Smooth Criminals: 4 Notorious Masterminds


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The criminal underworld is filled with all types of characters. Thugs. Psychopaths. And masterminds. These sociopaths are often so diabolically creative and clever, that it becomes virtually impossible for law enforcement to bring these outliers to justice.

Instead of helping the world, criminal masterminds utilize their creative intellect to the detriment of society. Here are four such individuals.

Carl Gugasian

Holding a master’s degree from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania and a PhD from Penn State, Carl Gugasian also received special forces and tactical weapons training during a brief stint in the US Army. Loaded with outstanding academic and armed forces credentials, Gugasian’s potential for a positive societal impact was limitless. Yet, despite all these accolades, Gugasian chose to spend his life robbing banks.

Soon after receiving his doctorate, Gugasian began meticulously planning bank robberies. During that time—on eight separate instances—Gugasian was on the brink of moving forward with his robbery fantasy, but then backed down at the very last minute. On the ninth instance, however, he pushed down his reluctance and went forth with his plan. Using a stolen car as a getaway, Gugasian finally crossed the line into a life of crime. And there was no turning back.

Gugasian was notoriously diligent with his planning. He would scout a bank location by first referencing topographical and street maps in local libraries. His goal was to find to a bank in a small town that was close to a wooded area, but also easily accessible to a freeway. After narrowing his search, Gugasian would determine which banks had late autumn and winter closing times. This way, he could escape under cover of darkness.

Gugasian would even find a secret location in the woods where he would hide the stolen cash, any further evidence of the crime and his getaway dirt bike. He would leave the stash tucked away until the “heat” of the crime cooled down. Then, Gugasian would return and grab his cash.

Wearing a tightly fit ‘horror’ mask and loose clothing, while moving around in a hunched over manner to hide his true size, Gugasian would flash a gun during his quick and intense robberies. Only once did Gugasian resort to violence, and the person he shot eventually recovered.

Despite years of successfully robbing at least 50 banks, Gugasian’s eventual downfall occurred after two teenage boys came across a secret hiding location that contained his masks, ammunition, maps and other equipment. After assisting law enforcement in closing the case on a large amount of unsolved bank robberies, Gugasian’s initial 115-year sentence was reduced to seventeen years in federal prison.

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Albert Spaggiari

It was a beautiful, warm weekend in picturesque Nice, France. The year was 1976, and this part of the French Riviera was teeming with vacationers looking for some relaxation and sunshine. But, despite all this relative peace, there was a massive heist afoot.

Albert Spaggiari, and his team of 20 men, had spent several summer weeks digging a 25-foot tunnel underneath the street leading to the Societe Generale bank. Spaggiari’s crew had managed to connect the bank and Nice’s sewer system without drawing any attention.

Then, from Friday night through Sunday, the merry bandits emptied the bank’s safe-deposit boxes, and stole most of the financial institution’s cash reserves. By the end of the heist, the “sewer gang” walked away with between $8 to $10 million in cash, gems, jewelry and gold. Not only did Spaggiari and his team rob the place blind, but during their weekend in the vault, they drank wine, cooked meals and even used antique silver tureens as toilets.

When the bank’s staff arrived on Monday morning, they were greeted with a plundered vault and a message written on the wall that read “Without Guns, Without Violence, Without Hate.”

Within a year of the robbery, the police arrested Spaggiari and six members of his crew. But, Spaggiari’s incarceration was short. Soon after being jailed, Spaggiari was being processed in a magistrate’s office. While interacting with law enforcement, he complained of the heat, so they allowed him to open a window. As soon as Spaggiari opened the window, he leapt out and landed on a car that waited for him nine feet below. That was the last time law enforcement ever saw him. Spaggiari funded the remainder of his life with the proceeds from the robbery.

Years later, at the age of 57, Spaggiari died from lung cancer. His body was anonymously dropped off in the front of his mother’s home in Nice.

Hassan and Abbas O. (Twin Brothers)

Some argue that this January 2009 heist was the perfect crime. Deep in the night, three masked, gloved men slid down ropes from the skylights within the haute Berlin department store, Kaufhaus des Westens. Their skillful entrance allowed them to evade the store’s high-tech security system. The thieves walked away unscathed with over $6.8 million in exquisite jewelry.

The problem was—the robbers left behind some evidence. Through forensic analysis, the police located a small drop of sweat on one of the thieves’ discarded gloves. The DNA was run through the German database. And, surprisingly, the DNA got two hits. That’s right—two identical twins were identified by the computer program.

The men identified were 27-year old brothers, Hassan and Abbas O. (German privacy laws prohibit full name disclosure.) These Lebanese born brothers had criminal records for theft and fraud. Berlin police promptly arrested the men and charged them with burglary.

Just before trial, the men were released from police custody. Why? Because the DNA evidence reveals that at least one of the brothers was involved in the crime. But, without witnesses or a confession, it was impossible to determine which exact brother committed the theft.

If new evidence emerges, the thieves could be charged again, but for now, these men beat the justice system and got away with a high-stakes robbery.

These wild stories reveal the clever and cunning traits of some criminals. Can you think of any masterminds that should be included on this list?


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About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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