First the Craigslist Caper. According to the Good Morning Silicon Valley Blog:
As a rule, most criminals are not particularly bright, a fact that gives law enforcement a fighting chance against lousy odds. But once in a while you see a little flash of cleverness that has to be abstractly appreciated despite the way that it was employed. Taking inspiration from similar ploys seen in the movies and adding a Web 2.0 twist, an armored-car robber in Monroe, Wash., escaped Tuesday [30 Sep 2008] with the unwitting help of a dozen or so decoys responding to a Craigslist job ad.
According to reports, the suspect — wearing a yellow vest, safety goggles, a blue shirt, and a respirator mask — approached the truck in a Bank of America parking lot, gave the guard a face full of pepper spray, grabbed the cash bag, sprinted about 100 yards to a creek, hopped into a waiting inner tube and floated off to freedom. The getaway vehicle was later found about 200 yards downstream, sans passenger. At the bank, meanwhile, there was no shortage of people matching the robber’s description. A dozen or so men dressed in identical gear were wandering around wondering if their potential employer had stood them up. Each had responded to a Craigslist ad purportedly seeking to hire road maintenance workers for $28.50 an hour, and each had gotten e-mail instructions to show up at 11 a.m. Tuesday near the bank wearing certain work clothing — "yellow vest, safety goggles, a respirator mask … and, if possible, a blue shirt," said one. The FBI is on the case, hoping the offender was less clever in covering his digital tracks.
The robber shed his clothes as he ran toward the creek and was counting on the dozen unsuspecting men he recruited to act as decoys. Certainly if anything went wrong he could have mingled among the similarly dressed fellows and how would the police have sorted out who the real criminal was then?
Meanwhile an APB is out for the suspect who is described as a white man in his 20s, between 5-foot-7 and 5-foot-10, wearing a dark blue shirt, jean shorts and a mask. That helps. [See Update below]
Not far away in Olympia, Washington on 15 Apr 2004 Charles Everett Coma, 38, robbed a bank and planned an underwater getaway but was tackled by police before he was able to enter the water. At the time he was carrying a backpack with the money and scuba tanks and was wearing a wetsuit under his clothes. Unfortunately for him, he had no decoys to keep the cops off his trail.
In the early 1980s I met Woody W. a career criminal who also employed an unusual technique for misdirecting law enforcement: he would enter posh apartment buildings in New York City dressed like a macaroni, sporting a Daliesque mustache painted purple, and carrying an equally purple-dyed poodle. He would break into pre-selected apartments and empty them of jewelery and cash.
When the police questioned doormen, apartment building staff, or other possible witnesses the only description they got was that the perpetrator had a ridiculous purple moustache and an equally absurdly-colored poodle. No one could recall what he really looked like. Their focus had been misdirected entirely to purple decoys, as it were.
He did this for a number of burglaries and stopped before the word got around to enough apartment building managers to look out for the purple poodle bandit. Today of course, with the Internet, within a matter of hours, almost everyone in New York would be on the lookout for him.
He eventually ended up at the Federal Correctional Facility in Danbury in 1984 and in the 1990s after he was released was selling printing ribbons and stationery supplies by phone.
MONROE -- FBI agents tailing a Lake Stevens man suspected of holding up an armored truck and using an inner tube to escape with the loot couldn’t believe their luck when the man dropped a Gatorade bottle full of saliva and chewed tobacco into a garbage can at a gas station early last month.
Investigators were following the man in hopes of getting genetic evidence to compare to the DNA recovered at the scene of the Sept. 30 heist.
“Who would have guessed he’d be spitting in a bottle and drop it into a garbage can,” Monroe police spokeswoman Debbie Willis said.
Monroe detectives and the FBI arrested Anthony Curcio, 28, Monday in the parking lot of the Lake Stevens Target. He was allegedly transferring a small safe from one vehicle to another. Police also say Curcio had a large amount of money on him. They believe the money may be part of the loot.