Oceans 45 Million: 15 Unbelievable Heists

Quick, get to the nearest ATM and check your bank account balance. You may be missing $45 million. Although, unless you do your banking with Rakbank of the United Arab Emirates or the Bank of Muscat in Oman, you’re probably fine. As far as unbelievable heists go, a robbery in recent memory might have gone down as one of the greatest.

A group of cyber thieves that spread across the globe managed to steal a whopping $45 million in a matter of hours by hacking into a database of prepaid credit cards. After this, they fanned out and withdrew as much cash as possible from ATMs.

Seven people accused of being members of the U.S. cell of perpetrators are already under arrest, and authorities are working on figuring out how many people were involved in this global scheme reminiscent of some of the boldest heists in history.

What were other unbelievable heists in history that were incredibly noteworthy? Check out 15 such heists that could make your jaw drop.

15.) Northern Bank Robbery

Northern Bank Belfast

The Belfast Telegraph

  • Year: 2004
  • Amount Stolen: £26.5 million ($41 million)

This incident is one for the books when it comes to unbelievable heists. In 2004, just a few days before Christmas, a group of robbers found a way to get into the homes of two Northern Bank Branch Managers. The robbers held the bankers and their families at gunpoint, telling them that they would have to do a job for the robbers. If the bankers did everything the robbers asked, the families could go without harm.

The bank managers were told to head to work like normal, then to let the robbers in at the end of business hours that same day. Once the criminals robbed the Northern Bank in Ireland, they released the families unharmed.

As of today, the crime remains unsolved. People think the Provisional IRA is behind this crime, but no proof currently connects them to the crime.

14.) The Infamous Brink’s-MAT Robbery

HEATHROW AIRPORT

Fortune

  • Year: 1983
  • Amount Stolen: £26 million ($41 million)

Six robbers made their way into the Brink’s-MAT warehouse at Heathrow Airport in London, England, with help from an on-duty security guard.

That early November morning, the plan changed for surprising reasons. Unbelievable heists like this are not crazy for how the crime happened. This one is incredible due to what made the culprits change their plans mid-robbery and what happened as a result.

The original plan was to take about £3 million ($3.9 million) in cash. The assumption was that everything was under lock and key. However, after the robbers got in, they discovered an additional three tons of gold bullion and diamonds, significantly more than they were assuming beforehand.

They decided to take it all, which caused several murders within the gang and of people who knew about everything. Most of the group have been caught, but authorities never recovered the gold.

13.) The Crown Jewel Heist

CROWN JEWEL HEIST

Historia Magazine

  • Year: 1671
  • Amount Stolen: Possibly Priceless

Anglo-Irish adventurer Colonel Thomas Blood found a way to integrate himself within the royal British scene. He made friends with the Master of the Jewel House in the Tower of London. Blood disguised himself as a member of the parsonage, employing a prostitute to play his wife the entire time. He somehow convinced the Master to let him into the jewel house with his three accomplices. The Master did so and was rewarded by being clubbed unconscious and tied up.

Once in, he sawed the Royal Sceptre in half and even flattened St. Edward’s Crown with a mallet. One of the accomplices hid the Royal Orb in their pants.

The robbers attempted to escape but dropped the Sceptre along the way. One of the robbers shot a guard, but the guards caught the colonel. The crown fell from his cloak during the arrest.

King Charles II decided to pardon Blood for his crime and even rewarded him with a bit of land in Ireland. As unbelievable heists go, things worked out well for Colonel Blood.

12.) The Wilcox Train Robbery

BUTCH CASSIDY & GANG

BBC

  • Year: 1899
  • Amount Stolen: $50,000 (worth $7 million today in inflation)

The infamous Butch Cassidy and his “Hole in the Wall Gang” made a lot of heists in their time. However, nothing tops their heist of the Union Pacific train in 1899.

They stopped the train in the middle of Wilcox, Wyoming, when two “signalmen” convinced the conductor to bring the train to a halt. The gang dynamited a railcar and even blew up the tracks behind them to stop any possible quick pursuit.

The gang escaped with $50,000 in overall cash on horseback. The robbers even thought ahead and strategically placed horses so they could get onto a fresh horse to move as quickly as possible while they made their escape. The gang evaded capture for years, though a shootout did happen to kill or catch most involved.

Banknotes with one burnt-off corner from the robbery turned up for years afterward in places as far as New York and New Mexico.

