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Top 5 Mastermind Heists

Updated on March 7, 2014


What is something that a lot of guys fantasize about doing that doesn't (usually) involve women? That's right. A heist. Cydro figured that since he had some spare time that he would count down his five favorite heists. What does it take to make the top five? Well, believe it or not there is a scale. All the heists I researched are rated on three categories: Creativity, Loot, and Riskiness. I will then give an "Overall" rating that isn't an average. AN IMPORTANT NOTE: I don't support any illegal acts, especially these. So here goes nothing.

Creativity points.
Creativity points.

Number 5: Indian Kingpin rents out restaurant to rob bank

The date: December 30, 2007

The victim: South Malabar Gramin Bank

The loot: 80 million Rupees (1.8 million dollars) in gold & cash

The mastermind: Joseph Babu

How did a team of four robbers, three men and one woman, elude police for a year after a high profile heist? False leads, a clever cover up, and tightly sealed lips.


Rent out the restaurant below the 2nd story South Malabar Gramin Bank for a total cost of 50,000 Rupees. The team bought construction equipment to cover up both the noise of their cutting machines and to smuggle things in and out during any hours of the day. Also, they furnished the restaurant with new furniture to be more convincing. They determined the location of the safe room and cut a hole in the ceiling large enough to crawl through and open up all of the locks.

All this happened on a Sunday holiday and no one noticed until the following day.


Not easily. The police of Kerala (the city where the bank is located) had to work hard to catch them. The robbers even left a kilo of gold in a hotel room in Hyderabad, not to mention make fake phone calls from other cities in order to mislead the investigation.

It turned out that after going through approximately 2 million phone calls the night of the robbery that they were able to find out the identity of the perpetrators and the location of Joseph Babu's house (the leader of the operation). After the arrests were made everyone confessed and a large majority of the money was recovered.


The entire heist was based off of a Bollywood film, Dhoom.

South Malabar Gramin Heist

Overall (not an average)

Number 4: Online chess master robs bank without anyone noticing

The date: Oct. 25, 1978

The victim: Security Pacific National Bank

The loot: $10.2 million dollars

The mastermind: Stanley Rifkin

Dubbed by Time Magazine as the "Ultimate Heist", Stanley Rifkin stole 10.2 million from Security Pacific National Bank. How did the bank find out about the heist? Well, the FBI notified them 8 days later.


Security Pacific National Bank was not short on security. Numerous guards and hidden cameras were all apart of their anti-theft arsenal. Yet all the security measures in the world failed to keep out an expert chess player and smooth talker, Stanley Rifkin.

The first step for Stanley was to organize a high profile diamond deal with Lon Stein, a reputable dealer in Los Angelos on Oct. 26, the day after the robbery. He then, on Oct. 25th, gained access to an unmarked elevator and descended onto the floor of the wire transfer room. How was he able to do this? He worked for a company hired to develop a backup system for the wire transfer room. Stanley talked his way in, allowing himself access to daily security codes. Later that day, posing as a representative of the Bank's International division, he used those codes to transfer 10.2 million to an account at the Irving Trust Company of New York. He then withdrew the cash without a problem.

The next day he used the $10.2 million to buy $8.1 million worth of diamonds (that totaled 43,200 carats) from a Soviet Union dealer that Stein had set him up with.


Selling the diamonds. Stanley was only able to sell $12,000 worth before a former associate that Stanley tried to work with tipped off the FBI on him. Stanley ran, however was soon caught at a friends house seeking refuge for the weekend. He's looking at 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.


The bank will probably make money off of selling the diamonds, because the diamonds are worth $5 million more than what was stolen. Also, the excess money that was not used to purchase the diamonds was returned.

Security Pacific Heist

Overall (not an average)

Number 3: Playboy is responsible for 2nd Largest Heist Ever

The date: July 12, 1987

The victim: Knightsbridge Security Deposit

The loot: 60 million Euros ($174 million after inflation and exchange rate)

The mastermind: Valerio Viccei


A classic bank robbery. Valerio and an accomplice asked to see the safety deposit room (after requesting to rent one). They then quickly held up and tied up the manager and security guards with him. They posted a sign on the door that the room was temporarily unavailable, and then let in more accomplices and started looting the boxes. About an hour after the thieves left, the guard shift changed and the scene was discovered.


