Is there such thing as "all star professional heist crews" in real life?

This list of examples in film is endless: Baby Driver, The Town, Oceans Eleven, Heat, The Usual Suspects, Reservoir Dogs, Point Break, The Italian Job, all the Fast & Furious films. So on and so forth.

Basically, the premise is you have this crew of criminals pulling off bank heists. Their legendary status in the criminal underworld is almost matched by their ability to evade law enforcement. They are cool, stylish, well-funded, often well armed. Their MO may range from violent smash and grabs in matching masks and automatic weapons to elaborate plans so complex, you aren’t even sure they were ever there.

Often they may employ a “wheel man” (often an independent) with an almost supernatural command of his vehicle.
Does this have any basis in real life? Sure, you had Bonney & Clyde and various outlaw bands from the Old West and Prohibition eras. You had a few one-offs like D.B. Cooper that were never solved. But in modern times, with helicopters, cameras, forensics, DNA, has there ever been such a thing as a “hot shot crew” running sophisticated serial heists who evaded law enforcement for a significant amount of time?

Depends on what you call “significant”.

These guys got away with 53 robberies over two years in the mid-Nineties, getting caught because they put out a rap CD which described one of the robberies.

I recall hearing about an ex-cop and some of his relatives pulling a long string of bank robberies; the ex-cop got caught through his unique shooting stance and forensic evidence of his checkered coat. They also started getting sloppy, using their own vehicles instead of stolen ones.

ISTR another group of bank robbers some 20 years ago, IIRC headed by a real estate agent. Like the ex-cop and his relatives, they got sloppy and started using their own vehicles.

I know the ex-cop’s crew was profiled in an episode of “Forensic Files”, being an early case of forensic textile evidence; pretty sure the third one was on “Forensic Files” as well.

A professional criminal is going to want maximum reward for minimum risk–but serial bank robberies are maximum risk. So professional criminals are going to prefer drugs, fraud and similar activities.

How quickly they forget. . . .

From last year:

In 2003, a gang pulled off a truly “movie-esque” robbery.

The Pink Panthers, a Serbian syndicate of jewel thieves, probably qualify:

Some proper action/heist movie stuff here:

It’s fair to note that there have been several arrests of group members; it is also true that many of these have escaped from prison in more or less daring fashion:

Based on the admiring tone of this wiki entry, combined with some of the detailed but uncited claims, you can’t help but feel that at least part of it was written by the Pink Panthers themselves.

I guess the question (in relation to the OP) is whether these heists were a group of guys who decided “Let’s go steal the diamonds” and crafted an excellent plan or if there was some guy saying “Ok, so Joe is a master of disguise, Frank can pick any lock in five seconds, Jane is unmatched in security hacking…” and assembling a Super Crew out of criminal celebrities.

I’ll note, since it was mentioned in the OP, that the crew portrayed in Heat was based on real people.

The podcast Crimetown about the mafia in Providence, Rhode Island had an interview with a Mafia connected burglar who ran a crew like that- alarm guy, driver, plasma cutter guy, etc. They did quite well for themselves for a while, but in an act of hilarious incompetence, when he realized he was being watched from a nearby apartment, he called his partner, who advised him to discreetly pack up any evidence and dispose of it. Apparently he never considered that if the cops suspected him enough to set up a stakeout, the phones would be tapped, too.

The ex-cop’s crew mentioned above was this type. They initially stole cars for their robberies then abandoned them some distance away and avoided capture for so long due to their knowledge of police procedures. None of them expected one to be identified by his unique stance - a combination of an older stance and a newer one - his coat pockets and a hole in a sleeve.

Eh, using your own vehicle might be bad, but it only becomes a real problem if you have the horn customized to play “La Cucuraca”.


The ex-cop’s coat was found because a witness saw his truck in conjunction with a robbery and had the presence of mind to write down the tag number. The coat led investigators to check CCTV footage to see if it’s the same coat and if they could match the coat’s owner to the guy wearing it.

The hole in the wall gang in Nevada maybe counts. They were shown a little bit in the movie ‘casino’. I believe they had a cop working with them too.

But I don’t know if they were internationally talented or not. But they pulled off a lot of big robberies.

I learned about this group from another sdmb thread:

The Brabant gang were a criminal group of three men who committed robberies and murders in the 1980s. Some of the details are rather weird.

Not sure if this qualifies, but thieves just stole the Swedish crown jewels, escaped via boat, and are still at large.

20 years ago, two banks robbers carrying automatic rifles and clad in body armor, possibly inspired by the movie Heat, tried to shoot their way past police in what became known as the North Hollywood shootout. Of course even having outgunned the police at the time, there was never any way the city of Los Angeles would run out of cops before they ran out of bullets.

the gun battle lasted about 45 minutes, an estimated 1600 rounds were fired. 1000 by the robbers and 600 by police. 18 people were injured in addition to the 2 robbers who were killed.

Bill Mason was apparently an all-star jewel thief.

Interesting but doesn’t really fit the OP’s “crew of criminals pulling off heists”.

Right–that was hardly an “all-star” gang. They were just trying to use sheer force, and even then it didn’t work.