1976      updated 2006/07/15

When US coastguards intercepted the Panamanian freighter Don Emilio in the Bahamas after a tip-off, they found a record haul of marijuana - 160 tons with a mid-Seventies 'street value' of 50 million.
   Unfortunately, they lost 440 lbs. of cocaine and one of the crew members, who was locked in a cabin with the rest of the Columbian crew after questioning. A coastguard spokesman said that there was a guard on the cabin door and the porthole was too small for him to squeeze through.
   Even so, he managed to disappear.

1977

Three Norwegian thieves got the shock of their lives when they tried to blow open a factory safe in Oslo - it exploded. The safe was full of dynamite.

Two policemen were suspended from duty in the summer of 1977 after cannabis seized in police raids and worth 400,000 was stolen from a London warehouse.

Four executives of a Chicago burglar alarm firm were found shot dead in a lift at their offices in the suburbs.

3 Italians arrested in connection with a 172M fraud - the then British record - escaped from a detention room at Thames Magistrates' Court in London's East End. Accomplices had sawn through the bars on a roof fanlight and they used the bench in the detention room to climb up to it and disappear.

Ted Hinton, the last survivor of the six officers who blew Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow away at a police roadblock in Louisiana in 1934,died at the age of 73 in 1977.

Everything was going to plan for 2 gunmen who had robbed a New York supermarket in 1977; until one of them lost a leg while they were running to their getaway car. Richard Lennon managed to hop to the Cadillac but the police were able to trace him through his abandoned wooden leg, white sock and black suede shoe.

1978

The National Bank and Trust Company of Traverse City, Michigan, obligingly cashed a German 100,000 mark note for the equivalent of 24,000. Later, someone noticed that the note had been issued in 1923, during the inflation period, and it was worth less than the paper it was printed on.

Guiseppe Cavaleri met his match when he tried to rob the NatWest branch in Accrington. When he threatened cashier Julie Foulds with a grenade, she carried on counting a bundle of notes and told him he could wait his turn. Running out of patience, Mr. Cavaleri threw his arms in the air in disgust and stalked out of the bank.
   At his trial, Mr. Cavaleri claimed that the affair had been a joke and he couldn't understand why so much fuss had been made. The judge gave him two years in gaol to figure it out.

A gang of thieves armed with pistols and shotguns arrived at the Air France cargo warehouse at Heathrow airport just before dawn. They bluffed their way in by pretending to make a delivery, tied up the night duty staff and collected the keys to the main security area. They opened packing cases containing goods worth thousands of pounds - but they left empty handed. The best explanation that the police could come up with was that the thieves had heard that something incredibly valuable would be passing through the cargo store but they turned up on the wrong day.

The FBI arrested an unusual team of burglars in New York in 1978. A woman in a long, flowing dress was keeping people talking at the door while her diminutive partner sneaked unseen into the house to look for valuables. The scheme was so successful that the woman was arrested while parking her new Rolls-Royce.

For years, the owner of a gents outfitters in New Ulm, Minnesota, wondered how the similar shop next door could always undercut his prices. Then the cops found the door between the two basement stockrooms ...

Scottish Farmers of Govan, Glasgow, hired Robert Hepburn, a man with a criminal record, as a security guard. So when their payroll of 4,000 arrived, the safest place to keep it seemed to be Mr. Hepburn's office. When he strolled off with the cash, he was given a lift by a passing police car. His fatal mistake, however, was to leave behind in his office, a cigarette packet on which he had written the address of his secret hideout. And he ended up with free accommodation for 18 months after the trial.

A masked gunman entered a shop in Memphis, Tennessee, and demanded to see the jewellery. He then rejected the stock as rubbish, decided that the small sum in the till wasn't worth stealing and walked out again empty-handed.

1979

A 30 day sentence didn't please Eugene Strong one bit. He asked the judge for a 60-day holiday in a nice, warm gaol to get away from the Philadelphia winter. In the true spirit of justice, Judge Palmer told him that if he didn't shut up, he'd be set free on probation.

At the end of an investigation lasting more than a year, 20 Federal narcotics agents raided the Chicago Stock Exchange and made 10 arrests. As well as trading in stocks and shares, the accused had been running their own drug ring, dealing in cocaine.

About 20 years after France changed its currency system, and 100 old francs became 1 new franc, industrialist Leonard Iperti gave his gardener, Leon Baty, a cheque for 750,000 francs as redundancy money. And then he realized that it was 100 times more than he had intended to pay. Mr. Baty was hauled before a court in Nice but he was told that he could keep the money because there was no evidence of fraud. Which was just as well as he had already gambled it away in casinos.

