Most criminals who decide to rob a bank only end up with a few thousand dollars and a prison sentence. However, throughout history, there have been a few exceptions. It’s hard not to admire the cunning nature of these masterminds. If only they had put their skills towards something good. Some criminals got lucky. Others paid the ultimate price. Here are the 25 biggest bank robberies of all time.
25. Clay County Savings Association Robbery
It was 1866 in a peaceful Missouri town known as Liberty. In early February of that year, Jesse James and his gang would complete their first suspected robbery. The culprits hit a cashier over the head with a pistol and stole almost $60,000 in assets. That converts to almost $1 million in today’s money. Jesse James would continue his crime spree for another 16 years. He was shot in the back of his head by Robert Ford on April 2nd, 1882. James died from his wounds.
24. San Miguel Valley Bank Robbery
The year was 1889 in Telluride, Colorado. Butch Cassidy was about to complete his first big robbery. He was armed when he stormed the bank. His accomplices were known as Warner and McCarty. They held up the teller while Cassidy stuffed his sacks with cash. The outlaws stole about $20,000. This would amount to around $500,000 today. Butch Cassidy’s career would span 20 years. It all ended when he died from an apparent gunshot wound.
23. Bank of Pennsylvania Robbery at Carpenter’s Hall
During the summer of 1798, America experienced its first extreme bank robbery. Isaac Davis and his accomplice Patrick Lyon stormed Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia. They stole approximately $162,000. That may not seem like much, but it would amount to millions of dollars today. After the crime, Lyon perished from yellow fever. Isaac Davis began to feel guilty. He ended up depositing the cash back into the Bank of Pennsylvania little by little. They decided to question him. During the interview, he confessed and returned the money. He was eventually pardoned.
22. Central National Bank and Trust Robbery
John Dillinger was four months into his crime spree during 1933. This heist would be his biggest. On October 23rd of that year, he entered the Central National Bank and Trust located in Greencastle, Indiana. He made off with over $76,000. That would amount to almost $1.5 million today. The American outlaw went on to rob six more banks. He was arrested a few times but escaped before he could be sentenced. John Dillinger died after being shot by an FBI agent in late 1934.
21. Manhattan Savings Institution Robbery
George Leslie and Shang Draper were the masterminds of this operation. It was the fall of 1878. They were both deadly men who had a taste for wealth and violence. During late October, the robbery of the Manhattan Savings Institution was finally executed. The pair made off with around $2.5 million in stocks, bonds, and cold hard cash. This was the largest amount ever stolen in the United States at that time. George Leslie was responsible for several bank heists in his past but was never caught. This robbery would be his last. He was eventually shot dead by his partner in New York City.
20. The Manhattan Company Robbery
It was 1935 in New York City. The Manhattan Company towered over many of the buildings on Wall Street. That is when John Philipp Spanos would make his move. He robbed the bank with four accomplices. The group made off with $1.5 million. Interestingly, Spanos was part of a worldwide robbery ring that was located in the southern part of France. That infamous connection would lead to his capture by FBI, (Federal Bureau of Investigations), Director J Edgar Hoover. Between 1935 and 1939, his accomplices were all arrested. However, Spanos was the last one to be captured in Greece.
19. Seafirst Bank Heist
This crime became known as the trench coat robbery since the criminals donned trench coats on the day of the heist. Ray Bowman and William Kirkpatrick were professional bank robbers and locksmiths who had a 15-year streak of successful robberies. This robbery in 1997 would be their last. The pair stole almost $5 million from the Seafirst Bank in Lakewood, Washington. Kirkpatrick was apprehended later that year. Bowman was arrested shortly after. They were both charged with robbery conspiracy. Bowman was sentenced with 24 years in prison. Eventually, the charges against Kirkpatrick were dropped due to an illegal search.
18. Agricultural Bank of China Robbery
It was 2006 in the Handan. China was about to witness one of its most daring robberies. Ren Xiaofeng and Ma Xiangjing were vault managers at the Agricultural Bank of China. They stole 200,000 yuan, which amounts to around 28,000 American dollars. However, they continued to steal in March and April of 2007. In the end, the theft amounted to $4.3 million. They were arrested shortly after and convicted of theft. The pair were put to death in April of 2008.
