Skip to main content

Dimwitted Criminals

I've spent half a century writing for radio and print (mostly print). I hope to still be tapping the keys as I take my last breath.

In general, criminals are more stupid than the average member of the population. The American Law Library summarized “five well-known studies that illustrate the correlation between IQ and crime.” The result is findings that people who engage in criminal activity have an IQ that is 8 to 10 points below average.

Bank Robberies Gone Bad

Slick Willie Sutton spent 40 years robbing American banks because, he is alleged to have said: “That’s where the money is.”

Dean Smith, 27, must have been channelling the late Slick Willie when he entered a branch of Barley’s Bank in the Welsh village of Treorchy. He had earlier cased the bank wearing dark glasses and socks over his shoes (no idea why) and he gave a cashier his full name and address.

Half an hour later, he returned to change his address and demanded the money in the till. The teller refused and Smith fled without any cash. He got a jail sentence of two-and-a-half years.

“But I wore the juice,” bleated McArthur Wheeler to the arresting officers in Pittsburgh. The poor lamb had read on the internet that lemon juice could be used as invisible ink. From that he reasoned that if you covered your face with lemon juice, bank security cameras would not capture an image of you. McArthur Wheeler had a few years in prison to reflect on his faulty logic.

The note slipped to the bank teller is an important part of the lone robber’s tool kit. The Illinois man’s note read “Be Quick Be Quit [he probably meant 'quiet']. Give your cash or I’ll shoot.” He walked out with $400 dollars and left his note behind, which turned out to be a tactical error. He had written his hold-up demand on the back of his pay slip, complete with name and address.

Criminals Caught by Bragging

Rule number one for thieves: Don’t boast about what you’ve stolen. Rule number two for thieves: see rule number one.

Rodney Knight Jr., 19, ignored rules one and two. In 2011, he broke into a house in Washington D.C. While there, he opened a computer, took an image of himself gloating over his ill-gotten gains, and posted it to the internet. A police officer is quoted as saying, “He’s the most stupid criminal I’ve ever seen.” But it’s a crowded field.

“Carl” was the screen name of a hacker who specialized in stealing the credit card information of his victims. His chest swelled with pride about his accomplishments; he went on a French reality television show to demonstrate his “hacktivist” skills. He tooted his horn about hacking into a defence contractor. He wasn’t hard to track down.

Under the Influence

Alcohol fuels crime; too much wobbly pop and decision-making skills tank. reports that in the United States, intoxication is a factor in 15 percent of robberies, 37 percent of sexual assaults, and 27 percent of aggravated assaults.

Scott Vosburgh crashed his car in February 2018. This is not surprising, as the New York state resident had a blood alcohol level three times over the legal limit. He called his sister, Kim Ledoux, to come to the police station to pick him up, but the cops recognized that she was also highly intoxicated. Eventually, a sober third party was found who take the two drunks home.

Michigander Frank Kozumplik had run out of helpful beverages after drinking two bottles of wine. His wife had the car so he drove the John Deere tractor to a liquor store for more supplies. On the way home, police stopped him. What gave him away as a possible drunk driver? He was on his riding lawn mower in the middle of a winter snowstorm.

Bad Trips

The people who run the international drug cartels are usually pretty smart; the street-level dealers—not so much.

“Florida Man” is famous in the annals of stupidity, so meet Ian Simmons and Joshua Reinhardt, both 34. They were pulled over for speeding in Florida’s Santa Rosa County. The state trooper notice that in the car was a sack labelled “Bag full of drugs.” Well, whaddya know; it was a bag full of drugs.

Leland Ayala-Doliente, 22, and Holland Sward, 23, were travelling through Idaho with a trunk-load of marijuana. They became convinced they were being tailed by police and got completely spooked. What to do? What to do?

Ayala-Doliente called 911 and told the dispatcher: “We’re the two dumbasses that got caught trying to bring some stuff through your border and all your cops are just driving around us … I’d just like for you guys to end it. If you could help me out with that, we would like to just get on with it.” The arrests followed shortly thereafter.

A Miscellany of Madness

Nothing says I’m a law-abiding citizen like appearing masked and hooded in public after dark. A man so attired, carrying bolt cutters, approached a bicycle in a rack in Gladstone, Oregon. Within seconds he was under arrest. Not surprising really, as the bicycle was next to a window carrying a sign “Gladstone Police,” and under a surveillance camera.

Mohammad Ashan was described as a “mid-to-low-level Taliban commander” in Afghanistan with a $100 reward for his capture. In 2012, he arrived at a police checkpoint, pointed to his picture on a wanted poster, and claimed the bounty for finding himself. A U.S. official told reporters “Clearly, this man is an imbecile.”

Gary Rough walked into an off-track betting shop in Glasgow in 2014 and demanded money. He brandished a weapon before being tackled to the ground by an off-duty police officer. The “weapon” turned out to be a cucumber in a black sock.

Winnipeg, Canada pawnshop manager Jason Shinkarik arrived home just before Christmas in 2004. Thieves took everything of value: watches, jewellery, liquor, DVD player, etc. The following day, Alphonse Stanley Traverse and accomplices walked into Shinkarik’s pawn shop with the bags of swag they had stolen from his house.

Careful with that thing, son. Oh, never mind.

Careful with that thing, son. Oh, never mind.

Bonus Factoids

  • Sutton’s Law is used by the medical profession as a guide for physicians to first look for the most obvious diagnosis. The law is named after Willie Sutton who gave the obvious answer to the question, “Why do you rob banks?”
  • According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 100 million Americans have criminal records—that’s just under a third of the country’s population.
  • There are about nine million people in prison in the world and three countries―China, Russia, and the United States―account for half of them.


© 2020 Rupert Taylor


Ann Carr from SW England on July 05, 2020:

No apology necessary! I understand but wasn't sure if I had been clear in the first place!


Rupert Taylor (author) from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada on July 05, 2020:

Apologies Ann. I was a bit clumsy there. I did not intend to make a connection between learning disabilities and mental health issues.

Ann Carr from SW England on July 05, 2020:

I wasn't referring to mental health issues, rather to those who have literacy difficulties and some genetic or physical difficulties. I would never consider sending a dyslexic, for example, to a mental hospital - heaven forbid! It's more to do with education and proper assessments; the situation is getting better but still has a long way to go.


Rupert Taylor (author) from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada on July 04, 2020:

Ann, you are absolutely right. Once we had mental hospitals that were not so great but, to save money, they were shuttered in favour of "care in the community." But, the "care in the community" was hopelessly underfunded so that people with mental health problems became the responsibility of the criminal justice system. Not good.

Ann Carr from SW England on July 04, 2020:

There certainly are some dumb criminals.

Sadly, though, there is a high percentage of dyslexics and other special needs individuals in prison, in the UK at least. Education has much to do here but also families and the individual have to take the responsibility. Difficult situation.

Good article.


Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on July 03, 2020:

Rupert, I remember the "Gladstone Police" issue. I think the man was already arrest for theft and released. But he came again the same day, and was re-arrest? Thanks.

Rupert Taylor (author) from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada on July 03, 2020:

And often, Louise, I wonder at the intelligence of the plods we send out to catch the bad guys.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on July 03, 2020:

That was funny to read. There certainly are some very dim witted people out there.