Top 10 Thieves that became Famous

1 2

Stealing is a crime.  It can’t be excused if you are in a museum and you decide that a certain painting would look better in your house, and you simply grab the painting and take it there. However, society may excuse it if you are extremely hungry and you don’t know any way of earning money, so you grab the painting, take it to your house, and eat it. Here’s a list of some of the thieves who not only managed to steal valuables but also became famous or rather infamous for their crimes.

1. Frank William Abagnale Jr. – April 27, 1948


Frank Abagnale, now an American security consultant, is known for his history as a former confidence trickster, check forger, and impostor. He is one of the most famous imposter in the world having assumed more than eight identities including airline pilot, a doctor, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons agent and a lawyer. He managed to escape from police custody twice before he was 21 years old. After he was finally caught, he served in prison less than five years of his twelve years prison sentence and then was recruited to work for the Federal Government. He is currently a consultant and lecturer for the FBI academy and field offices. He also runs Abagnale & Associates, a financial fraud consultancy company. Abagnale is the inspiration behind Leonardo Di Caprio’s famous character in the movie “Catch me if you can.”

While the primary motive of these thieves was to steal, they were made popular by film-makers and story tellers who were attracted towards their extraordinary habits and activities. If not in their lifetime, they were made immortal after their death.

2. Natwarlal – 1912-2009


Mithilesh Kumar Srivastava, better known as Natwarlal, was the noted conman who was accused of stealing and cheating people with lakhs of money. He is best known for having sold the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort, and the Rashtrapati Bhavan and also the Parliament House of India along with its 545 sitting members. “Mr. Natwarlal” starring Amitabh Bachchan which was released in the year 1979 was inspired and named after him. He was a lawyer turned conman. He was arrested several times but each time, he conned the Police and vanished. He was wanted by 8 states police and was sentenced to 113 years in prison. However, he managed to escape everytime he was caught. He was last seen on 24th June, 1996, when he was being transported from a prison to hospital for treatment. He vanished near the Delhi Railway station. He was 84 years old at that time. His brother said he died in 1996 but his lawyer maintains that he died in 2009. So, the actual date of death is uncertain. People in his native village Bangra in Bihar hail him as the Robin Hood and have also erected monument in his memory. He still remains a living legend in India.

3. Veerapan – 18TH January 1952 – 18TH October 2004


Veerapan was an Indian bandit who ran amok in the southern forests for almost more than two decades before finally being caught and killed in 2004. He was wanted for poaching about 200 elephants and smuggling ivory worth US$2,600,000 and about 10,000 tons of sandalwood worth approximately US$22,000,000. In 1987, he murdered a forest officer named Chidambaram from Tamil Nadu. This was the first time he attracted attention of the Indian Government. He, later, went on to kill many eminent personalities including IPS officers, ministers and ever civilians. He never hesitated to kill anyone whom he thought to be a hindrance to his lucrative business of poaching and smuggling ivory. Even though his activities were notorious and he had become a widely recognized figure in India, he managed to evade arrest for 20 years. On 18 October 2004, Veerappan and two of his associates were killed by the Tamil Nadu Special Task Force headed by K. Vijay Kumar. Many books have been written on his life and a number of movies have been made on him.

4. Jesse Woodson James – 5TH September, 1847 – 3RD April, 1882


Jesse James was an American outlaw, bank robber, train robber and gang leader. Jesse James and his brother Frank were Confederate guerrillas during civil war who later turned to bank robbery, and train robbery. In 1869, the brothers shot an unarmed cashier. They then made a daring escape through the midst of a team sent to capture them and later declared that “they would never be taken alive.” This was the first time that the newspapers mentioned Jesse James and he loved the attention. Soon he began tailoring his robberies to attract as much of it as possible, even leaving press releases behind. Jesse began constructing a myth of himself as a heroic Southern fighter, a noble Robin Hood who helped poor Missourians crushed under the weight of Republican outrages and he started considering himself a bold robber and compared himself to Alexander the Great, Julius Ceaser and Napoleon Bonaparte. He later married his own cousin Zee but he was still restless. He tried his hands on various money making schemes including buying horse races but he never grew tired of the spotlight. In 1882, he was killed by his own gang member. After James’s death, the James Gang became the subject of dime novels that represented the bandits as pre-industrial models of resistance. There are various museums and sites devoted to Jesse James. The Defeat of Jesse James Days in Northfield, Minnesota, is among the largest outdoor celebrations in the state and is held annually in September during the weekend after Labor Day. He has a lot of comics, music, stage plays, television shows and films dedicated to him.

5. Bill Mason – 1940


Bill Mason is an American jewel thief who has confessed in his autobiography “Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief” that he has stolen $35,000,000 in property from the private residences of Phyllis Diller, Johnny Weissmuller and Armand Hammer. He would climb high rise apartments of celebrities in Florida at night and steal jewelry. He would do a thorough research before the actual event including the risk of security system that could get him caught. He once stole an Olympic Gold Medal belonging to Johnny Weissmuller, though he mailed it back to Weissmuller months after the theft, claiming guilty consciousness haunting him because of stealing something with such sentimental value. In 2010, Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief was optioned by Anthony Mastromauro of Identity Films.

1 2

About The Author