administration had no idea what to do. They would catch kids with weed and the kids would flat out say, “I bought this from Luis” Luis would encourage them to say it. They would then flip Luis’ stuff inside out, cops would search his car, and he consented to all of it, and laughed when they found nothing.

This was probably close to 15 years ago now. The Vice Principal loves to tell the story about how they eventually “caught” him. VP’s younger son asked for these shoes for Christmas that had a secret compartment in them. Light bulbs go off in his head. The first day back after holiday break, he calls the school’s DARE officer and pulls Luis out of class. They bring him into to office and flip all of his stuff out on the table. Then the VP tells him to take his shoes off. Turns out his hunch was right. He had hidden compartments in his shoes.

But there were no drugs in there. I guess Luis is laughing his butt off at this point. This was pre-everyone owned a cell phone era. Luis has the audacity to explain that he hasn’t seen any of his classmates for 3 weeks, he had not take any orders yet. Had the VP waited a day, he would have caught him.

6. “Damn near the perfect crime”

A Fire Marshal once told me about his nemesis, a fire bug naturally. Apparently the arsonist had a thing for burning old barns. Never a building that was in use, always an old abandoned one.

Anyway, his modus operandi was to take a balloon filled with accelerant like gasoline or kerosene and suspend it by a string it 20ft+ off the ground. Under the balloon he’d light a candle and start the balloon swinging on a long arc. He’d have a good 20+ minutes before the arc of the swing slowed enough that the candle would ignite the balloon. The balloon ignites, the accelerant is spread evenly across all surfaces and the balloon, string and candle disappear in the fire. It was like the entire interior of the structure caught fire at the same time, with no trace as to how.

He said it was damn near the perfect crime, until some cop happens to notice a car parked in a field a mile away and thinks to jot down the license plate number.

7. “Damn, he had balls”

I was an MP at Fort Carson. The young man was in the service for two years before a dishonorable discharge sending him back home to Pennsylvania. When he got home he used his uniform to get discounts and praise. One day he decided to hop on a plane to Colorado. He arrives in full uniform but with Lt. rank on. Gets off the plane and uses the government transportation to get on base. He doesn’t have an ID but damn he is an officer so they let him on.

Then he stayed at the in-processing barracks without paperwork because hell, he is an officer. Stays there for weeks. He goes walking to the PX and comes across a woman with a flat tire. He helps her change it out and she invites him over for dinner.

There he meets her husband and their kids then convinces them that he is waiting for housing and they let him live with them for a month. He cleans the house and babysits the kids.

One time he went to this guy’s unit and chewed a supply sergeant out to help the guy he was living with. The only reason this came to light is because of one phone call he made to his mother from the in-processing barracks. She became worried about him and called them. His mother let the people know he was not in the military. After that the search began. I was in MPI and got to pick him up. He gave me a straightforward statement and was genuinely nice.

I just remember sitting on the office couch with him watching TV waiting for him to get transferred from my custody. I told him that I was genuinely impressed and that after what ever happens to him, happens, that he could get it together and do well. He wasn’t the brightest kid but damn he had balls. I guess that is what it really takes.

8. Master Evader

Once had a guy who shoplifted on an industrial scale. He stole hundreds and sometimes thousands of pounds-worth of merchandise from a particular well-known high-street clothing store. Every day.

He’d go to different branches all over the country. He spoke nicely and was smartly dressed. He just used to fill up bags with high value products and walk out.

He had a warehouse-type unit somewhere (police never found it) with his own till because he would generate till receipts for these items and go back to return them (at a different branch) and get cash refunds.

He was at it for years – made enough to put his kids through private school. When he got caught he was jailed for about a year (our shoplifting sentencing guidelines are absurdly low).

When he came out he got back on it. Police still couldn’t find his base. He was being investigated and was on bail. One occasion when he answered his bail at the police station, the police had a 6-man surveillance team ready to tail him and track down the warehouse he was using. He lost them within 2 minutes of leaving the station.

When he came for trial based on the CCTV evidence we had from the various shops the case got thrown out. (The footage wasn’t good enough to make out his features exactly and the officer who purported to identify him hadn’t followed procedures).

After he was thus acquitted he was due to be investigated for some other matters – but he gave the police and security the slip from the Court before he could be arrested.

