11 of the FBI’s Most Amusing Bank Robber Nicknames


Although names like these 11 criminals were given sound like they were created by Stan Lee, bank robbers' nicknames are actually coined by a real-world authority: the FBI. The nicknames are supposed to be a tool for helping catch crooks, but it seems as if they’re really cooked up to keep special agents amused.

1. Snowbird Bandit

If this were a comic book villain, the Snowbird Bandit would likely be able to turn into a dark-eyed junco—or perhaps have the power of ice-making, which is so useful at parties. In reality, this vault violator was simply an older male who was presumably retired from everything but bank robbery. Bizarrely, he was a former detective.

2. Paint By Numbers Bandit

In 2007, several suburban Chicago banks were held up by the Paint By Numbers Bandit, who had a boring, unimaginative approach to crime. It’s like his heart wasn’t even in it. Talk about mailing it in. Nah, just kidding. This guy earned his name because his black coat had some white paint on it, proving that one of the greatest risks of the klepto career track is receiving a hurtful nickname.

3. Sabbatical Bandit

It would be amusing if this reprehensible robber were a tenured professor who turned from scholarly research to armed robbery while on sabbatical. But he’s just a common plunderer who took four years off between robberies. What was he doing between knocking over banks? Building homes for the poor? Ministering to the sick? Giving money to banks in the Bizarro World? The world may never know.

4. Weathergirl Bandit

In DC Comics, the Weather Wizard has fearsome meteorological powers. But in the real world, the Weathergirl Bandit just liked to chit-chat about this and that, such as the weather, while committing robbery. Hey, who could blame her? Armed robbery is awkward.

5. Irreconcilable Differences Bandit

As described in a Los Angeles Daily News article, this pernicious pilferer “got his nickname from his first bank robbery on Dec. 22 in Beverly Hills, when he told a teller he was going through a divorce and needed help wiring money, requesting that the transfer be done in such a way that his estranged wife's attorney would not learn of it.” Dude, focus on stealing money. Being a terrible husband can wait.

6. Bucket List Bandit

This Missouri marauder earned his name after passing a teller a note with something other than a demand for cash: it said the guy only had months to live. That’s actually a pretty good angle. When making deposits, I’m going to start telling my bank I have various diseases and see if they slip me an extra twenty or upgrade my check designs. 

7. Attila the Bun Bandit

No, this isn’t an alternative moniker for the Hamburglar. It’s just a poor, innocent—er, guilty—bank robber who happened to wear her hair in a bun when going on a thievery spree in 2006.

8. Good Grammar Bandit

This persnickety prowler sounds like one of those wackos who goes around correcting apostrophe use on signs. Alas, it’s just another heist hound. He didn’t correct the grammar of others, but when writing his trademark threatening notes, he was careful, clean, and grammatically correct. So even though this notorious nabber disappointed his family and friends, he made his English teachers proud.

9. Bubble Wrap Bandit

I want this creep to be more interesting than he is. Imagine a supervillain with the power to weaponize bubble wrap. That would be awesome.  But this boring brigand received his nickname because he was carrying a bubble-wrapped envelope during one of his sinister stick-ups. Still, I think Bubble Wrap Boy would make a great member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

10. Four Buddies Bandit

Shouldn’t that be Four Buddies Gang? Not really. It’s unknown whether this reprobate actually has any buddies or pals, much less criminal cohorts. But he definitely liked to claim, when committing convenience-story robberies, that he had “four buddies” outside. Special Agent Steve May gave him the nickname based on this claim, and it led to the allegedly quadruple-friended felon’s arrest, because he kept making the same claim over and over. (You can see why none of these lawbreakers have been named the Criminal Genius Bandit.)

11. Clark Kent Bandit

Like Clark Kent, this Baltimore baddie wore a suit and glasses. Unlike Clark Kent, he stole from local banks rather than leaping from tall buildings. This nickname is one of the more creative examples of an FBI tendency that’s perfectly logical: nicknaming a bandit based on appearance. Other clothes-based nicknames include the Sock Hat Bandit, the Forever Plaid Bandit, the Dust Mask Bandit, and the Muscle Shirt Bandit. 

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This Just In
Police Recover Nearly 100 Artifacts Stolen From John Lennon’s Estate
Keystone Features / Stringer / Getty Images
Keystone Features / Stringer / Getty Images

A collection of artifacts stolen from John Lennon’s estate, including diaries, glasses, and handwritten music, has been recovered by German police, the Associated Press reports. After arresting the first suspect, law enforcement is now working to apprehend a second person of interest in the case.

