Yesterday, Canterbury Crown court jailed the remaining members of a gang for their attempted raid on seven cashpoints last August and September. The court heard how the gang had taken power tools to the ATMs, but only succeeded in drawing attention to themselves, rowing, setting off alarms, and setting fire to cash with their blow-torches.
It's not the kind of story to inspire the next installment of the Ocean's Eleven films, but is it enough to give them a place in the Dumbest Criminals hall of fame?
A report in the Daily Mail
listed the disasters that befell the gang of five as they attempted to rob seven ATMs across Bedfordshire, Kent and Sussex over the course of three weeks last summer.
On one occasion they failed to conceal themselves behind bins and were spotted by neighbours, on another they made so much noise that they woke up the neibourhood. During one attempt they even erupted into an argument as the look-out girl aired her anger that she wasn't going to get any petrol money for helping them in their efforts.
All they managed to achieve was making a series of holes in walls, setting off alarms and setting fire to bank notes with blowtorches. They even failed to notice a stack of cash after they successfully broke into one ATM, and eventually came away with nothing.
The gang leader was already serving a jail sentence, but had been wrongly transferred to a low security prison and escaped. He separately carried out some successful robberies on ATMs, and was jailed for five years and three months. The others were jailed for a variety of periods, with the most lenient being three years and five months.
Hall of fame?
These botched, and yet sustained, efforts must surely merit this gang for inclusion in the 'dumb criminal' hall of fame. However, they have some serious competition. In the last few years, contenders for the title of most ridiculous criminals ever have included:
1. The US burglar who took a photo of himself on a stolen computer, holding his swag, and posted it on the Facebook account of his victim.
2. The UK metal thief who broke into an electricity substation and while he was there decided to urinate on a transformer - with considerable medical implications.
3. The US criminals who covered their faces in black marker pen to disguise themselves when they tried to break into a property - they were caught with the permanent marker still on their faces.
4. An 18 year old burglar in Stockport who was apprehended after writing his name on the wall of the property he had broken into.
5. A Michigan thief who was caught after trying to steal knives by hiding them in his trousers. He tripped on his way out of the shop and stabbed himself in the stomach.
- 1. Land banking
Land banking involves plots of land offered for sale, often online, with the promise of sizable returns when planning permission is approved for housing or other development. Yet often the land is located in areas protected from development by planning law.</p>
The companies involved soon disappear with investors' money and as the firms are not protected by the Financial Services Authority, their funds are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme</p>
- 2. Money mule
Fraudsters recruit unknowing accomplices through email under the guise of offering employment, seeking a personal favour, or through internet shopping sites. The recruits are persuaded into receiving what are essentially fraudulent payments and then passing funds on.</p>
The 'mules' are frequently offered a small financial incentive to encourage involvement and face difficulties in proving their innocence when the fraud is discovered.</p>
- 3. Carbon credit fraud
The scams claim to offer people the chance to profit from carbon credits. Under regulations that permit businesses to emit a tonne of CO2 – the companies claim to offer investment in green projects like a forestry scheme or a solar panel project, which generates carbon credits that are then sold on to heavy industry.</p>
A flashy brochure or website tells of a reliable 'government-backed' scheme which provides reliable returns for investors. Such a scheme doesn't exist however – a reality investors only discovered when they have parted with their cash and the company is untraceable. As with land banking, fraudulent companies are not covered by the FSA so victims have no course for recompense</p>
- 4. HMRC phishing scam
Receiving an email from the taxman saying you are owed a payment may seem like a nice surprise, but it is actually from fraudsters trying to relieve you of your cash instead.</p>
The emails provide a "click-through link" to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is then asked to provide their credit or debit card details - all the information the criminals need to clear your account, and sell on your personal details.</p>
- 5. Disappearing loan scam
This scam targets vulnerable people who are in financial difficulty and unable to access credit through regular channels like overdrafts and credit cards.</p>
The fraudsters advertise loans and those that sign up are asked to pay an upfront 'arrangement' fee of around £60-£70 fee before the loan is approved. Borrowers pay the fee only for the 'loan providers' to disappear without a trace.</p>
- 6. Crash for cash scams
Insurer Direct Line reported a hike in the number of 'crash for cash' scams last year – where fraudsters fake accidents by making unnecessary emergency stops at busy roundabouts or slip roads, forcing motorists to crash into them.</p>
They then make bogus claims to the innocent motorist's insurer, often including fictitious injuries and passengers.</p>
- 7. Driving school scams
Learner drivers have been taken for ride by being unknowingly taught by trainee instructors. An investigation by the AA found up to 27,000 extra driving tests have been failed in the last year because one in 10 learner drivers are unwittingly taught by an instructor they do not know is learning on the job.</p>
- 8. One man mail scam
July saw the arrest of a Leicester postman who stole £46,686 worth of mail over two-and-a-half years. Yogeshbhai Patel, 38, was jailed for two years for stealing mail including 2,000 DVDs and 2,250 games along with CDs and other electrical equipment. He intercepting the valuable packages and spent the money on living a luxury lifestyle including helicopter rides and a trip to Las Vegas.</p>
- 9. Smart meter scam
The Trading Standards Institute reported over 200 cases where elderly homeowners have been targeted by telephone cold callers, purporting to be from their energy supplier and offering energy saving devices which could cut their bills by 40%.</p>
The TSI tested the devices in homes where owners had fallen for the scam, only to find they both failed to satisfy electrical safety standards or deliver any tangible energy savings.</p>
- 10. Thermal camera fraud
Thermal cameras that track ATM pin numbers are the latest weapon in their arsenal and US scientists have warned it is the next threat for this form of crime. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that up to 45 seconds after a person types their pin code into an ATM machine or door entry pad the numbers and even the sequence are still readable by thermal cameras.</p>