Hawai‘i’s Most Infamous Crime: The Great Spam HeistApril 14, 2019, 9:00 AM HST (Updated April 12, 2019, 12:35 PM)
Speaking to Hawaiʻi’s love affair with canned mystery meat, a new report by ASecureLife outlining the greatest scandals in every U.S. state has named Hawaiʻi’s most infamous heist to be a series of Spam thefts.
In 2017, Spam cases began disappearing from shelves in multiple stores across Hawaiʻi. While some culprits were caught in the act, others made a clean getaway. The thefts prompted many stores to put the canned meat—which runs about $2.50 per can—under lock and key with merchandise like electronics.
While Spam’s popularity in Hawaiʻi is no secret to residents, the motivation behind these unusual thefts didn’t appear to stem from hunger or canned meat hysteria. In fact, retailers believe the thefts were part of a Spam black market, likely run by drug addicts looking to make a quick buck.
Regardless of their motivations, the mystery meat thefts have gone down in infamy among the most outrageous U.S. heists—an appropriate homage to Hawaiʻi’s love affair with canned Spam.
Alabama: Montgomery Civic Center robbery
In 1982, two men robbed a coin show at the Montgomery Civic Center in Alabama, making away with $3.5 million in precious metals and rare coins.
Alaska: Seward bank robbery
Three men—later described by witnesses as “hippie types”—robbed Seward, Alaska’s only bank of somewhere between $100,000 and $170,000 in 1971.
Arizona: First National Bank of Arizona robbery
People will do strange things—like don Halloween masks and wear stockings over their faces—for a bit of cash. In this case, about $3.3 million. At least, that’s what four gunmen did in 1981 when they robbed the First National Bank of Arizona.
Arkansas: Little Rock gem heist
In 2015, seven Oklahomans came over to Little Rock to literally steal some little rocks. The thieves made off with $300,000 in jewelry in just a few minutes.
California: United California Bank heist
In an effort to redefine “family time,” one man banded together with his nephews, his brother-in-law, his brother, and two alarm experts to steal $30 million (about $183 million today) from the United California Bank in 1972.
Colorado: Butch Cassidy’s first bank robbery
The infamous Butch Cassidy committed his very first bank robbery in 1889 at the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride, to the tune of $20,000 (a little over half a million dollars today). He would later be played in an acclaimed film by the man who also appears on your favorite salad dressing bottle.
Connecticut: Águila Blanca (“White Eagle”) heist
A guerrilla group named Los Macheteros—likely inspired by Robin Hood—stole $7 million from Wells Fargo in West Hartford, Connecticut, in 1983. The group later claimed that they gave the money to Puerto Rican communities for education, housing, food, and more.
Delaware: Stuart Kingston jewelry heist
In what the media delightfully calls the ol’ “smash-and-grab,” five men stole $4.4 million worth of gold, diamonds, and other gems from Stuart Kingston Galleries in 2011.
Washington, DC: The cell phone bandit
Imagine being given such an unimaginative moniker as the “cell phone bandit.” One college student doesn’t have to: in 2006, Candice Rose Martinez committed four bank robberies—netting a total of $48,620—all while calmly talking to her boyfriend-slash-getaway-driver on the phone.
Florida: Loomis Fargo robbery
In 1997, Philip Noel Johnson, who worked as an armored car driver for Loomis Fargo, took it upon himself to rob his own place of employment of $18.8 million.
Georgia: Ramen noodles heist
In what was surely one of the most delicious heists ever, thieves stole about $100,000 worth of ramen—or about 300,000 packages—from a tractor trailer in 2018.
Hawaiʻi: A series of Spam heists
In arguably less delicious news (depending on who you ask), Spam was stolen in various quantities across multiple stores in Hawaiʻi in 2017. Stores were forced to put the mystery meat behind plastic cases, making it as difficult to purchase as fancy razor refills and cough medicine that barely works.
Idaho: Bank of Montpelier robbery
After having a few drinks with his crew at the local saloon, Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch robbed the Bank of Montpelier of somewhere between $7,000 and $16,000—plus $30,000 in gold coins—between 1896. You know, just your usual cute, criminal outing with a couple of friends.
