Share on Facebook

The World’s Dumbest Criminals: 30+ True Stories of the Planet’s Thickest Thieves

They say crime doesn’t pay, and these real-life tales of the planet’s thickest thieves certainly proves it!

1 / 31
World's dumbest criminals caught on CCTVPhoto: Shutterstock

Meet the World’s Dumbest Criminals

In Australia…

A would-be thief who broke into a Melbourne bakery found, for all his troubles, he’d trapped himself in a locked storeroom. He was captured on CCTV stacking containers, chairs and bins in a desperate attempt to climb up to the roof. Cameras rolled for 30 minutes as he attempted to scale the pile, crashing to the ground at least five times. The would-be burglar eventually freed himself and handed himself in.

Psst—here are seven places you didn’t know had hidden cameras!

2 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - jewellery thievesPhoto: Shutterstock

In Brazil…

Two burglars rifling through an apartment were disturbed by police and jumped out of a window with a stash of jewellery. Soon afterwards, the police picked up two men acting suspiciously. While in custody one man became ill and needed hospital treatment. X-rays showed up the problem: two rings, a pendant and a necklace—all swallowed in haste. After swift surgery, the apartment owner identified the items and police did the rest.

These outrageous diamond ring stories will brighten your day!

3 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - burglarPhoto: Shutterstock

In the United Kingdom…

A 32-year-old man was jailed for three years when he was found hanging upside down from a window after trying to break into a terrace house in Kent. “Having been caught hanging literally upside down from the window of the house he was attempting to break into, he was left with little choice but to admit his crime and take his punishment on the chin,” said police.

Psst—here are seven sneaky ways burglars can break into your house!

4 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - bank robberPhoto: Shutterstock

In the United States…

Obviously the idea to rob a bank crossed this Illinois resident’s mind, but he failed to logically think it through. The 40-year-old man walked into the bank, handed the cashier a threatening note that read: “Be Quick Be Quit [quiet]. Give your cash or I’ll shoot.” The bank teller obliged and handed him $400, but the thief had overlooked the fact that his message was scribbled on a piece of his pay slip. Detectives found the other half of the pay slip outside the bank—complete with the bank robber’s name and home address.

5 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - handcuffedPhoto: Shutterstock

In Croatia…

Modern technology foiled this felon when he and a mate were found with 103g of marijuana in their car. While they were at the station for questioning, a third man sent a text message to one of their mobile phones, saying, “water my weed, please.” The police went to his place and found a small backyard plantation. The driver was convicted of possession and the intention to deal in drugs. His two friends were let off due to a lack of evidence.

You won’t believe the crazy things car mechanics have seen on the job!

6 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - wristwatchPhoto: Shutterstock

In Brazil…

One local thief had high standards but poor follow through. When Wellington Silva Oliveira robbed a cook, taking his wallet and watch, he was upset to find the watch wasn’t quite what he wanted. So he kept the money but returned with the watch, claiming it was a “fake”. While his victim hurried to report the mugging to police, Oliveira stopped to play soccer at a nearby field, where he was still playing when police arrived and arrested him.

Check out the funniest Reader’s Digest jokes of all time!

7 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - incriminating selfiePhoto: Shutterstock

In the United Kingdom…

This dumb criminal left behind a vital clue at a house he’d broken into: his mobile phone with a photo of himself on it. He was recognized by a detective investigating the theft. At first the thief claimed he had lost his phone and someone else was using it, but this excuse fell through when the stolen goods were found at his home. The 44-year-old was sentenced to 160 hours of community service.

You won’t believe these funny lawsuit stories!

8 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - breaking inPhoto: Shutterstock

In Germany…

One wannabe thief had obviously watched too much TV. When the 29-year-old tried to break into his neighbour’s flat by using a bank card, he woke up the owner. In the thief’s haste to get away, the card snapped in half, leaving behind his name and account details. “The victim called up and read us the details off the card,” police said. “When we got to the burglar’s house, the other half of his bank card was on his kitchen table.”

9 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - car thiefPhoto: Shutterstock

In Australia…

One thief got more than he bargained for when he reached into the window of a parked car and snatched a tote. The bag belonged to professional snake catcher Brad McDonald; inside was a highly venomous snake McDonald had just captured from an underground car park in Sydney. Gotcha!

These true stories about creepy crawlies will give you goosebumps!

10 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - hiding under sofaPhoto: Shutterstock

In South Africa…

A policeman responding to a burglary report at a house in Johannesburg sat down on the couch to take a statement, not realizing a burglar was hiding underneath it. The homeowner looked down and saw the burglar lying flat on his stomach half under and behind the couch. His head was right near the policeman’s legs. The policeman jumped off the couch and the man was arrested, after handing back stolen jewellery and a digital camera .“The police were so chuffed. They were in seventh heaven that they caught him. The whole thing was so bizarre,” the homeowner told The Star newspaper.

