America’s Dumbest Criminals

The dumbest criminals in America. Read about the dumbest of the dumb law breakers.

By William Beaman from Reader's Digest | September 2005

Who knew that shoplifting could be a perfect Kodak moment? A thief and his sidekick seemed pretty savvy when they entered a Long Island Wal-Mart and swept the shelves of $2,000 worth of digital cameras. A store worker found only an abandoned shopping cart filled with empty camera boxes.

Meanwhile, the store’s surveillance tape looked like it was going to be useless: The video showed the suspects, a man and a woman, but the images were far too grainy to identify them.

Then security officials noticed that, at one point, the tape showed the woman picked up a demonstration camera that was chained to a counter, and pointed it at her partner. No, she couldn’t have … Yes, she did.

The store’s manager called over to the Wal-Mart photo center and asked about the camera. The guy operating the photo center, Brian Mikucki, said they were in luck: The camera had batteries and a disc. What’s more, it was hooked up to a printer. All they had to do was press the print button to see exactly what the picture on the disc looked like.

Out popped a clear color image of a balding man with a mustache, looking straight at the camera. The police couldn’t ask for a better mug shot.

Shortly after the robbery, Suffolk Police Detective Sgt. Paul Dodorico said he thought the couple “will be kind of surprised. I’m sure they thought there was nothing in the camera.”

No sooner did police go public with the photograph than calls poured in to a tip line, identifying the man as 36-year-old James Stissi. Less than three weeks later, detectives arrested Stissi at his home and charged him with grand larceny.

And Your Previous Jobs?
It may be tough for Alejendro Martinez to clear himself of charges that he robbed a Las Vegas pizza parlor after allegedly leaving behind a crucial piece of evidence.

According to prosecutors, the 23-year-old Martinez entered the parlor, ordered a pie and requested a job application. “The cashier immediately gave him an application and a pen, so he started filling it out,” said Clark County prosecutor Frank Coumou. “Then, when he thought the moment was right, he lifted his shirt, exposed the butt of a firearm, and told her to give him all of the money.”

After stuffing over $200 in his pocket, Martinez hustled out to a waiting car, authorities say. But a witness followed the gunman and jotted down the license plate. An easy trace of that number led police to Martinez, whom they found sitting at home.

None of that has made it easy for the public defender who has taken on the case. But the evidence left behind could make his job nearly impossible. When police returned to the pizza parlor after the arrest, they found Martinez’s job application still on the counter. He had dutifully written down on it his real name and address.
“I’d chalk it up to either inexperience or plain stupidity,” said prosecutor Coumou. Martinez has pleaded not guilty and his case is now pending in district court.

Copy This and No One Gets Hurt
Nothing looked too suspicious about Paul Callahan except maybe the gardening gloves he was wearing — as he slipped into a building on Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue. The 32-year-old Callahan was on a mission to rob a bank, and he’d found his target. Striding past a row of Fleet Bank ATMs, he went through a glass door and walked up to a clerk standing behind a counter. Without saying a word, Callahan handed him a newspaper. Tucked inside was a note demanding cash.

The clerk read the note, looked puzzled, and conferred briefly with another clerk. Then he turned back to Callahan: “Do you know you are in a copy store, and all we can give you is copies?”

Oops. It turned out that Callahan had opened a door marked “Image X-Press.”

Undeterred, he said he was looking for a Fleet Bank and asked if one was close by. The copy store employees said they weren’t sure and, once Callahan left, immediately called police.

Shortly after, a Fleet Bank in another part of town was held up by a man with, you guessed it, a note concealed inside a newspaper.

It took until the next day, but Boston police nabbed Callahan at a gas station. That morning he had hit another bank, taking some $2,500, but things still weren’t going right. The hapless robber was in the station because his getaway truck had a flat
tire. And how did this attract the attention of police? Callahan had called 911 for help.

Got Change for a W?
Even the police had to smile at this one. It was a case of passing counterfeit money that brought cops in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, to a local supermarket. There they got a look at the bogus bill. Was it a bad likeness of Jefferson on the $20, or maybe of Grant on the $50? Nope. It was a fairly sharp Presidential likeness, actually — of George W. Bush on a $200 bill. On the back of the note, police found an image of the White House, with its South Lawn cluttered with signs reading “We like broccoli” and “USA deserves a tax cut.”

Pretty goofy to think you could get away with that as payment for groceries, right? Well, this is a case of dumb and dumber. The supermarket cashier actually accepted the phony bill, and gave the customer his groceries along with $50 in change. Apprehended 12 days later, the man with the funny money was ordered to pay back the store — in real bills, thank you — and then released.

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