The nearly 100 items went missing from the New York home of the late Beatles star’s widow Yoko Ono in 2006. Years later, German police were tipped off to their whereabouts when a bankruptcy administrator came across the haul in the storage facility of a Berlin auction house. The three leather-bound diaries that were recovered are dated 1975, 1979, and 1980. One entry refers to Lennon’s famous nude photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz, and another was written the morning of December 8, 1980, hours before he was shot and killed. In addition to the journals, police retrieved two pairs of his iconic glasses, a 1965 recording of a Beatles concert, a 1952 school book, contract documents for the copyright of the song “I’m the Greatest”, handwritten scores for "Woman" and "Just Like Starting Over”, and a cigarette case.

German authorities flew to New York to have Ono verify the items' authenticity. "She was very emotional and we noticed clearly how much these things mean to her,” prosecutor Susann Wettley told AP. When the objects will be returned to Ono is still unclear.

The first suspect, a 58-year-old German businessman from Turkey, was arrested Monday, November 21, following a raid of his house and vehicles. The second suspect is one of Ono's former chauffeurs who has a past conviction related to the theft. Police officers are hoping to extradite him from his current home in Turkey before moving forward with the case.

[h/t AP]

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How a London Tragedy Led to the Creation of 911
Fox Photos/Getty Images
Fox Photos/Getty Images

In trouble? Pick up the phone and call 911. According to the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), 240 million 911 calls are made each year. But if it weren’t for a house fire and a group of angry Brits, the system might not exist today.

Though 911 is an American staple, its origins are in England. In 1935, there was no such thing as an emergency phone number, and phone calls were dependent on operators who connected people to exchanges or emergency services when necessary. England did have emergency fire call points, but they didn’t use telephone technology—instead, they relied on the telegraph, which was used to send a signal to fire departments from special boxes [PDF]. There were police call points, too, but they were generally unstandardized and inefficient, since police didn’t have a way to receive emergency calls while on their beats. Instead, officers would check in during their rounds at special police boxes, like the one you probably recognize from Doctor Who.

But all that changed after November 10, 1935, when a fire broke out at the home of a prominent London surgeon, Philip Franklin, at 27 Wimpole Street. As the blaze tore through the building, five women sleeping on the upper floors—Franklin’s wife and niece, as well as three servants—became trapped. A neighbor, Norman MacDonald, heard their screams and promptly picked up the phone to dial the operator. Nobody answered.

“It seemed entirely futile to continue holding on and listening to ringing tone, which awakened no response,” he later wrote. A neighbor went to a fire call point and firefighters soon arrived, but they were unable to save the five women.

27 Wimpole Street, London, as it looks today
27 Wimpole Street, London, as it looks today
Eden, Janine and Jim, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The tragedy sparked a national inquiry—and outrage. Two years later, London unveiled a new service: the emergency number 999. Officials thought it would be best to choose a number that was easy to find by touch on a rotary dial, and rejected a number of other options, like 111, that might be triggered by equipment malfunctions. (It wasn’t unusual for lines rubbing together and other technical glitches to trigger a 111 call; 222 was already in use by a local exchange, while 000 would have just contacted the operator after the first zero.)

The new number wasn’t immediately embraced. Of over 1000 calls made the first week, nearly 7 percent were pranks. And some members of Parliament objected, saying it would be easier to just install an emergency button on phones instead.

A New York City police officer takes an emergency call from his car in the 1960s
A New York City police officer takes an emergency call from his car in the 1960s
John Pratt/Keystone Features/Getty Images

The United States had a similar system of police telephones and signal boxes, but like the UK it lacked the technology to quickly and effectively call authorities during emergencies. In the 1950s, the National Association of Fire Chiefs, inspired by the UK’s system, requested a national emergency number, and by 1967 the FTC was meeting with AT&T, the nation’s largest telephone company, to hash out a plan.

The first 911 call in the United States—a test call made from a mayor’s office—was made in Haleyville, Alabama in 1968 [PDF]. The numbers 911 reportedly made the grade because they weren’t in use for any existing phone exchange, and were catchy and easily remembered.

As the service rolled out nationwide, police and fire departments struggled to keep up with call volume. Despite the success of the program, New York police, in particular, reported being strained and having to hire more officers.

It took a long time to implement the system. Only 50 percent of the United States had 911 service as of 1987, according to NENA. Today, coverage is still not universal, although it’s close: 96 percent of the country is currently covered.

The evolution of telephone technology has brought new challenges, however: The FCC estimates that a full 70 percent of calls now come from cell phones—and given the mobility of mobile phones, that’s a challenge for dispatchers and phone companies. The 911 system was built for landlines, and cell phone GPS systems don’t always transmit data quickly or accurately. Plus, the proliferation of cell phones has led to a spike in accidental butt dials, which tie up the line and can prevent real emergencies from getting the attention they need. Still, we've come a long way from the days of sending telegraph messages inside boxes.


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