It’s hard to find a much bigger cliche than “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” but there is no one shape, size or mold by which the typical criminal can be measured or else catching them would be a whole lot easier. Sure, it’s awfully tempting to identify those who look guilty or carry a creepy vibe, but sometimes the person you least suspect is who you should truly be leery of.
Recently, hit shows like Breaking Bad, Dexter and Weeds have woven compelling narratives by leading their unsuspecting central characters down a criminal path to create a complex, layered story. In a case of life imitating art, it seems that modern criminals aren’t always what they seem. A 2015 Bloomberg Business report highlighted a sharp uptick in elderly crime throughout the world, most notably in South Korea, Japan and the UK.
And it isn’t just the elderly who are committing more crimes. Digitally savvy young people have used the internet as a shrouded, anonymous platform for crimes like identity theft and financial fraud. In short, anyone could be up to some nefarious, seedy activities, so trust no one. Okay, so that seems like a bit of an over-reaction, but this list of some of the world’s most unsuspecting criminals might just have you looking at some of your friendly neighbors and acquaintances in a bit of a different light.
10. Laurence McCall
When it comes to stealth art thieves, the name Laurence McCall does seem to bring to mind someone suave and sophisticated in the mold of Danny Ocean. However, the Laurence McCall that nabbed 20 pieces of art worth $300,000 from a Philadelphia gallery was actually a 16-year-old teen with some pretty remarkable nerve. The art-savvy teen was somehow able to steal the works by simply taking them off a wall and sliding them through a nearby window. From there, he had no problems getting them auctioned off through Sotheby’s auction house. At this rate, anyone can be an art thief.
9. Yongela Ward
The beauty of a woman’s pregnancy comes from the birth of new life. But in the case of Gilbert, Arizona native Yongela Ward, that pregnancy brought about death as well. Ward was arrested for her role in a deadly hit-and-run crash in March of 2016 that killed a cyclist. After fleeing the scene, the 22-year-old was later arrested when a neighbor called in a tip about a vehicle matching the one described on the news. On account of her pregnancy, Ward will not be booked into jail prior to her court date.
8. Jonathan Lebed
At 15 years of age, Jonathan Lebed learned something that many riches-minded adults don’t seem to be aware of. He realized that so-called stock market experts are building faith by making educated guesses sound like stone cold truths. Boasting just a computer and a basic level of knowledge pertaining to stock trends, Lebed almost became a millionaire by setting up hundreds of fake sites on Yahoo! Finance and E*Trade with phony stock tips. His plan was to buy up worthless stocks and boost their value through these fraudulent tips. Although the SEC eventually caught up to the teen, the two sides settled in a civil suit that still left Lebed with about $500,000 in ill-gotten gains.
7. Philip Markoff
There is no one specific type that can encapsulate a serial killer, one would still imagine that most don’t look like Philip Markoff. Markoff embodied the essence of an overachieving success story, a Boston University med student with a beautiful fiancee who counted himself among members of the National Honor Society. When he wasn’t putting his hyper-intelligent brain to academic use, he was targeting victims on Craigslist. Known as the Craigslist Killer, Markoff used the product and service-swapping site to lure victims for attacks, armed robberies and murder.
6. Tween Heist
As far as bank robberies go, there is nothing outwardly notable about the robbery of a First National Bank in Cincinnati in 2009. One thief approached the teller with a note demanding cash while a partner stood by on lookout. The fact that each of the two female thieves remained years from their Sweet 16 at the time of the crime made the situation considerably more noteworthy. Indeed, security camera footage captured a brazen girl appearing to be no older than 14 with a nearby accomplice believed to be 12 years in age. The two made off unimpeded with an undisclosed sum of cash.
5. Ron Rocca
There was a two-fold wholesomeness about Ron Rocca, the basketball coach who volunteered his time to lead the teams at a Colorado-based Jesuit college known as St. Regis University. While he was teaching students the X’s and O’s of basketball, he was also making hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit drug money as part of a massive cocaine ring in Denver. The head coach of the Regis Rangers had allegedly helped move 20 kilos of coke every week by way of Juarez, Mexico through secret compartments in cars and trucks.
4. Senior Jewel Thieves
In May of 2015, London’s Hatton Gallery was rocked by a brazen, ambitious heist in which nine men allegedly robbed the major jewelry exchange of an estimated $300 million in cash and gems. To pull off the heist, the men would have needed to disable the elevator, climb down the shaft and use power tools to drill into the vault. Upon investigating the theft, local police found evidence implicating a seasoned group made up mostly of members in their 60s and 70s.
3. Matthew Weigman
As with many other people born legally blind, Matthew Weigman was able to make up for his disability through his other elevated senses, most notably his uncanny hearing ability. Unlike others in his position, however, Weigman used his talents towards nefarious means from a young age. Upon joining a rebel group known as the “phreakers” when he was just 11, he used his hearing to memorize phone numbers through listening to dial tones and mimicked victims’ voices to gather personal security information. Later, he turned to “swatting”, the act of faking police calls so that SWAT teams would converge on the homes of his chosen victims.
2. The Cambridge Two
In the late 1990s, you would have been hard-pressed to find more admired and respected community pillars than British charity workers John Brock and Ruth Wyner. Brock was a long-time volunteer in the Cambridge area, while Wyner was an experienced professional dedicated to helping the homeless. As it turns out, both had actually played key roles in a heroin ring which was run through one of their homeless drop-in centers. Their arrests in 2000 sent shockwaves through the Cambridge community in which they had been so active.
1. Anna Gristina
Anna Gristina was a pillar of her neighborhood community in Monroe, NY, a married mother of four and a noted animal lover who had been recognized for her pig rescuing efforts. Ultimately, however, she would be recognized for something far different after being exposed as the head of a multi-million dollar brothel in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Gristina’s other identity had remained so shrouded in secrecy that even her husband was blindsided, despite her 15 years as the lead madam of the establishment. Suspected of employing the services of underage prostitutes to service her high-powered clientele, Gristina has since opened up and begun naming names in hopes of cutting her jail time.