Illinois: Magic Vault heist at First National Bank
In 1977, $1 million disappeared from Chicago’s First National Bank without a trace. It turned out to be the perfect crime too: the money was never found, and no culprit was ever charged.
Indiana: The burglary and murder of heiress Marjorie Jackson
In 1977, two men stole over $3 million in cash from Marjorie Jackson and shot her when she confronted them. Jackson, a grocery store heiress, had stashed an estimated $15 million throughout her home after her husband’s death.
Iowa: First National Bank Heist
Kansas: Vinca Jewelry heist
In 2010, burglars stole about a million dollars in valuables from Vinca Jewelry and were never caught. Even a retired FBI agent admitted it was basically the perfect crime.
Kentucky: Transy Book Heist
In 2004, four college kids stole rare books valued up to $5 million from the Special Collections Library at Transylvania University in Lexington. The thieves were celebrated with jail time—and eventually a film version of their exploits.
Louisiana: Helicopter bank robbery at Merchants and Farmers Bank
In 1984, five men stole a helicopter, got greedy, and then used the helicopter to steal $163,000 (a little over $400,000 today) from a small bank in Louisiana.
Maine: Mars Hill bank robbery
Bernard Patterson threw a red wig on his head and a toy gun on his hip to rob the Northern National Bank in Mars Hill of $177,000 (over a million dollars today). Apparently the teller recognized Patterson in the 1971 robbery, but he still managed to escape.
Maryland: Instagram theft ring
Three women from Baltimore started a theft ring where they stole $100,000 worth of clothing from shops like Victoria’s Secret and Dick’s Sporting and sold them for profit on Instagram in 2017.
Massachusetts: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft
Two men dressed as police stole 13 objects—including paintings from Degas, Rembrandt, and Vermeer—from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, worth a combined total of $500 million in 1990. The case remains unsolved, though a new podcast has renewed public interest.
Michigan: Point Break robbery
In 1991, inspired by watching the impeccable movie Point Break, four men robbed the only bank in Saugatuck, Michigan, wearing masks of former United States presidents. They made off with more than $350,000 ($658,000 today).
Minnesota: Dorothy’s slippers
We’re not in Kansas anymore. We’re actually in Minnesota, where Dorothy’s famous red slippers—valued between $2 million and $3 million—were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in 2005.
Mississippi: Machine Gun Kelly’s Tupelo bank heist
The original Prohibition-era George “Machine Gun” Kelly robbed Citizens State Bank in Tupelo of $38,000 ($654,000 today) in 1932.
Missouri: St. Louis Bank Robbery
In 1930, thieves stole over $1 million ($14.6 million today) in cash and jewelry from Grand National Bank as it prepared to relocate to a new building. Grand National never recovered, closing its doors permanently in 1933.
Montana: Billings gun heist
Two men stole a bunch of guns—113 pistols, 20 rifles, and three shotguns, to be exact—from a freight trucking facility in Billings in 2010.
Nebraska: The AK-47 Bandit
Richard Gathercole stole more than $90,000 from a bank in Nebraska City in 2014, sporting the understated look of a balaclava paired with an AK-47—hence the moniker.
Nevada: The Bellagio bandit
In 2010, Tony Carleo stole nearly $1.5 million in chips from the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. He then used those chips to gamble at the Bellagio, lose a lot of his stolen money at the Bellagio, and get caught… at the Bellagio.
New Hampshire: A missing vacation home
A New Hampshire couple travelled to their vacation home for some well deserved R&R, just to find that their 10-by-20-foot home was, well, missing.
New Jersey: Scotch heist
In 2017, four men banded together for a mighty adventure: to steal high-end booze from a liquor store in New Jersey. The thieves made off with four bottles of scotch worth a combined value of $52,000.
New Mexico: The worst diamond heist ever
In 2014, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque was robbed of an uncut diamond that had more scientific value than monetary value—it was worth only an estimated $8,500. Understandably, the stone was recovered and returned to the museum the next day.