17. Robbery of Wells Fargo in Hartford
Hartford is a relatively small town in Connecticut. However, in 1983 they played host to one of the biggest bank robberies of all time. It was committed by a group of five Puerto Rican nationalists. They were known as Los Maceteroes. The militants were trying to finance a coup against the United States in Puerto Rico. They stole over $7 million from the Wells Fargo in Hartford. By 1989, they were arrested. Their leader was Juan Segarra Palmer. His accomplices were Norman Ramirez Talavera, Antonio Comacho Negron, and Roberto Maldonado Rivera. Carlos Ayes Suarez was also suspected but was later cleared of any criminal charges.
16. Brinks Bank Robbery
During 1950, Boston would be the chosen location for what became known as one of the most elaborate crimes of the century. On January 17th, Big Joe McGinnis robbed Brinks Bank with 11 accomplices. They committed the crime in bank uniforms and masks. The gang also copied keys so that they could enter the second floor. Each employee was bound and gagged. They stole just under $3 million in cash, money orders, checks, and other forms of currency. The gang was arrested within two years of the crime in Massachusetts. Most of them were given life sentences but ended up gaining parole in 1971. However, Big Joe McGinnis died in prison before he had a chance at release. Two other perpetrators also perished in prison.
15. Loomis Fargo Robbery – North Carolina
In 1997, the Loomis Fargo bank in Charlotte would be betrayed by one of its own security guards, his wife, and eight of their friends. It was early October. However, their plan was hatched months before. David Ghantt, Kelly Campbell, and their friends stole an astonishing $17.3 million. Within a few months, they were arrested. The eight accomplices were also apprehended. David Ghantt received a sentence of over seven years. However, he was released for good behavior after serving only five of them. Meanwhile, Kelly Campbell was sentenced to spend six years in prison and two years in a drug and alcohol treatment center. However, one of their conspirators named Steve Chambers was handed a sentence of 11 years.
14. Loomis Fargo Robbery – Florida
Loomis Fargo seems to have bad luck when it comes to robberies. This also occurred in 1997. Once again, the crime was pulled off by a bank employee. Philip Noel Johnson worked as an armored car driver for Loomis Fargo. He fought off two of the bank’s employees and eventually overpowered them. In the end, he stole about $19 million. Afterward, he fled to Mexico. Upon his re-entry, he was arrested and sentenced to spend 25 years in prison.
13. Bank of France Robbery
This robbery was one of the biggest heists of the century in France. It took place during 1992 in Toulon. The criminals were rash and aggressive. They threatened the relatives of a bank employee and strapped explosives to a guard. Once they were let in, the robbers stole over $30 million in francs. 10 men were involved in the crime, but the supposed ringleader was Marc Armando. He was never convicted of the crime but was later apprehended on drug charges. Armando committed suicide in jail during 2013.
12. The United California Bank Robbery
The year was 1972 in Laguna Niguel, California. That’s when Amil Dinsio, James Dinsio, Harry Barber, Ronald Barber, Charles Mulligan, Phil Christopher, and Charles Broeckel completed one of the biggest bank robberies in American history. The thieves took around $30 million. They were eventually tied to a similar crime in Ohio. This led to the arrest of the gang. Their ringleader Amil Dinsio was only sentenced to 10 years in prison.
11. Hatton Garden Robbery
During 2015, an unlikely group of older men planned one last robbery in London. The group tunneled into the vault at Hatton Gardens and stole over $31 million in cash and assets. Within a few months, 11 conspirators were detained. Nine were arrested and charged with conspiracy to burgle. Oddly enough, the men’s ages were anywhere between 48 and 76. Most were sentenced to over six years in prison. Recently, the convicts have been ordered to either pay 27.5 million pounds or spend seven additional years in jail. The main culprits were John Collins, Daniel Jones, Terry Perkins, and Brian Reader. In early 2018, Michael Seed was also arrested. He was charged with conspiracy to burgle and concealing criminal property. His trial is ongoing.
10. Robbery of the Northern Bank
During 2004, Ireland experienced a daring robbery. On December 19th, masked men took two bank executives and their families hostage. The bank employees were made to return to work the next day and act as if nothing happened. After the bank closed, Chris Ward and Kevin McMullan were forced to let the armed robbers in. In the end, the families remained unharmed. The criminals made off with $41 million in assets. Amazingly, they were never caught.
9. The British Bank of the Middle East Robbery
It was 1976 in Beirut. Lebanon’s civil war was in full swing. Members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization decided to launch an attack on the British Bank of the Middle East. They fired grenades, mortar rounds, and bullets into the building. The militants blew up a wall and entered the bank from a neighboring church. Eventually, they left with around $50 million in gold bars, jewels, cash, and stocks. The heist lasted for over two days and the perpetrators were never caught.