11.) The Collar Bomb Bank Robbery

COLLAR BOMB HEIST

Columbia Pictures

  • Year: 2003
  • Amount Stolen: $0 (officially)

This heist has to be one of the craziest, unbelievable heists in history. One beautiful day in 2003, a middle-aged pizza delivery driver walked into a bank and handed a note to the teller asking for money in the vault. The robber then lifted his shirt to show a collar bomb around his neck and chest.

He took the money and left, only getting 15 minutes down the road before the authorities caught up with him. While being arrested, he yelled at them, claiming he was forced to commit the crime.

If he did not bring back the money before a particular time, the bomb was going to go off. They refused to let him go, surrounding the area and blocking it off while they waited for the bomb squad to arrive.

Sadly, before they arrived, the bomb began ticking and soon blew up. Since then, the FBI has been following a paper trail in attempts to find the person responsible. They have uncovered insane things like dead bodies in freezers and more.

10.) The Air Robbery of One D.B. Cooper

D.B. COOPER HEIST

Vice

  • Year: 1971
  • Amount Stolen: $200,000

In one of the most unbelievable heists in modern history, an unidentified man given the codename of D.B. Cooper committed what remains the only unsolved air heist in American history.

The hijacking took place in 1971 aboard a Boeing 727, where he stole $200,000. The man then leaped out of the plane like he was in a James Bond or Jason Bourne film, and he parachuted out to escape.

He jumped out with the money somewhere between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. Despite years of searching and an ongoing FBI Investigation, the money and the man weren’t found.

Many people assume that Cooper jumped out and possibly died in the robbery attempt. After more than 40 years that has spawned several conspiracy theories, no evidence of what happened is available.

9.) The Underground French Heist

THE TERMITE GANG PARIS

Philippines Lifestyle News

  • Year: 2010
  • Amount Stolen: Incalculable 

In one of the most amazing and unbelievable heists in decades, a Parisian bank was robbed in 2010 via the underground. The story goes that the robbers used sophisticated and still unknown tools to burrow underground, allowing them to dig their way into the BNP Paribas Bank. Dubbed “The Termite Gang,” they stole the contents of over 100 safety deposit boxes.

The amount of the contents were worth combined is incalculable currently. The bank had multiple wealthy clients, leading to speculation that they likely stole enough to equal billions. The crime hasn’t been solved, and another similar crime happened at a bank north of the city months prior. People assume the Termite Gang robbed that bank as well.

Several duplicates have claimed to be the gang when caught, but most of these people couldn’t prove any connection.

8.) Harry Winston Heist-Real Life Pink Panthers

HARRY WINSTON PINK RING

Harry Winston Jewelry

  • Year: 2008
  • Amount Stolen: $108 Million in Diamonds

In the most comical and unbelievable heists, a robbery took place at one of the most exclusive jewelry stores in Paris, France. Four men dressed up in women’s clothing, essentially becoming Drag Queens for a night, to rob the Harry Winston Jewelry Store. The men stole seemingly every single piece of jewelry that the store had and even emptied two backdoor storage cases.

They did come in armed, but they didn’t shoot anyone because they were able to get past security guards due to their disguises. Because of the robbery and the way they did it, the robbers were dubbed “The Pink Panthers.”

Several of the more than 250-person strong Pink Panther Network have never been caught, and these four are among them. Those that are caught often don’t or cannot give any clue on the whereabouts of everyone else.

This bizarre heist netted the network over $100 million in diamonds.

7.) The Heist of the Century

DIAMONDS

PicturePerfectWeddings

  • Year: 2003
  • Amount Stolen: Over $100 Million

Now dubbed “The Heist of the Century,” the Antwerp Diamond Center was robbed in 2003 in an unbelievable fashion. The robbers took massive amounts of gold, diamonds, and jewelry that is estimated to be worth well over $100 million.

The robbery’s mastermind is Leonardo Notarbartolo. He lived right next door to the Diamond Center for three years before committing the theft. As part of his ruse to get in, he posted as an Italian diamond merchant so he could gain creditability with the store.

Out of the 160 safety deposit boxes, 123 of them were forced open and robbed. All were made from steel and had a unique key/combination lock that Leonardo was able to get for many. His entire crew was able to escape, but Leonardo was caught.

