Ever since there have been banks, there have been bank robbers. These thieves don’t want to get caught, of course, and some try to hide their identity with traditional means ranging from bandannas to hats and sunglasses to ski-masks or nylons pulled over the head to obscure their features.
Some criminals, however, prove more creative than others. While a few turn to increasingly high-tech means of disguise, others use their imagination–with varying degrees of success.
Here are six ridiculous costumes used in robberies.
1. Not just for the movies
Conrad Zdzierak, a spiky-haired white guy from Florida, was arrested in Ohio last year and pled guilty to one count of aggravated robbery and five counts of robbery. This would be fairly unremarkable, except that Zdzierak had so successfully disguised himself as a bald black guy that the police initially arrested and charged the wrong man for the crimes.
Zdzierak purchased his mask, a model called “The Player,” from a company that makes expensive, custom-made silicon disguises for Hollywood films. The thief also covered his arms and hands with make-up and wore sunglasses to shield his blue eyes. The get-up was so believable that six of seven bank tellers identified an African-American man as the thief in a photo line-up.
The man the tellers identified was arrested and remained in jail until the real thief’s girlfriend found money and the mask in his hotel room, and alerted the police.
A man in a Darth Vader mask and cape robbed a Long Island bank in July of last year. He brandished a gun rather than a light saber, and got away with an undisclosed amount of money.
Two months later, perhaps inspired by the escapade, another guy with a Darth mask and a butcher knife held up convenience store in Ferndale, Michigan. This bandit apparently overestimated the power of the Dark Side, however, since he didn’t put his mask on until after entering the store. The next day, police arrested the wannabe Sith lord at his home after he was identified based on security camera footage.
3. Hail Mary heist
In Ben Affleck’s 2010 heist movie “The Town,” a gang of bank robbers wear nun masks to disguise their identities. At least a couple of criminal types were inspired by this, it seems; two armed robbers in nun masks robbed a bank in Palos Heights, Illinois earlier this year.
The thieves, one male and one female, wore rubber nun masks and traditional nuns’ habits, carried a duffel bag, and were armed with handguns. No one was hurt, but the two got away with an undisclosed amount of cash.
4. Go with the pro
Thieves in Great Britain’s largest jewelry heist spared no expense when they needed to disguise their identities. The savvy criminal duo employed a professional make-up artist to completely change their looks, hair color, and skin tone using rubber masks and liquid latex.
The pro charged £450 (about $700) for the four-hour make up session, which he thought was for a music video, apparently not becoming suspicious even when one of the men joked that his own mother “wouldn’t recognize” him. Since the men got away with jewelry valued at around $65 million, they likely considered the make-up artist’s fee money well spent–until they were caught after leaving a pay-as-you-go mobile phone in their abandoned getaway car.
5. You say gorilla, I say guerilla
Just last week, a group of armed robbers held up a gas station in Walnut Creek, California. The gang of six disguised themselves with masks and hoods, and at least two of the thieves were in full Halloween regalia — one as a skeleton and another as a gorilla (or possibly a guerilla; initial news stories have some disagreement on this point).
The group got away with a small amount of money, two large bottles of 7Up, and several packs of condoms.
6. Hail to the Chief
In March 2011, Austrian police arrested a 45-year-old German man suspected of carrying out seven bank robberies since 2008, all while wearing an Obama mask. A police dog found a bag containing the mask, a weapon, and cash, which led police to the suspect.