10 Life Lessons From the Dumbest Criminals of All Time

To paraphrase from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, “To defeat your enemy you must know your enemy.” I kept this mantra in mind while compiling this comprehensive list of 10 criminal DO’s and DON’Ts, opening a window into their minds, bringing us one step closer to pinpointing the source of their brilliance.


10. DON’T bother getting a business loan


Twenty-one-year-old Charles Ray Fuller from Texas had dreams of starting his own record company, but he took to heart what he learned from Roman poet Titus Plautus: “You need to spend money to make money.” Because banks are dumb, and rich people do this all the time, Charles filled out a check in his name for $360 billion (yes, billion) and attempted to cash it at a bank in Fort Worth. Not only was he arrested for forgery, he was also in possession of two ounces of marijuana and a .25 caliber handgun.

9. DON’T factor in your victim’s abilities

When selecting a victim for property theft some choose an easy target, while others may choose a wealthy target. A burglar from Milwaukee, however, understood the futility of these details. While giving a private lesson at his studio, Taekwondo master David Kang heard someone rummaging through his office. He soon discovered a burglar who, apparently, didn’t know what Taekwondo was used for. Kang easily subdued the unarmed bandit and held him hostage until police arrived.

8. DO file a car insurance claim regardless of the reason


If it’s 2 a.m. in Wisconsin, you’re half drunk, and you’re planning to do a drive-by shooting at your ex-girlfriend’s house, make sure you have full coverage on your car first. Twenty-year-old Andrew Burwitz filed an insurance claim to fix his broken driver’s side window because he neglected to roll it down before firing his gun during a drive-by. No one was hurt, and Burwitz was eventually arrested after the paper trail from his insurance claim, along with five bullet shells and broken glass at the scene, led police to his front door.


7. DON’T let a retailer refuse to take your coupon

Fifty-one-year-old Florida resident Mary Frances Alday appreciates the value of a dollar – literally, one dollar. When a Walmart employee refused to accept her dollar-off coupon, Alday weighed out the pros and cons of the situation and decided the most rational course of action would be to verbally abuse the assistant manager, threaten the store supervisor after being escorted to her car, brandish her handgun in front of four employees, flee the scene, and resist arrest until she had to be tased twice.

6. DON’T let a fast food restaurant disrespect you

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When a McDonald’s restaurant refuses to take a customer’s order after they “walk up” to a drive-thru window after midnight, Oklahoma resident Erick Aguilar rightly interprets this as a personal insult. He rose above this oppressive service policy by entering the next car he saw at the drive-thru, tossing out the female driver, speeding off, and then crashing it a few blocks away where he was detained by police.

5. DO know the names of all your criminal friends

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After being issued a citation for smoking in a non-smoking area, Tina Lunn was asked by Boston transit police for her name and birthdate. Lunn had several warrants out for her arrest (ranging from assault to kidnapping) so she cleverly gave the cops a fake name. Apparently this was the name of an actual person, who, ironically enough, also had warrants out for her arrest. Police suspected nothing out of the ordinary – after all, people usually lie to “avoid” warrants. Lunn went through the entire booking process before the authorities finally discovered who she really was.


4. DO use the internet to attract accomplices


Forty-eight-year-old Michigan resident Ann Marie Linscott decided that cheating on her husband of 20 years wasn’t selfish enough – her lover’s wife, Carol, was a major inconvenience. So she put out an ad on Craigslist entitled “Freelance” that received three responses. She informed the anonymous freelancers that she was seeking a silent assassin to “eradicate” Carol. Seeing as how these three responders had no real desire to become hitmen, not even for the $5000 Linscott was offering, they chose to go to the police instead. Linscott was charged with attempted murder-for-hire.

3. DON’T let a robbery take too long

Sixteen-year-old Connecticut resident Albert Bailey knew he could shave precious minutes off his robbery time if the money was prepped and ready to hand over. So Bailey called the People’s United Bank in Bridgeport 10 minutes before the heist and told them to place the money in a bag on the floor or there would be a “bloodbath.” The bank not only complied, they invited a small audience of police officers to come watch. Shortly after the dye pack exploded in the canvas bag full of money, Bailey and an accomplice were detained in the parking lot.


2. DO carry your valuables with you at all times


Michigan resident Christopher Jansen came to court prepared to dispute his drug possession charge, claiming that the arresting officer searched him for drugs without a warrant. The officer claims he saw a bulge in Jansen’s jacket pocket and cited “probable cause” due to his suspicion that the lump could have been a gun. Jansen envisioned a “Johnny Cochran moment” when he realized he was wearing that very jacket in court, and handed it over to the judge to demonstrate that there were no pockets large enough to hold a gun. But before Jansen could say, “If a gun don’t fit you must acquit,” inside his pocket the judge discovered something a bit more incriminating: a packet of cocaine.

1. DO incorporate science into your getaway plan

Forty-four-year-old McArthur Wheeler retained fond childhood memories of writing secret messages in invisible ink using lemon juice. These memories came in handy after Wheeler ran out of money and decided to rob a bank in Pittsburgh. Due to a slight miscalculation in his getaway plan, after robbing two banks Wheeler was identified from the surveillance video and arrested that same day. Wheeler apparently rubbed lemons on his face prior to committing these robberies because he thought lemon juice would have the same invisibility effect on his skin as it does on paper. Wheeler’s failed “ghost robber” experiment would earn him a place in history as the poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect (e.g. ignorant people don’t know what they don’t know).



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