Even I was impressed – and I was prosecuting him!

9. Lock-Twisting

Had a guy when I first started would twist locks. The art of twisting a lock works mainly in businesses that secure their double front doors using a deadbolt style lock.

He would use a tool to twist this lock and in turn, open the doors. Guy probably got away with 25 businesses before he was finally busted. He later said his style of breaking and entering worked so well because the alarm systems have a set delay when opening a business. Say 30 seconds.

Given the glass wasn’t broke or large movements were observed by the system, it would act as if the store we’re opening and give the employee time to reset the alarm. Those 30 seconds were plenty for him to get in, get to the register, and leave.

10. Phone Scam

We get a call reporting that the phone system of a major UK bank has been hacked and that the caller has had several thousand pounds stolen from their account as a result. Seems unlikely, but officers went round to see what had happened. Obviously the bank’s system was fine, but scammers had done something fairly clever.

Turns out that there is a way in the UK of keeping a phone line open when only the recipient hangs up. The scammers called the victim and pretended to be from the bank, before asking for account details. Victim was suspicious so hung up and called the bank back at their real telephone number.

However, the scammers held the line open and played a dial tone down the line so the victim thought that she was making a new call, then they played a “ring ring” sample before a new scammer answered the call and took the details pretending to be the bank.

I’ve heard of it a few times since in the press, but the first time I came across it was on duty and no one had any idea what was going on.

11. The Unabomber

So my professor arrested Ted Kaczynski. My professor always told me that they would have never caught him because of how ingenious his IEDs were. He used random pieces of wood from the sawmill next to his cabin as containers and always peeled the labels off of the batteries he used as power. The only reason he got caught was because he had sent a similar manifesto to his brother before the one he sent to the New York Times and his brother notified the police.

12. PCP is CRAZY

Used to work with law enforcement and during a Friday night a guy on PCP managed to shut down a major roadway during a foot pursuit. This guy ended up taking several shots from a 9mm and a shotgun shell and then wriggled out of the grasp of several officers trying to subdue him and get into a police car and drive off with it.

He only managed to get about 10 feet before crashing into a cement barrier and knocking himself unconscious. The guy ended up living too.

PCP is a hell of a drug.

13. “He just thought it would be funny”

Not a cop, nor the criminal, but in the Blue Mountains of NSW, Australia, my (now deceased) uncle went on a string of armed robberies where he would run into a store with a gun, then shove the attendant against the wall and super glue their hands to the wall before stealing the money in the cash register.

He had no intentions of using the gun, and it was actually never loaded. He just thought it would be funny to glue people to the wall and steal their stuff.

14. “No chance of getting away”

I was 13 years old and took my dad’s truck out for a joy ride while my parents were out of town for the night. I wasn’t so good at driving stick, and got pulled over. I ran for it. I hid in a field for a half hour or so while watching more and more police show up to investigate. When I heard the dogs, I knew it was my time to make it or break it.

So I ran, and boy did I run. I made it to a road and hopped a fence into someone’s yard, and hopped a few more fences (I was, and still am, very athletic).

Lost the dogs, but the cruisers were everywhere. I made my way to my house and there were cops on every corner of the street. But a bit of stealthy fence-hopping and I was at my basement window and I crawled in, with the cops literally outside my house. I gathered my things in the dark, and was ready to head off to my buddy’s place, but I was surrounded.

Thirteen-year-old me gave the police a very entertaining chase, and they even said so. I felt so complimented that they enjoyed the chase, too. They also said I had no chance of getting away.

I remember eating a grapefruit and trying to ‘play it cool’ while they were questioning me.

15. Don’t give your SSN to random people!

Smartest criminal: suspect would go door to door saying he was with Publisher’s Clearing House. He would tell people they were one of several finalists. He then explained he would need their name, date of birth, and social security number to verify who they were.

After that, he would ask what hours they weren’t home so they could ensure if the victim won the prize, they would be home. Naturally, he would break into their homes when they weren’t home and steal all their valuables.

To top it off, he would steal their identity and open a bunch of credit card / payday loans in their names afterwards. After over 50 cases, I finally caught the guy. Made off with over a half million dollars in 3 months before he was caught.

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You rock! Thanks for reading!