Bungled bank robberies

Banana peel

There’s nothing quite so entertaining as an incompetent bank robber. Alas, as digital banking marches forward, we may see fewer and fewer of them. Before the art all but disappears, here are some favorite tales of mishaps and ineptitude.

• Never underestimate a teller. In Dallas, a would-be robber demanded a teller hand over the money in her till. Fine, she said, but first she would need to see two forms of ID. Which—I’m not making this up—the man produced. She took her time copying down his information, giving police plenty of time to greet him as he exited the bank. AOL.

• The Royal Bank of Scotland in the town of Rothesay has two unique robbery prevention devices. One is a revolving door. A trio of men bent on robbing the branch entangled themselves in it and needed help from bank staff to free themselves. A bit embarrassed, they left to regroup. They successfully navigated the door on their second foray, although it took some doing to convince amused bank personnel that they were serious about committing robbery. It was then that the second prevention device, a counter, went to work. It dealt a broken ankle to the robber who tried to jump over it. His accomplices tried to flee, but in their haste forgot to beware the revolving door. They remained trapped until police came. Anvari.

• After dashing out of a Virginia Beach bank with stolen cash, a robber decided he’d better return and retrieve his robbery note. Whew, he must have thought, that was close. His next thought might have been, Crap! I left the car keys at the bank. Opting not to return for them, he ran home and told his roommate that someone had stolen the car. The roommate, who was the car’s owner, reported the alleged theft. Police found the car, matched it to the keys left at the bank, and arrested the robber. The roommate was no doubt relieved to be spared the uncomfortable “you’ll need to find someplace else to live” conversation. Dumb Criminals.

• The car keys thing may be going around. In January of this year in Taylorsville, Utah, a man left his car keys at the credit union he had just robbed. Taking off on foot, he snagged and tore his bagful of cash. He could only watch (and, possibly, swear a blue streak) as the wind carried some of his booty into hands of eager passersby and the rest of it down a storm drain. To add to his ill luck, police promptly apprehended him. With this incident and his already-lengthy criminal history, I suspect he is in jail as I write. Miami Herald.

• The note seemed clear enough: “I have a gun. Gimme your money or else.” But to the robber’s bafflement, the teller handed back the note unread. This was Harbor Bank of Maryland, she explained, and she couldn’t accept a Maryland National transaction slip (on which he’d written the unread demand). The man took his note and left, leaving the teller unaware that she had just thwarted a robbery attempt. We’d be unaware, too, and the would-be robber might not have been apprehended if not for a woman who, waiting in line behind him, read the note over his shoulder. Baltimore Sun.

• Two of my favorites happened close to home in Salt Lake City. In one, a man handed a robbery note to a teller only to learn, the hard way, that two armed FBI agents were in line behind him. In the other, a man ordered a teller to empty her till into a paper sack. When she handed him back the back, he shoved it down the front of his pants and fled the bank. Seconds later, he, too, learned something the hard way: Dye packs burn at about 400 degrees. Apprehending the man wasn’t difficult. Neither was identifying him. Personal conversations.

• Thieves who rely on robbery notes would do well to invest in blank paper. A man arrested in Englewood, Colorado, wrote the robbery note on one of his personalized checks. To his credit, first he blacked out his name. Not to his credit, he didn’t black it out very well. Neowin.

• Another fellow at least had the good sense to use a nameless starter check. But the thing about checks, even starter checks, is that they have account numbers. Tracing the check’s account number to the thief was an easy matter. Barstool Sports.

• A Pennsylvania robber was smart enough not to use a personalized document, but he managed to make up for it in other ways. Asking the teller for a blank deposit slip, he wrote, “Just give me the money and nothing else will happen”—and then signed his own nameNorfolk Daily News.

I hope you enjoyed reading these anecdotes as much as I enjoyed sharing them. Fair being fair, I’m going to wrap up with a story where ineptitude took place on the side of the law. It happened a while ago, so I won’t be embarrassing any of Idaho’s finest.

You have doubtless heard of Butch Cassidy, famous for making withdrawals at gunpoint. (His former hideout is a few hours’ drive from my home.) In 1896, Cassidy and two accomplices robbed the Bank of Montpelier, Idaho, making off on horseback with $13, worth roughly $352 today. Instead of chasing the robbers on horseback as any sane person would do, the first responding deputy hopped on one of themthar newfangled bicycles. He didn’t get far. 

Every town is entitled to its claim to fame. Montpelier celebrates the robbery with an annual Butch Cassidy Cook Off and Reenactment. The town even has its own Butch Cassidy Museum, and, out front, a Hollywood-style sidewalk star pays tribute to the robbery.

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