New York: Lufthansa heist
In 1978, several men stole $5 million in cash and $875,000 in jewels (worth a total of $21.6 million today) from the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. The heist later inspired a few films, including Goodfellas.
North Carolina: Loomis Fargo heist
In 1997, a Loomis Fargo vault supervisor and his accomplices stole $17.3 million in cash (nearly $25.9 million today) in Charlotte, North Carolina.
North Dakota: $400,000 six-state Walmart theft ring
A multistate electronics theft ring raked in nearly $400,000 worth of merchandise across Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota in 2017 and 2018. To be fair though, the thieves managed to steal roughly 48 cell phones without anyone noticing.
Ohio: United California bank robbery
In 1972, a couple of Ohioan burglars heard tell that President Nixon had a slush fund in a California bank. Naturally, the group took it upon themselves to fly to California, saw through the ceiling of the United California bank, and steal $8 million. Turns out the money wasn’t even Nixon’s.
Oklahoma: Hoover gang robbery of Tulsa Municipal Employees Federal Credit Union
In 2011, several members of the Hoover Crip gang committed a string of violent robberies, including a hit at the Tulsa Municipal Employees Federal Credit Union, where they stole about $170,000.
Oregon: D.B. Cooper
D.B. Cooper infamously hijacked a plane traveling from Portland to Seattle, extorted about $200,000 ($1.2 million today), and then parachuted away with his ransom money in 1971. Did he survive? Nobody knows!
Pennsylvania: Collar Bomb heist
In 2003, Brian Wells, a pizza delivery driver, walked into a bank and delivered a note to the teller, instructing him to hand over $250,000. Wells then lifted his shirt to expose a collar bomb around his neck and chest—and it gets stranger.
Rhode Island: Bonded Vault Co. heist
In 1975, eight men stole $3 million ($14.5 million today) from the Bonded Vault Company in Providence, a safe-deposit business that doubled as a secret bank for a local crime family.
South Carolina: Darlington County armored car heist
In 2007, five men stole $9.8 million from an armored car service. They immediately spent their earnings on the finer things in life: tattoos, visits to strip clubs, and Mother’s Day gifts.
South Dakota: Dillinger Gang bank robbery
Dillinger strikes again. This time, joined by the fantastically named Baby Face Nelson, the gangster got away with $46,000after holding up the Security National Bank in Downtown Sioux Falls in 1934.
Tennessee: Wells Fargo Thanksgiving holdup
In the biggest robbery in Memphis history, two men stole $6.5 million from a Wells Fargo on Thanksgiving Day, 1983. In a festive and misguided touch, the men wore Mardi Gras masks during the robbery.
Texas: Theresa Roemer’s Closet
Theresa Roemer, a woman famous for having a 3,000-square-foot, three-story closet, had her closet burgled of $1 millionin jewelry, watches, and handbags in 2014.
Utah: Copper Heist
Thieves stole more than six miles of copper wire from the median of Interstate 15 in Salt Lake City in 2013. The copper was worth between $5,200 and $9,000.
Vermont: Berkshire armored car heist
A lone gunman robbed an armored car of $1.9 million in 2002 in Rutland, Vermont. To date, it’s the biggest robbery in Vermont’s history.
Virginia: Falls Church jewelry heist
A group of thieves grabbed about $200,000 in cash and jewelry from a store in Falls Church, Virginia, in 2017.
Washington: Trench Coat Robbers
Straight out of a zany heist film, two men in trench coats stole 355 pounds of cash from Seafirst Bank in 1997. Their total damage? A cool $4.46 million.
West Virginia: Central Station train robbery
In 1915, three men held up a train, robbing it of more than $100,000 ($2.4 million today) in unsigned bank notes.
Wisconsin: A series of cheese heists
This one wins for tastiest heist ever. Cheese thieves with very refined palates stole $160,000 worth of cheese between two different robberies in 2016.
Wyoming: Wilcox train robbery
In 1899, two men wearing masks forced the train crew of a Union Pacific train to separate the locomotive from the carriages and later blew open the safes on the train. They made away with an estimated $50,000, or about $7 million today.