Most Accomplished Thief


It’s a bit off putting to call their criminal deeds as an “accomplishment.” They had altercations with he public and the police in ways that are too abhorrent for us to imagine. But as persons who lived their lives taking the properties of others, who do you think among these thieves has the greatest accomplishment?


db-cooperThis name is just the one given to an unidentified man who hijacked a Boeing 727. Testimonies claim that on the afternoon of November 24, 1971, a man carrying a black attaché case booked for a flight at Portland International Airport. After telling an attendant that he carries a bomb with him on board, Cooper extorted a ransom equivalent to more than a million dollars today as he parachuted through his escape. While available evidence and expert opinion suggested that Cooper probably did not survive his high-risk jump, the FBI nevertheless maintained an active investigation for 45 years which remains unsolved today.

Albert Spaggiari

albert-spaggiariIn 1976 a notable a break-in into a Societe Generale bank in Nice, France took place, and it was this guy who masterminded such a heist. Spaggiari is reported to have committed his first robbery for some romantic purposes – he wanted to offer a diamond to his girlfriend. As an inspiration for his career on crime, he was known to have a photograph of Adolf Hitler on the wall on his residence. On his most notable heist, he inscribed this on a wall: “without weapons, nor hatred, nor violence”. Such was his message to the world. Perhaps he desired to be remembered as someone better than a common thief.

Blane Nordahl

blane-nordahlHe was given the nickname “Burglar to the Stars” after his exploits at some celebrity lofts that belong to high profile individuals such as Ivana Trump, Curt Gowdy and Bruce Springsteen. His crimes are appalling but some police officers had a certain admiration for his level of expertise. One lieutenant even described him as a ‘true master of his craft.’ Nordahl gained a reputation for his skillful and ambitious burglaries that were fascinatingly similar to that of John Robie’s, the cat burglar portrayed by Cary Grant in the Alfred Hitchcock film To Catch a Thief.


Kate Barker

ma-bakerShe was more known for the name “Ma Baker” because she was in fact the mother of several burglars who ran the Barker gang during the “public enemy era.” She was reported to have traveled with her sons during their criminal careers. It is this knowledge that made J. Edgar Hoover declare her as “the most vicious, dangerous and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade.” Although the people who knew her insisted Baker had no role in all of the crimes and burglaries that her sons perpetrated, she gained a reputation as a ruthless crime matriarch who controlled and organized one of the most notorious gangs in history.


Carl Gugasian

carl-gugasianHe has a great sense of theatricality. Whenever he is on a robbing spree, he would wear a grotesque mask, one that resembles a horror film character. Such masks were artistically modified so it would look as realistic and as threatening as possible. He is known to be very crafty as he would begin by scouting for a bank in a particular location, studying topographical and street maps in the library. He prefers banks in small towns that are close to wooded areas, with a road that provides easy access to a freeway. He dresses up like a movie monster, although his monstrosity lies far worse than such a method.


Charles Frederick Peace

charles-peaceAfter being maimed in an industrial accident as a boy, he turned out to become a burglar and murderer. Settling in London, he carried out multiple burglaries before being caught in the suburbs of Blackheath. He wasn’t put down without a fight – he wounded the policeman who arrested him. But his true act of thievery doesn’t lie there. What made him great at stealing is the fact that he stole a great amount of media scrutiny. His story has inspired many authors and film producers and for this, he remains one of the greatest thieves as he keeps on stealing and capturing people’s attention even more than a hundred years after his death.

Richard Turpin

richard-turpinOf all his exploits, he is perhaps known for a 200-mile horse ride in England, from London to York- a story that would turn out to be fictitious. Regarded as some kind of folk hero, Richard Turpin isn’t actually remembered as a notorious livestock thief. He is more loved than hated due to his archetypal “cowboy action-hero persona.” Stories about Turpin continued to be published well into the 20th century. He became the subject of legend after his execution as he was romanticised as a dashing and charismatic outlaw that would be depicted and relived for generations on film and television.


Doris Payne

doris-payneUnlike most thieves who would resort to violence to get the job done, she mainly uses her charm. Her modus operandi is to enter jewelry stores posing as a wealthy and influential woman, looking for a diamond ring. She would then engage the clerk, asking to see an assortment of items. Eventually the clerk would get disoriented as to how many items were presented. At some point, Doris would leave with one or two jewelry items. Her crimes have spanned five decades. Even at age 83, she was reported to be still active with her life as a career criminal.


Vincenzo Peruggia

vincenzo-peruggiaStanding at only 5’3, he was known as a little Italian man by stature. But his achievement as a thief was toweringly impressive. He managed to steal The Mona Lisa– the most famous and most expensive painting of all, and kept it for himself for 2 years. Such an act has been described as the greatest art theft of the 20th century. He said he did it for a patriotic reason, claiming he wanted to bring the painting back for display in Italy. Although experts are in great doubts about Perrugia’s patriotism motives, he was sent to jail for one year and 15 days only. When he was released, he was hailed as a great patriot in Italy.

Frank Abagnale Jr

frank-abagnale-jrHe was a check forger, an impostor, and a confidence trickster. He started early. At age 15, he was already showing his great talents in deception and counterfeiting which improved even more when he was 21. Eventually, he would become one of the most famous and most publicized con men ever. He claimed to have assumed 8 identities that included an airline pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer. With such a skill, he even escaped from police custody a couple of times. His story inspired the Academy Award-nominated film Catch Me If You Can, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Abagnale and Tom Hanks as the FBI agent pursuing him.


Who among them should be ranked as No. 1?

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