Real Life Crime

Real Life Gentlemen Thieves

1. Black Bart (Charles Earl Boles)

Revenge can become the catalyst for an upstanding member of society to discard their ethical values, and begin a life of crime. After he refused their offer to buy his land, banking giant Wells Fargo cut off the water supply to Charles Boles’ California gold mine shortly after the Civil War. This put the former Union First Sergeant out of business, and his alter ego, Black Bart, was born. 

Black Bart robbed the Wells Fargo stage coach at least 28 times, in the decade that it took authorities to track him down. He never harmed anybody or stole from the passengers aboard the trains, and in their reports the bank admitted that he was not violent and always polite especially to the females aboard. He traveled on foot to each crime scene with an unloaded shot gun, which was so old it could not possibly be fired. Black Bart worked alone, but made people believe that he had a posse with him by propping up sticks with hats close to the train. To taunt the bank, he would sometimes leave a catchy poem at the crime scene. 

Boles became a hero to the general Californian public, and they supported many of his actions. After torturing Wells Fargo for ten years, he was caught by Pinkerton Detectives. He received a four-year prison sentenced, and was released early in 1888 for good behaviour. Black Bart disappeared after he was let out, allowing the bank to continue to recuperate. 

2. William Simon Jacques

It is well-known that knowledge is power, and one of the greatest sources of knowledge for many centuries has been books. William Jacques, with his above average IQ and Cambridge education, knew this even more than other members of society. He became a unique and unexpected criminal, targeting libraries in the United Kingdom and their collection of rare books, manuscripts and maps. His polite manner and high level of education, meant that he fit into the crime scenes perfectly and nobody spared him a second glance. 

In the 1990s, during the time he was studying at Cambridge, Jacques began taking their rare books. The library noticed that some of these were missing, but failed to immediately report the loss because they were responsible for keeping these treasures safe. When the disappearances escalated, however, and two of Newton’s Principia Mathematica along with Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius went missing, they felt it was necessary to alert the authorities.

Jacques continued to steal from other libraries across the UK, all the time evading the police. He would often put the books under his coat while he was having a conversation with the librarians. One keenly observant employee caught him in the act, however, and after his arrest detectives identified him as the prolific antique book library thief. He spent four years in jail beginning in 2002 and upon his release began picking up where he left off, stealing more rare books. This time he used disguises, false names and his never-failing charm to win the confidence of his victims. In 2010, he was once again detained and sentenced to serve 3 ½ more years behind bars.

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