8. Robbery of Banco Central
This heist in Fortaleza was one of the most carefully planned robberies in history. The criminals slowly burrowed a tunnel that led underneath Banco Central’s vault. They even fitted the hole with air conditioning and electricity. The robbery was perfectly executed, and the gang made off with $70 million. This crime took place in the late summer of 2005, but 18 of the thieves continue to live freely. Five others were arrested. However, Luis Fernando Ribeiro was the suspected leader of the gang. He was shot to death within two months of the heist.
7. Securitas Depot Bank Robbery
In 2006, Kent was home to one of the most profitable cash robberies that the United Kingdom had ever seen. The crime was planned for eight months by 10 fugitives. They kidnapped Securitas Depot’s branch manager Colin Dixon while other gang members held Mr. Dixon’s family hostage. The family and bank employees were bound and threatened with guns. In the end, the criminals stole 53.1 million pounds. This converts to $83 million. Lee Murray was a former cage fighter and mastermind of this operation. He fled to Morocco after the heist. However, he was later arrested and convicted of armed robbery in 2010. Murray was sentenced to spend 25 years of his life in a Moroccan prison.
6. Robbery of the Knightsbridge Vault
This heist occurred in London during 1987. It took place at one of the most secure buildings in the world. Valerio Viccei and his accomplice entered the bank and claimed they wanted to open a safety deposit box. They ended up overpowering the security guards and bank manager. Afterward, the remaining accomplices entered the building and helped them steal 62 million pounds from the safety deposit boxes. This converts to an amazing $97 million. Viccei fled to South America but was later arrested in Britain. He was sentenced to spend 22 years in prison. In 2000, the mastermind was released. Ironically, he died in a shootout with police on the same day.
5. Bank of Bangladesh Cyber Robbery
During 2016, one of the most daring cyber bank robberies in history took place in Bangladesh. Hackers attempted to transfer separate amounts that equaled up to over $1 billion. However, some of the transfers were blocked. The thieves still ended up stealing around $101 million. Maia Santos-Deguito was the only one convicted. He faces several charges for money laundering. His sentence is estimated to last 14 years. Other suspects included Kim Wong and Salud Bautista. However, they were never convicted.
4. Dar Es Salaam Bank Robbery
Iraq was a dangerous and war-torn place to be in 2007. That same year, Baghdad would experience one of the biggest bank robberies of all time. Up to three bank guards were involved. That allowed the thieves to commit the crime undetected. They stole an astonishing $282 million in cash and other assets. The criminals were never caught.
3. Bank of England Courier Robbery
It was the early summer of 1990 in London. A messenger named John Goddard was walking his normal route. He was carrying Bank of England treasury bonds that were worth about one million pounds each. Goddard was robbed at knifepoint that morning. The thief stole £292 million in bonds. Patrick Thomas was the number one suspect but was found dead in 1991. It appeared that he died from a gunshot to his head. Keith Cheeseman was also involved. He was charged and sentenced to over six years in prison. Four other people were suspected of involvement after they were charged with handling the bonds. However, they were released due to a lack of evidence.
2. The Global Cyber Bank Robbery
2015 was a bad year for many of the world’s biggest banks. Hackers used malware to steal anywhere from $300 to $900 million from over 100 banks across the world. The Carbanak cybergang was believed to be the ones responsible since they use a signature type of malware. The prime suspect is known as Denis K. He is the leader of a group of cybercriminals from the Ukraine and Russia. He was arrested in early 2018 along with three of his accomplices. Their trial is ongoing.
1. Robbery of the Central Bank of Iraq
In 2003, Iraq staggered upon the precipice of war. The largest bank robbery of all time happened just one day before United States troops entered the country. The crime was orchestrated by Saddam Hussein and his family. He ordered his sons Qusay and Uday to carry out the robbery. The Hussein family stole a mind-blowing $1 billion from the Central Bank of Iraq. Cash and assets were hauled away in three trucks. Most of the cash was never seen again, but some of it was recovered when the United States discovered that some of its own soldiers had stolen it from Saddam’s palaces. In the end, 30 soldiers were convicted of theft. Saddam’s sons were eventually sentenced to death for their crimes. Saddam Hussein was never arrested for this heist but was later executed for other crimes.