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Lobsters, Fajitas, Sex Toys, And More: The Best And Weirdest Heists Of 2017


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Some notes before we begin.

Note Number One: I love heists. I love them so much. I love movies about heists and news stories about heists and even just sitting around and thinking about heists. I love big fancy jewel heists and weird food heists and heists of things I had never considered heistable. This is what I am about, on a personal level.

Note Number Two: At the beginning of this year, I created a Google doc that I filled with links to news stories about weird and notable heists. As of this morning, the document is 10 pages long and contains 34 separate heists. For this post, I have narrowed it down to only my favorites. The best of the best. I consider this an important public service.

Note Number Three: My favorite heist ever was the time a guy stole a bucket of gold out of a truck in New York, in broad daylight, and remained on the loose for months, leaving police so frustrated that they released the only picture they had of him, which was him at Madam Tussaud’s sitting on a wax sculpture of the bike from E.T., complete with a tiny wax E.T. in a tiny wax basket. None of these heists are as good as that heist. Because nothing at all is better than that heist.

Note Number Four: Neither I nor the fine people at Uproxx condone crime, even when it is hilarious. You should not do crimes. But if someone else does a crime, especially if it involves stealing, say, 20 tons of Nutella (oh, that is on the list), well then I see nothing wrong with having some fun with it. That’s all we’re doing here.

Note Number Five: Pierce Brosnan is at the top of this post because Pierce Brosnan is the patron saint of heists.

Synchronize your watches and put on your black turtlenecks, people. It is heisting time.

Million-dollar fajita heist!

From Atlas Obscura:

Initially, investigators believed that Escamilla stole between $2,500 and $30,000 worth of fajitas. In August, after finding fajita packets at Escamilla’s house, authorities booked him. Escamilla made bail, but he was arrested again earlier this week, this time on first-degree theft felony charges. As The Brownsville Herald reports, his fajita haul clocked in closer to $1,251,578. “If it wasn’t so serious, you’d think it was a Saturday Night Live skit,” Luis V. Saenz, the Cameron County District Attorney, told the paper.

By poring over invoices, purchase orders, and vouchers, investigators also found that Escamilla had a streamlined system: He delivered fajitas to buyers the very same day he ordered them.

Okay:

  • This isn’t “technically” a heist because it was a decade-long scheme that involved fraudulently obtaining smaller amounts of fajitas and then reselling them to other parties
  • I do not care because I love it
  • Imagine buying black market fajitas

Best heist.

Large inflatable obstacle course heist!

From The Daily Courier:

Police say an open-topped red cargo trailer and the eight-piece obstacle course were stolen from a commercial yard in southwest Phoenix on May 7 or May 8.

Police said in a statement Wednesday that the obstacle course is 180 feet (55 meters) long and 25 feet (8 meters) wide when inflated.

There is a lot I like about this heist, from the logistics of stealing a huge inflatable obstacle course to the fact that someone came up with the idea and another person was all “Hell yeah,” but my favorite thing about it is the Phoenix Police Department getting catty as heck about it online.

That’s a good tweet.

Million-dollar lobster heist!

From Metro News Canada:

Four men are facing charges after a million dollars worth of lobster was stolen from a New Brunswick seafood company last Canada Day.

The RCMP say they believe the lobster heist is connected to a larger crime ring targeting cargo shipments in Quebec and New Brunswick.

This will come up again as we discuss other heists, but I really want you to picture someone with one million dollars worth of live lobsters. I choose to believe the whole lot of them were auctioned off at a secret black market seafood event where people said things like “The Russian Federation bids $1.1 million for the lobsters.”

Rare book heist!

From The Guardian:

The three thieves made off with more than 160 publications after raiding the storage facility near Heathrow in what has been labelled a Mission: Impossible-style break-in.

The gang are reported to have climbed on to the building’s roof and bored holes through the reinforced glass-fibre skylights before rappelling down 40ft of rope while avoiding motion-sensor alarms.

Oh hell yes. I am all about heists that involve rappelling into a room filled with motion sensors. I really don’t see how we can improve on this. Unless…

From Smithsonian:

The rarity of the books would make them incredibly hard to unload on the open market, Cook notes, and investigators theorize that a wealthy collector known as “The Astronomer” may have hired the thieves to steal the books for him.

Oh hell yes. A team of thieves rappelled into a room filled with motion sensors to steal $2.5 million worth of rare books, possibly at the behest of a wealthy collector known as The Astronomer. Make this a movie immediately. Jeff Goldblum as The Astronomer. I’ll go see it in IMAX on opening day.


Exam heist!

From Lexington Herald Leader:

Shortly after police arrived, one of the students returned and confessed. Henry Lynch II, a 21-year-old junior majoring in biosystems engineering, gave police an earful, including that he’d climbed through the building’s air ducts to the ceiling above Cain’s office and dropped down into the room, then unlocked the door and let in his friend, sophomore Troy Kiphuth, 21, who was not in Cain’s class.

“Your honor, my client, who wasn’t even in the class, pleads not guilty on account of being a solid friend.”

Harry Potter heist!

From Rolling Stone:

The 800-word story, which is set three years before Potter’s birth, originally sold for 25,000 pounds ($32,152) at a 2008 charity auction. The item was stolen from a property in Birmingham between April 13th and 24th.

Local police issued a statement early Friday morning, seeking the keen eye of Potter fans who may stumble upon the item. “The only people who will buy this unique piece are true Harry Potter fans,” investigating office PC Paul Jauncey said. “We are appealing to anyone who sees, or is offered this item for sale, to contact police.”

Not for nothing, but this post clocks in somewhere north of 2000 words, so if my math is correct, that means it is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $80-90k. Please do not heist my post.