A global network of scammers is targeting older people—here’s how to avoid becoming a victim.

11 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - spray deodorantPhoto: Shutterstock

In Hungary…

A woman tried to rob a grocery store with a can of “gas” spray as her weapon of choice. Luckily, the shop assistant realized it was just deodorant.

These famous hoaxes (almost) fooled everyone.

12 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - brown wigPhoto: Shutterstock

In Japan…

A Japanese cross-dresser in Nagoya thought he could avoid detection by donning a school uniform during his criminal acts. Wearing a navy blue miniskirt, white blouse and shoulder-length brown wig, he was spotted bag-snatching from a number of women. Unfortunately for the 24-year-old, Japanese schoolgirls don’t sport a five o’clock shadow; nor are they 175 cm tall. The thief was arrested at a train station.

13 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - wheelchairPhoto: Shutterstock

In the United States…

Using a wheelchair to escape the scene of a crime doesn’t sound sensible, but a Texan duo thought it might be worth a try. Noemi Duchene attempted a knife-point robbery at a jewelry shop while her accomplice, Luis Del Castillo, waited outside with the getaway vehicle—the wheelchair. Duchene, who also lived opposite the shop, was tackled by a customer before she and Del Castillo were able to make a slow escape.

14 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - credit card paymentPhoto: Shutterstock

In India…

A cashier at a Mumbai shop was surprised when he was handed a credit card in the name of one of Bollywood’s biggest stars. The shopper, who was trying to buy $500 worth of clothes, certainly wasn’t the famous actor named on the card, so the cashier rang the card issuer. The matter was referred to police, who arrested three men on the spot. The gang said they’d “found” the movie idol’s credit card in the street.

These are the 10 Bollywood movies you must see before you die.

15 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - black marker penPhoto: Shutterstock

In the United States…

Two burglars decided that DIY disguises were the way to go for their planned break and enter. Both Matthew McNelly and Joey Miller scribbled on their faces with a black permanent pen before breaking into an apartment in Iowa. The police caught the pair in their vehicle not long after. Apparently, the less-than-dynamic duo had been under the influence of alcohol. Note to self: don’t drink and draw.

Here are 13 things to do if your home gets broken into.

16 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - hedgehogPhoto: Shutterstock

In New Zealand…

New Zealander William Singalargh was fined for common assault for hurling a hedgehog at a schoolboy. The 27-year-old offender threw the prickly weapon at his target, leaving the boy with a large red welt and four quills lodged in his hip. The deceased hedgehog was taken away as evidence, and Singalargh faced the wrath of animal lovers, who condemned the act.

17 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - flushing toiletPhoto: Shutterstock

In China…

Taking a pick-and-choose approach left one Chinese burglar feeling very stupid. The thief broke into a well-to-do Hubei home, nabbing thousands of dollars’ worth of jewels. When police questioned him about a couple of diamond jewels, he admitted to flushing them down the toilet, after thinking that they were too big to be genuine.

18 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - police lightsPhoto: Shutterstock

In Poland…

Two men got into a serious argument. It escalated, and became so heated that one of them eventually called the police. When the two had been calmed down, their identification was taken and… bingo! Both of them turned out to be on the police wanted list, a small but important fact they had forgotten during the dispute.

19 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - confessionPhoto: Shutterstock

In Canada…

A Canadian criminal called police to clarify what exactly he had stolen during a break-in. The man said he was upset because police had released the incorrect information, which was reported by the media. It was too easy for the police, who were left with a recorded confession to follow up.

These jokes about marriage are perfect for a wedding!

20 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - fishing lurePhoto: Shutterstock

In Taiwan…

Police arrested a 33-year-old man after he and an accomplice attempted to grab the takings of a fishing gear shop. Instead of snatching the cash drawer, they took off with the computer terminal and left fingerprints, which the police had no problem tracing. How did the police have such good records of the men? The pair had met while doing time in prison.

21 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - FacebookPhoto: Shutterstock

In the United States…

House thief Jonathan Parker decided to log on to his Facebook account before leaving the West Virginian house he had just raided. Fortunately for the residents, Parker left his account open, so allowing the police to track him down effortlessly.

22 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - liquor theftPhoto: Shutterstock

Crowning Achievement

You’d think someone would have to be on drugs to try to get away with this one. But Donovan James Clements told the court that he had only been drinking when he entered a liquor store in Moncton, New Brunswick, one evening in November 2004. The 20-year-old slipped a 750-millilitre bottle of Crown Royal from the shelf into his jacket and walked to the counter, where he paid $5.70 for two bottles of rum cooler.

