Famous Bank Robberies of the 21st Century

24/07/12 at 1:46 pm

Behind every bank robbery is the overambitious mind thinking about “wanting to be the wealthiest person in the world.” A bank robbery is different from a burglary in that the former is the crime of stealing from a bank during its working hours in the presence of the bank staff and customers while the latter is breaking into a bank when it is closed. According to the FBI, robbery is “The taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or putting the victim in fear.” Burglary, on the other hand, is defined as “The unlawful entry into a structure to commit a felony or theft.” Bank robberies take place mostly in bigger cities and in more populated locations. An Australian institute of criminology, after analyzing 880 bank robbery cases, concluded that 55 percent were committed by individual robbers, 25 percent of the robberies were conducted by couples, and 20 percent were committed by three or more partners.

1. Geezer Bandit

Geezer Bandit

Geezer Bandit

Geezer Bandit is an identity given by the FBI to a bank robber who has committed 16 bank robberies and is still at large. All of the 16 banks were robbed from August, 2009 to December 2, 2011. The Geezer Bandit is on the FBI’s list of the most wanted with a $20,000 reward for any information about him. The criminal operated by entering a bank like a normal customer and handing over a note to the teller in writing demanding either to hand over $50,000 or be ready to be murdered. The man is said to be a left-handed Caucasian, over 60 years of age, 5’10” tall, weighing about 200 pounds, and of normal stature. He has robbed Bank of America seven times, U.S. Bank four times, and the San Diego Bank twice.  In addition to these the other robbed banks include: California Bank and Trust, Heritage Oaks Bank, and Wells Fargo in La Jolla, CA.

2. Kredyt Bank, Warsaw Robbery

Kredyt Bank

Kredyt Bank

Kredyt Bank, Warsaw Robbery is known for the brutal murder of three tellers and one security guard. An employee of the bank, the 27-year-old Krzysztof masterminded the robbery. The robbers stole 100,000 Zloties which are the Polish currency. According the Warsaw Police spokesman, the robbers murdered the staff on duty because they did not find as much money as they expected and, “It annoyed them, and they started beating the cashiers, and then they killed them one by one.” One of the criminals, identified as Grzegorz S., along with two other criminals have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

3. The Northern Bank Robbery

Northern Bank

Northern Bank

On December 20, 2004, the Northern Bank, Belfast, Northern Ireland was robbed by a gang.  The robbers seized £26.5 million pounds sterling and some other currency including euros and U.S. dollars. It is considered the biggest robbery in the history of the U.K. or Ireland. The Police Service of Northern Ireland, the British as well as Irish governments claimed that the Irish Republic Army, IRA, was responsible for it. The night before the robbery, the robbers held hostage two families of the bank officers who were used by them the next day to enable them to access the bank after its closing. The stolen money was transferred to different vehicles parked away from the bank. The family members were thereafter released.

4. Northern Virginia Bank Robberies

Candice Rose Martinez

Candice Rose Martinez

The 19-year-old Candice Rose Martinez robbed four banks in Northern Virginia, U.S. in October and November, 2005. She was a student at Northern Virginia Community College. The media nicknamed her the Cell Phone Bandit because during the course of the robbery she communicated on a cell phone. She came into prominence when the surveillance footage showed her speaking on a cell phone was broadcast internationally. She was talking to her 19-year-old boyfriend Dave C. William. Both were arrested on November 14 and November 15, 2005. Shortly after her arrest, Martinez confessed to stealing a total of $48,620 from 4 bank robberies. On December 13, 2005, Martinez pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment followed by 5 years probation and $43,850 in restitution.

5. The Agricultural Bank of China Robbery

The Agricultural Bank China-robbery

The Agricultural Bank China robbery

Two vault managers of the Handan branch of the Agricultural Bank of China in Hebel province stole about 51 million yuan from this bank between March 16 and April 14, 2007. It was the biggest bank robbery in the history of China.  The vault managers, Ren Xaiofeng and Ma Xianging, had been accomplices in robbing some other banks as well prior to committing this robbery. Xaiofeng first stole 200,000 yuan from the Agricultural Bank of China hoping to repay it by winning a lottery. With the help of Xianging and two security guards, he committed another robbery by stealing 32 million yuan. After being publicized as most wanted, both were arrested and were sentenced to death in Hebel province.

6.  The Sumitomo Bank, London Robbery

Sumitomo Bank in London.

Sumitomo Bank in London.

Two Belgium men and a security guard stole $300 million from the Sumitomo Bank in London. It was considered one if not the biggest bank robbery in British history. The robbery, however, failed on account of small mistakes made by the criminals during their transferring the money as they were not aware of the SWIFT system. The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) enables financial institutions to communicate about financial transactions in a safe and secure mode in order to regain stolen money that may be deposited elsewhere.

7. The Bank of Ireland Robbery

The Bank of Ireland

The Bank of Ireland

On February 27, 2009 a gang of 7 members kidnapped a junior bank employee, 24-year-old Shane Travers, while holding hostage his girlfriend and two other persons. Shane Travers was made to hand over $9 million at gunpoint. It is considered the biggest bank robbery in the Republic of Ireland. A house was sealed off and four men arrested in suspicion of committing the crime. Bank employee Shane Travers and the hostages were also arrested on the suspicion of being accomplices.

8. Blanco Central Brazil Robbery

Blanco Central Brazil

Blanco Central Brazil

On August 6, 7, 2005, Blanco Central in Brazil was robbed of U.S. $69.8 million. Five containers having real note money equivalent to $69.8 million was stolen. The money was uninsured. According to a bank official, the bank was so secure and the risk was so small compared with the high insurance premium that it was not thought necessary to get it insured. The event remained undiscovered till the next day as the criminals had disabled the internal alarm system.

9. Grameen Bank Robbery

Grameen Bank

Grameen Bank logo

Grameen Bank of South Malabar, India was robbed of 80 million rupees on December 30, 2007 by Jaison Babu with the help of three other accomplices. It is considered the largest bank robbery in India. The bank was situated over a restaurant which the criminals had hired and closed it on the pretext of performing a renovation. To look real, they also purchased new furniture for it. After making a hole through its roof, they stole 80 kg. gold and 2,500,000 rupees. However, their phone calls were analyzed which helped the police reach the criminals who were arrested.  More than 80 percent of the robbed money was recovered.

10. Wachovia Bank Robbery

Devon Mitchel

Devon Mitchel

In an attempt  to rob the Wachovia Bank in Cary, North Carolina, Devon Mitchel, a 19-year-old student, held hostage at least two persons for two hours in the bank. Police arrived at the scene within two minutes. Mitchel left the bank with one woman hostage while pointing a gun towards her head. Police shot him dead at first sight. The police officers later said they did not want to end things that way, but in view of the safety of the hostage, they were constrained to shoot him.


On account of secrecy, most bank robbers plan the crimes alone. There is a saying that, “Two can also keep the secret if one of them is dead.”  Usually small bank robberies are conducted by simply passing a note to the teller demanding money. It is done to avoid attracting other people’s attention unnecessarily. This type of bank robbery is termed as the “Note Job.” To prevent robberies, banks have now placed many effective measures like high-resolution, sophisticated, security cameras, silent alarms, time locked metal vaults, use of biometrics, and the deployment of both armed and unarmed security guards.

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