As 2014 draws to a close, America’s thoughts naturally turn to crime, and the people who were worst at it over the past year. To be clear, 2014 was not a great year for funny crime stories. I admittedly feel sort of weird writing a “Dumb Criminals of the Year” roundup because the crime story of the year was police misbehavior, and the inability or unwillingness of our justice system to do anything about it. But acknowledging the existence of the frivolous and the absurd doesn’t mean we don’t care about serious, important stories. So I’m giving myself permission to write about the most ridiculous, bizarre criminals of 2014, and I’m giving you permission to read about them. Proceed!
A brief note: I was out on book leave for most of 2014 and was not following the dumb-criminal beat on a daily basis as I had in years past. As a result, I cannot absolutely guarantee that these three gentlemen are America’s dumbest criminals of the year. But I’m guessing that you’ll find this year’s bronze, silver, and gold medalists in the field of criminal incompetence to be worthy champions. And if I missed an obvious choice, I encourage you to post it in the comments.
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Bronze Medal: The Overconfident Drug Dealer
Name: Adalberto Ramiro-diaz
Alleged crimes: various felony and misdemeanor drug charges
Fatal mistakes: overconfidence, underpreparation
The circumstances: Ramiro-diaz thought he was a smart criminal. Lots of dumb criminals think this, of course, but Ramiro-diaz could back it up: He had allegedly been dealing drugs for a long time. This is quite an accomplishment because the drug business is filled with risks: customers who want to cheat you, rivals who want to rob you, cops who want to arrest you. How did he stay free for so long? In July, according to TCPalm.com, Ramiro-diaz allegedly sold marijuana and mushrooms to a customer. He let that customer in on the secret of his success: “Adalberto bragged to me he had been doing this a long time and is very smart about his narcotics transactions and that is why he has never been busted. He said no one comes to his house without calling first and if someone just shows up he will answer the door pointing a 9mm handgun at their head.” Sounds smart! Unfortunately, this customer happened to be an undercover investigator. Whoops! The alleged drug dealer was arrested in September.
How he could have been a lot smarter: It’s smart to be wary of strangers who show up asking to buy drugs. Even smarter not to sell drugs in the first place.
How he could have been a little smarter: When Ramiro-diaz was finally arrested in September, cops found a bogus FBI ID card with his own photo on it. He should have insisted that he was conducting a sting on them, and they were actually under arrest.
How he could have been a little dumber: “If someone just shows up I will answer the door pointing a 9mm handgun at their head. And then if they promise they’re not a cop, I will lower the gun, apologize for my rudeness, and sell them illegal drugs.”
How he could have been a lot dumber: “Here is a transaction log of every drug deal I’ve ever made. Isn’t it amazing that I’ve never been busted? I’m so smart!”
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Silver Medal: The Fugitive Who Shared His Own Mug Shot on Facebook
Name: Anthony J. “Jimi” Lescowitch Jr.
Alleged crimes: aggravated assault, disorderly conduct
Fatal mistake: social media stupidity
The circumstances: In the summer of 2013, Lescowitch allegedly assaulted a man, stole his ATM card, and ran away. He kept on running, apparently, and the cops were having trouble finding him. So, in January 2014, the Freeland, Pennsylvania, police posted Lescowitch’s mug shot on Facebook, asking people to contact them with information on the suspect’s whereabouts. To the cops’ surprise, one of the people who complied with their request was Lescowitch himself, who immediately posted the photo on his own Facebook wall along with an obscene comment. “lol I f—in love it A—–E,” he wrote according to Philly.com.
Reasoning that stupidity usually strikes twice, the cops sent Lescowitch a Facebook message under the guise of an attractive woman, asking the fugitive if he’d be willing to meet her for a drink. Lescowitch said no. (Very smart!) Well, would Lescowitch at least be willing to come have a cigarette? Lescowitch said yes. (Very stupid!) When Lescowitch showed up at the designated smoking spot, he was arrested—further proof that smoking is bad for you, I guess. Later, the Freeland police posted a triumphant update on Facebook: “CAPTURED!!!!!! SHARES OUR STATUS ON FACEBOOK ABOUT HIMSELF, CAPTURED 45 MINUTES LATER.” The first comment on this new status: “One less member at tomorrow’s Freeland MENSA meeting.” Indeed.
How he could have been a lot smarter: Attention, American fugitives: Don’t taunt the police! Yeah, yeah, I know, the Riddler does it all the time. But the Riddler also gets caught all the time, and also he wears green tights covered in question marks. Why would you want to emulate the Riddler?
How he could have been a little smarter: If you’re on the run from the police, you should assume that any stranger who contacts you via social media is an undercover cop looking to arrest you. Do not agree to meet that person. Stick to sexting.
How he could have been a little dumber: “lol I f—-in love it. I also love committing crimes, and taking pictures of myself while I commit them. Here are some of those photos now!”
How he could have been a lot dumber: “OK, I’ll meet you for a cigarette, but only if you agree to buy these drugs I’m selling.”
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Gold Medal: The Alleged Burglar Whose Bad Day Kept Getting Worse
Name: Wayne Bradley Wade
Alleged crimes: burglary, grand theft
Fatal mistake: forgetfulness
The circumstances: Wayne Wade should’ve stayed home. On July 30, the Florida man allegedly burglarized an apartment in the town of Hollywood only to encounter the apartment’s tenant on his way out the door. “Uh-oh, now she knows what I look like. I need to get out of here!” Wade presumably thought. So he fled, only to realize that he had accidentally left his cellphone in the home he just allegedly robbed. “Uh-oh, now the cops have my fingerprints and lots of other incriminating data. I need to get that phone back!”
So he called his phone, maybe hoping that the person who answered would see the humor in the situation and return it to him. Instead, the phone was answered by a detective who was in the house investigating the burglary that had just been committed there. According to the Sun-Sentinel, “Wade told the cop his name and said he needed his phone back.” Instead, he was arrested, and the fingerprints from his phone were used to tie Wade to five other unsolved burglaries. In court later that week, Wade told a skeptical judge that his phone had been stolen. Uh-oh, no one believes my terrible excuse!
How he could have been a lot smarter: This, to me, is the quintessential dumb criminal story, and it nicely illustrates how mistakes can compound when you commit crimes in haste. If you’re going to rob a house, you can leave your phone in the car. Just don’t lock your keys in there.
How he could have been a little smarter: A smart criminal knows when to cut his losses. Yeah, it was dumb to leave his phone in the house he’d just burglarized, but he should have realized that he was never going to get it back. In this case, Wade would’ve been arrested, but he’d at least have kept his dignity.
How he could have been a little dumber: Called his phone and proceeded to threaten the life of the president, thus getting the Secret Service involved.
How he could have been a lot dumber: “Hello, this is Wayne Wade. I have just burglarized a home and I left my phone behind. Also, I left my pants.”