Ten classic stories about cunning plans and daring escapades.
Of all the crimes that human beings commit, stealing is probably the most common. Thieves!, the latest in the True Stories from the Edge series, brings ten exciting stories of master thieves and their master crimes.
Willie Sutton was casing a bank when he noticed that the manager looked a lot like Sutton himself, so he walked into the vault, loaded up with banknotes, and calmly walked out. D.B. Cooper hijacked a plane, demanded $200,000 in payment, and parachuted from the aircraft. He was never captured.
Other criminals in this book were no less brazen:
Readers will find nothing but high-stakes action in Thieves!. Though many of the bandits ended their careers broke and disillusioned, these impresarios of crime make for great reading.
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Andreas Schroeder has been a full-time writer for over 30 years. His fiction, non- fiction, radio dramas, journalism, translations, and criticism have appeared in over 200 publications. He lives on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Trying for the Big Score
Of all the kinds of crime that human beings have committed, stealing is probably the most common. Almost everyone has stolen something at some point in their lives. The impulse to simply take something we want -- even if it belongs to someone else -- can be irresistible.
It usually starts small -- a boy palms a candy bar at a corner grocery store; a girl pockets a bottle of perfume at a drugstore. They get away with it once or twice, and then they're caught. Usually the embarrassment and shame of being caught is enough to put a permanent stop to a budding thief
But not always. Cassie Chadwick. who became one of North America's most notorious female embezzlers, stole from an early age: jewelry. cosmetics, clothes, even groceries. She was often caught, but it never slowed her down. She stole so much and so often, a judge eventually pronounced her insane. He underestimated her. In 1902. she asked a group of Cleveland bankers to lend her huge sums of money based on her claim that she would be inheriting part of the estate of America's richest industrialist, Andrew Carnegie. She "proved" this by taking the banks' lawyers by carriage to Carnegie's mansion in New York, and asking them to wait (she said Carnegie didn't like lawyers) while she met with Carnegie.
She was inside for nearly half an hour. When she came out. she triumphantly showed them two checks for almost a million dollars made out to Cassie Chadwick and signed by Carnegie. The lawyers were impressed, and Cassie got her loans -- which, of course, she never repaid. To pull off this scam, she had simply knocked on the door, told the maid she was feeling faint, and asked for permission to lie down on a bench in the foyer for a few moments. The kind-hearted maid had agreed. After half an hour, Cassie had "felt better" and left the house. The lawyers had assumed she'd been spending all this time with Andrew Carnegie -- who, it turned out, hadn't even been home.
Stealing, of course, becomes easier if your victims seem to beg you to do it -- by leaving their front door unlocked, or their keys dangling in the ignition. That, in effect, was what the French government did in the 1960s. when it decided to pay its citizens to have more babies, to offset that country's alarmingly low birthrate. It offered French families annual payments of $1,100 each for their first two kids, $1,500 for their third, and $1,850 for every fourth and additional child.
This offer quickly attracted the attention of a Romany gypsy named Jimenez Moreno. Moreno already had a family of 12, so he stood to benefit rather handsomely from the government's plan. But he soon realized there was even greater booty to be had. Since the plan didn't require a fixed address, he loaded his family into a big camper van, hit the road, and, using a variety of names, registered his family for the baby bonus in every town through which he passed. He did this without let-up for five whole years. By the time the government realized what was going on, Moreno's family had been registered in 354 towns, and he had stolen almost $15 million from the plan. And the French government never retrieved a penny of that money. Someone warned Moreno that the police had discovered his deception and he quickly disappeared over the border into Spain. He was never caught.
Thieves like Moreno, however, are the exception. Most thieves are eventually caught -- even the really successful ones. And when they're caught, they generally find themselves in a serious fix. That's because most thieves steal in hopes that they'll make the big score one day, the theft that will allow them to retire to some South Seas island with truckloads of money. But thieves are also notorious spendthrifts. When they make a big score, they party, They feel a great need to show off their success -- and blowing their ill-gotten gains on extravagant parties is one way to do this. Another is to buy huge mansions, flashy cars, or luxury yachts. The problem is that to spend a lot of money, you've got to keep stealing a lot of money. So a thief's life can become a treadmill -- and when the police finally come knocking, that treadmill crashes. Any money left is usually taken by the lawyers and the courts, and if the thief is sentenced to jail time, his possessions on the outside are often stolen by former partners or friends.
Many professional thieves end their careers broke and disillusioned.
Soapy Smith is a good example. At the height of his thieving career, in the 1890s, Soapy Smith practically owned the town of Skagway, Alaska, which vas the doorway to the Alaska gold rush. After years of thieving solo in the American Midwest. Soapy had gone north and become so successful that he now had a whole army of thieves working for him. They were a well-organized crew. Every boat that arrived in Skagway was met by a "town official" who informed all the passengers that a decent haircut was a legal sanitary requirement in Skagway. As the passengers sat in their barber chairs, the barbers (who were also on Soapy's payroll) grilled them for information, determining who had money, who was an easy victim. and who was too well-connected or too politically powerful to rob. Anyone deemed a good candidate had a faint "V" cut into the hair at the back of his head. Such easily recognized people were invariably robbed the same day by Soapy or one of his roving thieves.
It was such an effective racket that by the 1890s it was estimated that over a quarter of the roughly $2 billion worth of gold that was battled out of the mining claims in Alaska each year passed through Soapy Smith's hands. And yet when Soapy Smith died from an assassin's bullet in 1898, it turned out he had precisely $85 to his name. That was all there was. It wasn't even enough money for a tombstone. The citizens of Skagway simply scratched Soapy's name on an old piece of board and hammered it into the ground above his grave.
Joe Weil, nicknamed "The Yellow Kid" after a popular comic strip character of the time, was determined to beat the odds and he almost did. As one of America's most famous thieves in the 1920s and 30s, he always wore the most expensive clothes, smoked the most expensive cigars, and drove the flashiest cars. He specialized in the rackets -- fleecing his victims with fixed card games, fixed horse races, and phony stocks and bonds. But Weil's wife was devoutly religious, and kept trying to talk her husband into quitting his life of crime. Finally, at age 50, Weil could see that his thieving days were becoming numbered, so he agreed. He stopped stealing and invested his ill-gotten gains in a legitimate hotel. His wife was enormously relieved.
But the joke was on Weil -- and his wife. As soon as Weil's friends heard about his hotel, they all showed up at his door. They made the place their favorite hangout. It became so notorious for its crooked clientele that law-abiding people stopped patronizing the place. Meanwhile, Weil's friends weren't paying their bills.
"Your thieving friends are stealing you blind!" his wife complained, and it was true. Weil's hotel soon went broke, and so did Weil. He wound up living off his wife's store-clerk salary.
Billy Miner ("The Grey Fox"), the last of the famous American train robbers that included the likes of Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid, and Jesse James, might have made the big score and lived happily ever after, because Billy didn't believe in partying. He was quiet, modest, and avoided flashy clothes or luxurious possessions -- or anything else that might make him stand out in a crowd. But Billy' had an unusual problem: he simply couldn't stop being polite. His mother had trained him well -- too well, as it turned out -- and this marked him as effectively as those V's in the hair of Soapy Smith's victims. No matter how much he tried to disguise himself for his robberies, the train passengers in
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Book Description Annick Press, 2005. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M155037933X
Book Description Annick Pr, 2005. Hardcover. Book Condition: Brand New. 160 pages. 8.75x5.75x0.75 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # 155037933X