Years later, Leonardo told Wired in an interview that the whole thing was an insurance fraud attempt by the store owner. He said that the store was only worth $20 million and the owner was able to be reimbursed for the value of the contents stolen by the insurance company. Now that’s an unbelievable heist!

6.) Dunbar Armored Robbery

DUNBAR ROBBERY

Unions for Security Guards

  • Year: 1997
  • Amount Stolen: $18.9 million

The Dunbar Robbery is still the largest pure cash robbery in the history of the United States. This robbery was an inside job. Allen Pace, the mastermind behind the entire thing, posed as a Regional Safety Inspector for Dunbar. He recruited five childhood friends to ambush guards at the stocked cash drop vault on the evening of September 12, 1997.

They loaded up the U-Haul and escaped, nearly getting away with it. Sadly for them, one of the men decided to confess, taking the entire crew down. Funny enough, more than half the money wasn’t recovered. Talk about unbelievable heists: they likely should have gotten away with it. The first rule of robbery is to say nothing.

5.) Banco Central in Brazil

BANCO ROBBERY

OZY

  • Year: 2005
  • Amount Stolen: More Than $65 million

One of our favorite unbelievable heists occurred in Brazil, revolving around a robbery that movies are made for. In 2005, a gang of men rented a house, posing as a landscape company. They dug a tunnel over 250 feet deep, which spanned two city blocks in size. This tunnel went to Banco Central and even had lighting and air conditioning systems.

On Saturday, August 5, 2005, the men decided to make their move and rob the bank. When the bank reopened a few days later, over $65 million in untraceable bills had disappeared. Experts think that as many as 25 men took part in this robbery.

As of today, only a few of those men have been captured. Only around $20 million of the stolen money has been recovered.

4.) Great Train Robbery

GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY

The Independent

  • Year: 1963
  • Amount Stolen: $74 million

You know your heist made a mark when it’s given a name with “great” right in the title. In 1963 near Buckinghamshire England, a 15-member gang used tampered signals to stop a traveling post office train known as the “Up Special,” and climbed aboard. Without the use of a single gun (though they did club the conductor over the head), the gang overtook the train.

The gang managed to steal 120 sacks of banknotes worth $74 million. In 2019, this amount adjusts to $600 million due to inflation. What an unbelievable heist. No wonder they called it great!

3.) Knightsbridge Security Deposit

KNIGHTSBRIDGE SAFE DEPOSIT CENTRE

Inside Edition

  • Year: 1987
  • Amount Stolen: Roughly $111 million

Back in 1987, Valerio Viccei and an accomplice entered the Knightsbridge Safe Deposit Center. They came up with the ruse to claim they were interested in renting a safe deposit box. Once they were in the vault, however, they revealed that what they were there to do.

They subdued the guards with handguns, broke open deposit boxes, and made off with what equates to roughly $111 million. This incident is still considered to be one of the most unbelievable heists of all time because of how simplistic it happened. They took out the guards without much effort and stole as much as others dug elaborate tunnels to get.

2.) Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER MUSEUM

Artsy

  • Year: 1990
  • Amount Stolen: $300 million

No, this isn’t a deleted scene from Ben Affleck’s director’s cut of The Town, but it sure could be. At 1:24 a.m. on March 18, 1990, while most of the city of Boston was enjoying St. Patrick’s Day festivities, two men dressed as police officers knocked on the security entrance door of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

The security guards on duty let the “officers” in and soon found themselves handcuffed and bound with duct tape in the basement. Left to think about their impending joblessness, they had to wait to be discovered while the thieves made off with $300 million worth of paintings and artifacts. Unbelievable heists like this seem like they couldn’t happen in real life, but this one did!

1.) Central Bank of Iraq

SADDAM HUSSEIN

RealClearLife

  • Year: 2003
  • Amount Stolen: $920 million

Just hours before the United States commenced with the bombing of Iraq back in 2003, Saddam Hussein decided he’d like to bolster his already massive fortune with a nice cushion of roughly $1 billion. You know, in case he needed some fallback cash. However, it’s hard to call this an actual “heist” because the money was taken with only a handwritten message from Saddam.

The dictator sent his son to the Central Bank of Iraq with the note demanding $920 million. Out of fear of possible repercussions, bank employees simply cooperated. This incident falls under unbelievable heists to us because of how easy it ended up being. A simple note got them nearly a billion dollars.

15 unbelievable heists

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