Here’s where it gets really strange: Upon leaving the store, Clements’s pilfered Crown Royal fell to the ground and shattered. What was there to do but call the police to report “his” booze stolen? So that’s what he did, claiming four thugs jumped him.

But when hawk-eyed liquor-store employee Brian Steeves looked at security-camera footage for possible suspects, he noticed Clements stealing the liquor himself. “He did it really fast,” says Steeves, who describes Clements as small and wearing the street uniform of brand-name jeans and hoodie. “It looked like he knew what he was doing.”

Later that night, Clements walked over to RCMP Const. Bibianne Mallais-Robichaud’s car to ask how the investigation was progressing. Knowing by then that he’d stolen the high-end hooch, Mallais-Robichaud tried to arrest him, but Clements bolted. The officer gave chase, and, when she caught up with Clements, he pushed her to the ground and ran off.

Fortunately two bystanders who had seen the incident caught Clements. Mallais-Robichaud searched him, finding brass knuckles and a hash pipe.

When the case went to court a year later, Clements got a two-year suspended sentence with supervised probation and 50 hours of community service.

Judge Irwin Lampert commented to Clements, “This is bizarre to say the least,” though he then added, “You certainly have good taste.” Lampert asked Clements why he would ask the police officer in the car how the investigation was going.

Clements responded, “I didn’t figure that they’d seen me take the bottle.”

“You figured they didn’t see you?” said Lampert. “You didn’t know they have cameras in stores?”

“I didn’t figure,” answered Clements.

Go figure. – Craig Segal

23 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - pumping gasPhoto: Shutterstock

All Tanked Up

Okay, granted, if you’re cruising around town roaring drunk, it’s got to be hard to fake sobriety when the police nab you. But these two guys did not even come close.

In Waupaca, Wisconsin, Daniel Nordell was waiting at a traffic light when a cop approached his car. It seems the officer got a pretty good clue that Nordell wasn’t in his right mind after noticing the way he was driving along the city street: backward. Nordell explained that the transmission was shot, and the car would only go in reverse.

What was harder for Nordell to account for was his obvious intoxication. When the police ran a check, they discovered he’d been arrested 12 times for drunk driving. You’d think, with a record like that, a guy would be extra careful not to back himself into more trouble.

Just one month before, a Wisconsin cop stopped another driver who gave a pretty good hint he was soused. When the police officer pulled over Christopher Kennedy and walked up to the driver’s window, Kennedy was already fishing in his wallet—and then tried to hand the officer a credit card. “Do you know why I stopped you?” the policeman asked. “Speeding?” Kennedy mumbled almost incoherently. After failing a sobriety test, he was arrested for driving under the influence.

So what had gotten the cop’s attention in the first place? Mainly, it was that odd bit of hose dangling from Kennedy’s gas tank. After fuelling up at the gas station, he’d driven off in a haze of oblivion, forgetting the hose was still attached to his car. Oops. – William Beaman

If you own any of these 10 cars, it’s way more likely to get stolen.

24 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - rubber bootsPhoto: Shutterstock

A Real Standout

Timothy Baker was back in jail in Waco, Texas, house after he had escaped while being held for aggravated robbery. His getaway had  taken him to Baylor University, where he broke into a building in order to find a change of clothes from his orange prison suit. The building was the Fine Arts Center, where Baker raided a costume closet. He apparently thought he would be inconspicuous if he changed into a 19th-century green wool outfit (with rubber galoshes) that made him look like a “leprechaun,” according to the Waco sheriff. Baker was spotted on the street and rearrested. Said the chairman of the theatre department, “He just really stood out.” – From Chuck Shepherd’s News of the Weird

25 / 31
Dumbest criminals - handcuffsPhoto: Shutterstock

Second Time’s a Charm

On Father’s Day, 10-year-old Brian Kline was playing with his father’s old handcuffs (Dad used to be a security agent) and lovingly cuffed himself to William Kline, Jr., 33. It was a cute little joke, until they couldn’t find the key. William called local police in Des Moines, Iowa, and they all had a good laugh as the cops removed the cuffs. Then, as is routine, police ran Kline through their database and discovered two arrest warrants outstanding. Minutes later the police were back at Kline’s home, where they re-cuffed him for real. – From Chuck Shepherd’s News of the Weird

26 / 31
Dumbest criminals - don't lookPhoto: Shutterstock

Made You Look

Gary Lee Owens, 42, was arrested on drug charges in Stilwell, Kansas, even though police weren’t looking for drugs when they knocked on his door. The police had received a tip that two fugitives were hiding at that address, and since Owens knew nothing about that, he matter-of-factly gave them permission to search the house. He then added the restriction “everywhere but the garage.” The police naturally decided that this comment was worth a search warrant, and later found the remains of a suspected methamphetamine lab. – From Chuck Shepherd’s News of the Weird

These jokes about work will help you get through the week!