Quarter-million-dollar vodka heist!

From Time:

Police are searching for thieves who swiped more than 1,800 (6,800 liters) gallons of vodka from a Los Angeles distillery.

Investigators say the suspects sawed through dead bolts to get inside a storage room at the Fog Shots distillery.

For the record, 1800 gallons would fill a 10×8 pool, three feet deep, with vodka. I’m not saying that’s what the thieves used it for. It would be a preposterous thing to do. But I’m just saying it’s an option. They could have done this. And if they mixed it with cranberry juice, say, at a four-parts-to-one ratio, now we’re looking at a 20×15 pool, four feet deep, filled with mixed drinks. Again, a horrible idea. It would burn so bad, everywhere. But an option.

Multijurisdiction lawn equipment heist!

From The Times News:

Two law enforcement officers are among four men charged in connection with a multijurisdictional lawn equipment heist that victimized a Burlington business, among others.

“Multijurisdictional lawn equipment heist” is easily the most “early in a season of Justified, before the new Big Bad shows up, when the show is churning out a few standalone episodes” crime on this list.

Priceless tiara heist!

From WHIO:

German police say a gold-and-platinum tiara adorned with 367 diamonds that once belonged to a duchess has been stolen from a state museum. […]

The piece had belonged to Grand Duchess Hilda von Baden, who lived from 1864 to 1952, and dates to the beginning of the 20th century.

After a great deal of thought, I have decided that the best way to enjoy this story is to picture a mustachioed janitor named Carl slipping it out of its case and walking out of the museum with the tiara on his head real casual-like, and when a security guard stops him he’s like, “Umm, I always wear this tiara to work. Kind of rude you haven’t noticed, actually” and it confuses the guard long enough to get away.

Wine heist!

From The Guardian:

Thieves stole wine reportedly worth more than €250,000 (£230,000) after burrowing into a private cellar from the catacombs 20 metres below Paris.

Police say more than 300 bottles of vintage wine were carried out through the underground network, which comprises more than 150 miles (250km) of tunnels running beneath the city.

The worst part about stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of wine from a private cellar in the Parisian catacombs is that it is cool as hell but you can’t tell anyone about it. You have to keep it a secret so you don’t go to jail. It must be impossible.

YOUR ANNOYING FRIEND SUSAN: I had the best day yesterday. My little Emma won first prize in the talent show, again!

YOU: [under your breath] Well I burrowed into the freaking Parisian catacombs and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of wine.

YOUR ANNOYING FRIEND SUSAN: What was that?

YOU: Nothing.

Not a sustainable situation.


Satanic goat head Christmas tree topper heist!

From Mercury News:

Authorities are investigating the theft of an unusual topper from a tree decorated by the San Jose chapter of The Satanic Temple as part of this year’s Christmas in the Park.

The void once occupied by a large black goat head mask was filled Tuesday by a red star and a wood-engraved sign informing onlookers that a new topper was “coming soon.”

I’ve seen it a million times.

20-ton Nutella heist!

From NPR:

All told, police in Neustadt believe the confections stolen over the weekend could be worth upward of $80,000, according to German newspaper Deutsche Welle. And a “spokesman told local media the perpetrators would have needed a truck of their own, not just a car, to be able to tow such heavy cargo.”

The nice part about this one is that you could just park the cargo in your yard. It’s not like anyone would believe you anyway.

YOUR NEIGHBOR LARRY: Hey, what’s in that trailer?

YOU: Twenty tons of illicit Nutella.

YOUR NEIGHBOR LARRY: This guy, always with the jokes. Anyway, can I borrow your ladder?

The perfect crime.

Bee heist!

From The Los Angeles Times:

According to prosecutors, Tveretinov, a Sacramento resident, and Yeroshenko, an Antelope resident, had accumulated more than 1,200 beehives.

The beehives were stolen from 10 beekeepers over two years, prosecutors said. According to sheriff’s officials, most of the stolen hives belonged to out-of-state beekeepers, who rented out their colonies to California almond tree growers looking to pollinate their crops.

Sheriff’s investigators said Tveretinov stole the hives at night, when bees are dormant, and moved them on flatbed trailers around California and to other states. Tveretinov likely rented the hives out for cash, authorities said.

Two things I love here:

  • This was not just a bee heist. It was a bee heist to fund an illicit almond ring. There are levels at play in all of this.
  • It was not the only large-scale bee heist of the year.

I also like to picture two bee thieves covered in bee stings, sitting at a dinner table, slowly realizing they could have stolen anything else instead.

New Year’s Eve Times Square jewel heist!

From New York Daily News:

The crooks snuck into the sixth-floor offices of Gregg Ruth on W. 36th St. and Sixth Ave. at about 10 p.m., as revelers gathered at Times Square just a few blocks away, police sources said.

They climbed the fire stairs to get inside, waited in a stairwell, and at midnight, they struck, possibly using the noise from the New Year’s celebration as cover, cop sources said.

Bonus points for basically just doing the plot of Entrapment. I hope there’s surveillance footage showing a middle-aged man dipping through lasers. Even if there’s not, let me pretend there is. I need this.

Dildo heist!

From The Cut:

In what is being called the biggest sex-toy heist in history, hundreds of dildos and butt plugs are missing after thieves stole $60,000 worth of merchandise from the company Fun Toys London, which was exhibiting its products at the Venus Berlin, a three-day event that presents the “annual trends and innovations from the erotic and lifestyle sectors.”

At the risk of gilding the lily (or gilding the dildo, if you will), there were also huge heists of condoms and oysters this year, and it’s a lot of fun to pretend they were all related and done to supply the world’s largest orgy, probably in Ibiza, probably on a yacht. The yacht is also stolen. Yacht heist!

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