1992

An 80-year-old tramp disappeared from his usual pitch outside the Banque de France in Nice and his place was taken by a much younger man – who proved to be a lookout for a 15-strong gang of robbers. They were armed with Kalashnikov rifles and a rocket launcher, and they got away with at least £20million in cash, which they loaded into four cars and an armoured truck. The confident thieves took their masks off in front of the staff, and the security cameras, but they strolled off with the tapes as well as the money. The 'tramp' lookout played his part right up to the end, stopping the traffic to help the getaway vehicles.

Margie and Lawrence Beavers of Oceanside, California had an unexpected Xmas visitor, who arrived via their chimney in the middle of the night, but not wearing a Santa Claus outfit. They were woken up at 2 a.m. by cries of anguish from downstairs. They couldn't trace the source of the yells at first; until the visitor directed them to the lounge.
   There, they found a burglar hanging out of the chimney with his head in the grate. The police took lots of pictures of Frank Morales hanging about below the Xmas stockings and when they stopped laughing, they extracted him and busted him.

1993

A burglar got more than he bargained for when he tried to open a cash box, which was clearly labelled Cash Box in the home of an electronics engineer. The box blew up! The police arrested the intruder, who needed hospital treatment for severe cuts to his left hand, and also Julian Smith, whom they had failed to protect from being burgled twice before. His neighbours were full of praise for his initiative – and keen to get an exploding burglar deterrent of their own.

Brian McGregor thought his ship had come in just before Xmas when staff at a branch of Ladbrokes' in Stirling, Scotland, let him keep the top half of his Saturday Special accumulator coupon. He had paid £1 (plus tax) to forcast the results of 30 football matches, which would be played 4 days later. He was able to fill in the correct results for 61 selections on 4 blank lines. He took the coupon to a branch in Hexham, England after the Xmas holiday, expecting to have won a decent jackpot. He was asked to return to the betting shop 2 days later, when his winnings would have been calculated.
   The staff at Ladbrokes' worked out that a genuine bet would have won Mr. McGregor £3,826,470,000,000,000 – if there had not been a maximum payout of £500,000 on a Saturday Special. But unluckily for Mr. McGregor, the staff at Stirling had photocopied his original 1-line entry. And when he turned up to collect his winnings, he was busted for forgery.

1995

5 Nigerian fraudsters were convicted of stealing from the greedy and the gullible. They sent out letters and faxes to people picked at random from business directories and reference books. They offered their victims a chance to share in the proceeds from fraud on the Nigerian government by corrupt civil servants. Anyone who fell for the prospect of receiving up to one-third of a multi-million dollar prize was milked for cash to pay bribes, expenses and miscellaneous fees.
   Scotland Yard detectives found that $27 million had passed through one London bank account over a period of 18 months. The gang was convicted of taking £15 million from some 400 greedy mugs in 60 countries. The initial demand from the mugs was $3,000 to pay a consultancy fee. One Lebanese man went on to surrender $7 million. Another man, a greedy American, surrendered $4 million – $2.5 million of it after he had been warned that he was being conned.

1996

John Folagbade, a Nigerian living in the UK took out 12 life insurance policies on Shafarra Sanni, an old school friend, then he went to Nigeria to get a body. He bought an unclaimed, unidentified corpse at a hospital mortuary in Ibadan, and he drove it 80 miles to another hospital in Lagos where he obtained a death certificate in the name of his friend and other necessary paperwork. Then he got rid of the body by having it cremated.
   Back in the UK, Mr. Folagbade went to his insurance companies and made his claims, which totalled £3.3million. As cremation is rare in Nigeria, the companies investigated. The found that the "deceased's" birth certificate had been altered and tracked down his mother, who was surprised to hear that her son was dead as she had spoken to him just hours earlier.
   At the trial, the court heard that Mr. Folagbade had followed the plot of Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal to obtain Mr. Sanni's birth certificate and then a passport in Mr. Sanni's name but containing his own picture. Mr. Folagbade had then taken the passport to a solicitor as proof of identity, and made a will in Mr. Sanni's name, leaving him (Mr. Folagbade) everything, including the insurance pay-outs.
   One of the trial's witnesses was kidnapped by 4 gunmen at the hospital in Ibadan and freed by police after a shoot-out. The kidnappers were carrying a hit-list of 12 people, which included the prosecutor and a Scotland Yard detective, who both had a price of £100K on their heads. Another witness, a consultant at the hospital, received death threats.
   The witnesses received armed police protection and the jury convicted Mr. Folagbade on 11 counts of deception and 1 count of forgery. He was sentenced to 6 years in gaol then deportation.

A gang of crooks in Germany hit on what looked like the perfect scheme for extracting cash from a chain of shops. They spent three months training 10 homing pigeons, then they sent their demand to a director of the chain, who lived in Sehnde near Hannover. He was told that the gang would put poison in yoghurt cartons unless he coughed up one million marks. He was ordered to take the cash to a disused refuse tip at night and load it into small, hand-sewn bags attached to the pigeons. It was a great plan but the gang had made a slight miscalculation.
   A pigeon can carry only about 3 ounces when flying and the German police calculated that the gang would have needed 200 pigeons, not 10, to transport one thousand 1,000 mark notes in backpacks. And catching the thieves was just a simple matter of putting a little waste paper in the bags, releasing the pigeons and tracking them to their loft with a police helicopter.

An optimistic burglar tried to take a 500lb safe down a flight of stairs at an estate agent's office on Long Island, New York. He came unstuck when it fell on top of him and crushed him to death. A police spokesman later said that the man had been wasting his time as the safe had contained nothing more valuable than old documents.

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