27 / 31
Dumbest criminals - paint splashPhoto: Shutterstock

Painted into a Corner

The criminal who is captured because his tracks lead away from a crime scene is an old story. However, Albert Jackson Dowdy, 22, took incompetence to a new level. According to police in Grants Pass, Oregon, he tried to break into a home by smashing a glass door with a paint can, but the can broke open. Paint splattered all over Dowdy’s clothes and shoes, yet he traipsed through the house nonetheless, leaving stains everywhere. He made off with two cans of tuna fish and a box of oatmeal. Before long police tracked Dowdy to a nearby motel—where he appeared at the door still wearing his paint-smeared clothes. – From Chuck Shepherd’s News of the Weird

Here are 50 corny jokes to celebrate National Tell a Joke Day!

28 / 31
World's dumbest criminals - Christmas presentsPhoto: Shutterstock

Pawnshop Flop

If only all stolen goods were returned by crooks to their rightful owner… A couple of weeks before Christmas 2004, thieves took a crowbar to the back door of Jason Shinkarik’s century-old white-stucco home in Winnipeg, where he lived with his wife and two kids. Nobody was home at the time. The crooks filled three of Shinkarik’s own duffle bags with his belongings, including clothes, a DVD player, jewelry, watches, cologne and liquor.

Shinkarik reported the robbery to police when he got home that night. “They took every drop of alcohol in my house,” says the 31-year-old pawnshop manager. “Every stray beer.” The grinches even nicked the Christmas presents from under the tree.

The next morning, Shinkarik drove the ten minutes to his workplace, Pawn Derosa Trading, near the University of Winnipeg. It was just another day at work until Alphonse Stanley Traverse and two others, all appearing to be in their 20s, walked in with big duffle bags that Shinkarik recognized as his own. Shinkarik phoned police for the second time in as many days, but Traverse had managed to get away. Traverse, who already had a serious criminal record, eluded police—but he didn’t stay idle.

When police finally caught up with him, they charged him with breaking into three more Winnipeg homes. Associate Chief Judge Mary Kate Harvie sentenced him to three months for one of the break-ins and found him guilty of possession of stolen property in the Shinkarik robbery.

What’s the lesson? When you’re trying to unload stolen spoils, beware: You might be selling them back to their original owner. In this case, not only did Shinkarik recognize his own bags, but one of the trio was wearing the brown and green track suit Shinkarik had bought to give his brother for Christmas. – Craig Segal

Feeling the festive spirit? Check out these hilarious holiday jokes!

29 / 31
Dumbest criminals - security tagsPhoto: Shutterstock

Sticky Fingers

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, suspected shoplifter Jacob Wise, 18, had cleverly removed security tags from clothes he was allegedly stealing from a store. But the alarm went off anyway as Wise strolled through the exit door. It seems he had merely put the removed tags in his pocket. – From Chuck Shepherd’s News of the Weird

Looking for more laughs? Check out these 75 easy-to-remember short jokes.

30 / 31
Dumbest criminals - bank robberPhoto: Shutterstock

When Patience Doesn’t Pay Off

A 36-year-old man was tackled by customers as he attempted to rob the Zions Bank in Salt Lake City shortly after it opened. Several customers had noticed him waiting outside for the bank to open—already wearing a hooded sweatshirt and mask. The man had then meekly waited in line for his turn before snatching money from a teller. – From Chuck Shepherd’s News of the Weird

These are the funniest lawyer jokes of all time!

31 / 31
Dumbest criminals - purse theft from carPhoto: Shutterstock

The Best Laid Plans

Police arrested Malinda Kelly of Mechanicville, New York, on numerous charges, but only after they had scurried around for hours trying to find her “stolen” car and her three-month-old son, who was inside. Kelly’s story didn’t hold up for long. Actually, said police, she had forgotten where she had left the car, which was idling with the child inside, while she ran down the street to burglarize her uncle’s home. She came away with some money, investigators say, but lost a bunch of her own when a stranger reportedly reached inside her waiting car and snatched her purse. – From Chuck Shepherd’s News of the Weird

Next, check out 11 great ideas that went horribly (and hilariously) wrong.

Originally Published in Readers Digest International Edition