Valerio was caught after many years in an attempt to come back and retrieve his Ferrari. After tedious study and surveillance, many of the accomplices were apprehended during a coordinated raid on August 12, 1987 (exactly one month after the robbery). Valerio fled to South America. When he returned, he was apprehended in a coordinated arrest by the police and sentenced to 22 years in jail. After he was deported to Italy to serve the remainder of his sentence, he was killed in a gunfight with police on his day break.


He robbed for the "pure rush" of doing it, which was "better than sex". Not to mention in order to finance his lust for women and cocaine. He had already been responsible for 50 armed robberies in his home country, Italy.

Knightsbridge Security Deposit Raid

Overall (not an average)

Number 2: The largest value art theft in history

The date: March 18, 1990

The victim: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The loot: 13 works of art, valued at $300-500 million, including two Rembrandt's.

The mastermind: We don't know


Two men, both disguised as Boston police officers, sneaked into Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum during the early morning hours of March 18th. They immediately gagged two guards and handcuffed them. They then spent their sweet time from about 1:30 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. searching for what paintings that they wanted to steal. In the end, they removed an estimated $300-$500 million worth of art.


20 years later, renewed efforts to catch the thieves have been made. The FBI re-ran DNA tests on the frames. The U.S. attorney's office is offering immunity to whomever returns the pieces. Billboards are offering $5 million to information leading to the recovery of the works. Also, monetary transactions with these pieces probably are easy to track. It is hard to look for a buyer without tipping someone off.


The thieves passed up much, much more expensive paintings than the ones they took. However, they did manage to steal the currently the world's most valuable stolen painting, Vermeer's "The Concert," worth only about $250 million.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft

Overall (not an average)

Numero Uno: Professional thief burrows into Nice bank in France

The date: July 16, 1976

The victim: Nice Bank

The loot: $50,000,000-60,000,000 Franc ($24 million Euro)

The mastermind: Either Jacques Cassandri or Albert Spaggiari (both men claim that they were the leader)


Either Cassandri or Spaggiari learned of the sewer system that traveled close under the vault of Nice Bank. "Close" being a relative term. It took them two months to burrow through the sewer system and into the vault. Then they used a loud alarm clock to test whether or not the bank had a sound-sensitive alarm. They then spent either the entire day or the next six days (different accounts) looting the safety deposit boxes and vault. I guess that they were confident that they were alone. After welding the vault door shut from the inside, they ate a picnic lunch on the inside and scribbled sans armes, ni haine, ni violence ("without weapons, nor hatred, nor violence") on the wall of the vault.


Spaggiari was caught because one of the accomplice's ex-girlfriends tipped the police. The accomplice then turned in Spaggiari after intense questioning. Spaggiari said that he copied the idea of using a sewer system from a novel. Cassandri, 68, very recently was apprehended because he wrote a book about his part in the role of the heist (claiming to be the leader). He thought he was safe because it was too far in the past to be tried by French law for the robbery. However, unfortunately for him, he still could be prosecuted because he allegedly financed businesses with the stolen money.

THE IRONIC TWIST: Spaggiari never served jail time, he spent his life on the run after he jumped out of a courtroom 20 feet onto a car, then sped away on a motorcycle with an accomplice. He also was said to be Jack Sparrow's hero.[citation needed].

Nice Bank Robbery

Overall (not an average)

Nearly made the Top 5

Some of you might be surprised the two recent Baghdad heists, the Northern Bank robbery, or the three 1997 armored car robberies didn't make the list. They were all very close, you can trust me on that one.


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    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      OK - been on the road a week, but I've got to come back to this one!

    • fpherj48 profile image


      4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Blake.....Excellent! Reading about these heists was more interesting and exciting than watching a Mystery Movie!.....This is all new info to me. The all-out nerve of people just blows me away. In a million years, I would never expect to pull something like that off!.....Up+++ shared, pinned, tweeted & googled.

    • cydro profile imageAUTHOR

      Blake Atkinson 

      8 years ago from Kentucky

      I'm glad you enjoyed it! And yes, that was one of the few that I found where the robbers weren't nabbed in the end. Its very disturbing that we couldn't track such important pieces of art.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Voted up for being so interesting. And I love how you included the ironic twist. I read a book about the Gardner museum heist and it was as fascinating as it was heart breaking. The museum left empty spaces where the paintings were, which I think underscores the devastation and loss to the public.


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