The top 10 bank heists of all time!

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If being bad is sometimes irresistibly good, then it’s no wonder why bank robberies capture the shadowy side of our attention, enrapturing our rebellious imagination even though we would never condone criminality. But there’s no denying that when they’re successful, these heists lend a dash of glamor, romance, and intrigue like something out of a black and white Sunday movie.

One thing we can all agree on is that the following 10 robberies include some of the most elaborate, exciting (and even outright foolhardy!) storylines and schemes in history.

10. The less-than-brilliant summer job.
Let’s start with a bank robbery that displayed less-than-brilliant young ambition. Instead of finding a summer job in her hometown of Waco, Nebraska, 19-year-old Hannah Sabata decided to rob a bank. With mounting debt and criminal issues surrounding her, she stole a getaway car, entered her local branch of the Cornerstone Bank and was able to use threats of violence to successfully convince the teller to hand over the loot. Proud of herself, she later bragged about her successful heist on her YouTube channel, showing the key to the stolen getaway car and the money from the bank. “It was the best day of my life,” Sabata proclaimed….until she was caught by authorities, thanks to her social media bragging.

9. The billion-dollar hack.
In February of this year, international hackers were able to steal an astounding $1 billion from banks around the globe. A report released by Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab indicates that the series of thefts constitutes the largest known bank heist in modern history, affecting more than 100 banks in 30 countries. How’d they do it? They secretly installed software on bank computers, which eventually showed them how to mimic bank employee workflow, allowing them to access ATMs and make transfers into bank accounts they had created for this theft. The hackers/bank robbers were reportedly Russian, Ukrainian, Chinese and European, and still at large.

8. Beirut’s weeklong bank robbery.
This bank heist of the British Bank of the Middle East stands out and grabbed the world’s attention because it continued for a whole week. During Beirut’s Civil War in 1976, a group associated with the Palestine Liberation Organization exploited the chaos of the war to steal gold bars, Lebanese and foreign currency, and stocks and jewels valued at around $210 million. There was no subtlety or subterfuge to their tactics; they just blasted through the bank wall (that was shared with a Catholic Church), and then cracked the bank’s vault with the help of Corsican locksmiths.

7. Diamonds are a girl’s (or six boys’) best friend.
In 1983, six masked robbers targeted the Brink MAT’s bank facility at Heathrow Airport, walking away from the caper with much more than they’d anticipated. This inside job included the security guard at the facility, who helped the crew disable the other guards by dousing them with gasoline and threatening to set them ablaze if they did not cooperate. Intending to steal only a few million in cash, the six-man crew found themselves walking away with nearly $30 million dollars worth of cash, gold bullion, and diamonds. Several arrests were made and there was even a web of murders to keep co-conspirators quiet, but most of the money and none of the cash were ever recovered.

6. The disgruntled employee.
Philip Noel Johnson, an armored car driver for Loomis Fargo in Florida, decided it was time to give himself a raise. So on an otherwise normal day at work in 1997, Johnson overpowered his co-workers and made off with $18 million in cash. He thought his plan was foolproof: stash the money in a storage shed in North Carolina and move to Mexico City. He reconsidered this genius plan when he was caught at the U.S. border on his way to Mexico—where he also caught a 25-year prison sentence. Needless to say his new job was making license plates, not driving armored cars.

5. The $300 million art heist.
In 1990 in the midst of Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations, two men pretending to be police officers conned two security guards at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to let them into the premises, only to be handcuffed in the basement. The “officers” spent the next 81 minutes calmly selecting 12 pieces of art with a combined value of over $300 million (by 1990 standards!). This is known as one of the biggest (and most amateur) successful art heists in all of history, as the perpetrators were never caught.

4. Please sign here, Saddam.
In 2003, Saddam Hussein sent a handwritten, signed note with his son to make a withdrawal of “security money” on his behalf from the Central Bank of Iraq. Hussein’s son oversaw the 5-hour operation of the withdrawal of boxes stuffed with $100 bills, which all in all ended up netting the dictator about $1 billion dollars. Most of the money was recovered afterwards—nearly $650 million was found in the walls of the palace—but hundreds of millions are yet to be found. It’s got to be the only time in history that someone stole money that had their own face printed on it!

3. The tunnel job.
Do you think it’s worth nearly $80 million dollars to dig an 80-meter long underground tunnel? A gang of Brazilians certainly thought so when they spent 3 months building a tunnel, equipped with wood-paneled walls and electric lights, leading straight to the Banco Central in Fortaleza. They pulled off the robbery over the weekend so the bank didn’t actually discover anything until Monday, which gave these thieves a chance to run away with money. And while authorities did make more than 40 arrests, only $8 million was ever recovered.

2. Next time, bring bigger bags.
In 2006, a gang of masked robbers entered a Securitas depot in England with the kidnapped manager and his wife and child. They told the 14 depot staff they would die if they didn’t obey orders, tied them up and left them locked inside the depot’s cash cages. In just a little over an hour the group managed to grab about $92 million dollars, but were forced to leave behind several million dollars because they simply didn’t have enough space in their getaway bags to haul it away! After one of the largest law enforcement investigations in British history, most of the robbers were arrested and money recovered.

1. The Wild West train robbery.
One of the first train robberies in U.S. history took place in 1870, just west of Reno, Nevada. A gang of robbers had been tipped off that a Central Pacific train was carrying gold worth $60,000. The gang detached the baggage and express cars from the rest of the train and managed to enter the boxes in the express car and uncover $41,000 in gold coins—but had to leave behind over $20,000 in silver, gold bars and piles of bank drafts. Keep in mind that an acre of land cost about $5 at that time. But in this case, crime didn’t pay, as all of the bandits were apprehended and sent to Boot Hill before they could even spend their loot.


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