On Monday, 7 September 2015, a man wearing a mutant ninja turtle mask was captured on CCTV footage (see above) stealing a BMW motorcycle from a Melbourne car dealership. The character he chose was Leonardo, the one with the blue eye mask.
This is not the first time a ninja turtle disguise has been used to commit a crime – last year in Lafayette in the US, a man wearing a similar mask was arrested after wielding a knife at a convenience store clerk.
Penalties in NSW
In NSW, being armed with the intent to commit an ‘indictable offence’ is a crime under section 114 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). The maximum penalty is 7 years imprisonment.
An ‘indictable offence’ is one that can be dealt with in a higher court, such as the District Court. It includes offences like ‘larceny’ (stealing), break & enter, and robbery.
It is also an offence for a person to have their fact disguised with the same intention. Under section 114(1)(c), a person who has his or her face blackened or otherwise disguised with intent to commit an indictable offence faces the same maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment.
Despite the penalties, there have been many creative attempts by offenders to remain anonymous over the years. Here are four of them:
1. The Bank Robbing Tree
One innovative man taped branches to his arms and head before robbing a bank in New Hampshire.
Police caught up with James Coldwell, 49, not long after the incident, acknowledging that “He really went out on a limb” and joking that the attempt gives a new meaning to eats, shoots and leaves
2. Gumby the Thief
“Gumby” is a large, green claymation character with huge eyes and a permanent smile. He is a favourite for some, but certainly not for one convenience store clerk who went through the ordeal of being held up by a man in a Gumby costume. The would-be robber tried, but failed, to get cash from the store, and probably regrets his robbery strategy.
Understandably, the clerk initially thought that the whole thing was a joke, until Gumby sternly announced that he had a gun. But rather than produce the weapon, Gumby fumbled and dropped change on the floor instead.
The hapless bandit eventually left the store with less cash than when he entered, and his companion drove him away.
3. Young Asian Asylum Seeker
One unidentified Hong Kong man boarded an Air Canada flight bound for Vancouver, fraudulently carrying the boarding pass of a US citizen.
He was disguised by a wrinkly silicon face mask, thin-rimmed glasses and a brown cardigan – but observant authorities noticed that his hands looked very young.
The man changed out of his costume mid-flight, but was arrested after landing. He claimed asylum as a refugee.
His crime has been nicknamed “Mission: Impossible” because the mask is very similar to that used by Tom Cruise in the movie Mission Impossible II.
4. The Grey Geezer
The best part about this man’s disguise is that the FBI is unsure whether the robber is actually wearing a costume, or if a very old man is going around robbing banks.
Nicknamed the ‘grey geezer’, the cool-headed offender is wanted for a string of 16 bank robberies over the past two years in California.
He usually enters banks calmly before walking up to the teller, subtly revealing a gun and handing over a written note demanding cash. He then places the cash into his personal organiser and exits the bank slowly, hobbling away. Reports suggest he even wears an oxygen mask with plastic tubes going into his nose, adding credibility to his performance.
But suspicions about the grey geezer’s real age were raised after he was recorded sprinting away from the bank, leading investigators to suspect that may not be as old as he appears.
So there you have it – criminal masterminds at their most inventive.