30 car crashes, 2 burglaries, food poisoning and 21 falls - these were the misfortunes suffered by a Chicago preacher in just 4 years. He raised 50,000 from his claims on various insurance companies and "I did it all for the church," he insisted - but he still ended up in gaol.
   The preacher qualified for the Crime Prevention Institute's title of 'most imaginative and ambitious fraudster' ahead of a salesman, who claimed that he had swallowed an insect in a bottle of a soft drink, broke the same teeth several times on various brands of candy bar and slipped 7 times on wet toilet floors.

Thieves reconnected the phone at the home of bank manager James Symes to a field telephone, then called him to tell him that they were holding his wife to ransom. Mr. Symes phoned his home, as the thieves suggested, to check up on the claim. Believing them, he drove out of town and left 40,000 in a bucket at the roadside before informing his head office of what he had done.
   When they looked for the money, the police found that it had gone. They also discovered that Mr. Symes had been hoaxed - his wife had been having coffee at the home of a neighbour all the time she was supposed to have been kidnapped.

Three burglars climbed to the roof of a clothing store in the spring of 1979. While the others kept watch, one of them lowered himself 15 feet down a chimney. But when he reached the bottom, he found that the fireplace had been bricked up. He tried to climb up again, but he failed. So he began to shout for help. The fire brigade was called to break a hole in the brickwork. After an hour, the burglar was removed to the roomier confines of a police cell.

'Networking', one of the buzz-words of the Nineties, has been around for a long time in criminal circles. Back in the late Seventies, the police suspected that gangs of criminals were getting together in prison. Their scheme was to set up jobs locally then sub-contracting them to out-of-town gangs. The theory was that the men carrying out the job would not be recognized if they weren't 'locals' and they would just melt back into their own community after the job.
   The targets for visiting gangs, which were often armed, were payrolls, warehouses and high-value lorry loads. Police found that out-of-town gangs collected over 300,000 in more than 30 robberies in Northumbria in 1978. Lorries stolen on Tyneside were dumped in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and a vehicle stolen on Merseyside ended up in Newcastle.

A postal strike forced London-based diamond dealer Sir David Gann to go Dublin with a parcel of synthetic gems worth £60,000. But when he answered the door to someone claiming to be from room service, 3 armed men dashed in, tied up Sir David and his customer, did the same to a maid who arrived a short time later, and strolled off with the gems and the £3,000 in Sir David's wallet. The Irish police suspected an inside job.

Murder suspect Raul 'Lovely' Wilkerson picked the wrong car for his getaway after a shoot-out in downtown Los Angeles. The police took just 20 minutes to track him down - he was driving a white Rolls-Royce.

Auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's lost jewels worth 200,000 from exhibitions in Switzerland to cheeky thieves in a 6 month period. In November 1978, a 8-strong gang, including a man dressed up as a woman, robbed Christie's. Six months later, viewed by CCTV cameras, a man swapped a diamond ring worth 58,000 for a replica at a public viewing and disappeared into the crowd. A few days later, another thief sneaked past 5 armed night security guard on a paddle steamer on Lake Geneva and disappeared with a diamond ring valued at 103,000.

Two thieves with a sawn-off shotgun stole a bag from a businessman, who had parked near a bank in Romiley, Cheshire. They drove away in a stolen car. Their victim wasn't too worried, however. He had been going to the chemist, not the bank, and the bag that had been taken from the boot of his car had contained just two empty medicine bottles.

100 tourists, who had paid for a trip through the famous Carlsbad caverns in New Mexico, got more than they bargained for when four gunmen rounded them up and held them hostage for six hours before surrendering to the FBI. The motive for the crime wasn't revealed.

A radio, a shotgun and two hand-guns disappeared from a police station in San Bernardino, California. Two hours went by before the cops noticed that they had been robbed.

A discriminating thief with a large-calibre automatic pistol grabbed two display cases at a jeweller's in Sacramento, California, but left a third case worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. He told the staff, "I'm not a greedy man."

David Dale, 39, a temporary employee of the General Electric Company of North Carolina, was arrested by the FBI for trying to ransom 150lb of low-grade uranium from the firm's nuclear fuel fabrication plant.
   Neither the FBI nor the company was willing to comment on how he had moved the uranium, from the plant to a field five miles away, where it was discovered several hours after his arrest. Unable to raise $150,000 bail, Mr. Dale was gaoled on charges of ransom the stolen nuclear fuel back to its owner for $100,000.
   The FBI director, William Webster, said that a letter had been found on the plant manager's door demanding the $100,000 in small bills and a sample of the brown-black uranium powder. No money was paid, Mr. Webster added.
   An FBI spokesman said that the uranium was too low-grade to be made into a bomb or any sort of weapon, and that all of the missing uranium, which was stored in two unmarked metal pails, had been recovered. Joseph Hendrie, chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said that the stolen material was, "Not particularly dangerous, but I wouldn't want to go out and roll in it." He added that the material could cause physical harm only if the dust were inhaled for ten minutes or taken in quantity.

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