Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles This is Larry Lawton, and he's an ex-jewel thief. Not thief, I was a robber. Thief sounds like you went in a person's house and robbed it—I just went with a gun right to their face. Larry's a former career criminal, once considered the biggest jewel thief in the United States. In seven years, I rob between 15 and 18 million USD, and then served 12 years in federal prison. And today, I'm gonna break down what's right and wrong in some of Hollywood's great movie heists. [Vanity Fair true crime: Ex-jewel robber reviews heist scenes.] We're about to watch a lot of crimes in movies, but let me be very clear, I am in no way endorsing or encouraging crime in any way. I'm an ex-criminal, and now I work with police agencies to prevent crime, so I want that to be known right off the bat. Let's look at some clips. The bank robbery in Heat. Keys, the keys, keys. Stay down. We want to hurt no one. We are here for the bank's money, not your money. Your money's insured by the federal government, you're not gonna lose a dime. When Robert De Niro takes control and tries to calm everybody down, by telling 'em that their money's insured, he's right. It's just like with the robberies that I committed, the people's jewelry was insured so they got their money. It wasn't the people who you're robbing that were getting robbed, the real people are the insurance companies who are losing the money. And again, I'm not gonna say it was right, it's wrong, but it's not their stuff they're losing. Most of the people I robbed did not hate me, cause they actually sold their whole store in one shot for insurance. At one time, the feds couldn't get the jewelry store people to say anything bad against me. They got a couple, but the guy shot me. Okay, now the things that stuck out right away on this clip is, how much do you think that money weighs? Cash is king. You'd like to rob cash, but cash is heavy. They're flinging around that cash, like it's feathers, that cash is heavy. It's a gram per bill. Each one of those bags is 70 pounds, and they're running through the streets like it's a 10 pound bag. You know, it's totally unrealistic. That's part of that struck out at me right away. Cash is heavy. That's why people can rob a lot more in diamonds, you can get a diamond worth 100,000 USD that is the size of a penny. You know why cash is king? Because you don't have to deal with a fence. A fence is a middleman. A fence is the guy you take whatever stolen object you have, you get cash from that person for that stolen item, and he then gets rid of it. So you'd have a fence for diamonds, you'd have a fence for VCRs, you can have fence for clothes, whatever you steal, you need a fence. Not with cash, cash is king. Thomas Crown Affair. What you're seeing here is a mega millionaire stealing a million dollar picture. In the Thomas Crown Affair, what does he do? He robs art. Why does he rob art? Because he knows art, so he knew the value of what he was stealing. This painting is considered to be the first impressionist work in history. It's worth 100 million bucks. In my own career, I knew about diamonds. Why? because I went to the GIA Institute under the table to know what I was doing. The GIA Institute is the Gemological Institute of America. They actually show you how to grade diamonds, rate diamonds, actually give 'em what they call a birth certificate. So understanding what you rob is more important sometimes the robbery itself. Why would I rob something and not know the value of it? Morning, Mr. Grant. Bobby. Back for your haystacks, huh? In the Thomas Crown Affair, he gets very tight with everybody. And that's very common, because when I did my robberies, I ended up getting tight with the owner or the sales person in that jewelry store. They didn't know who I was, but they got tight with me. They started talking about the place, and I would end up even sometimes asking to use the bathroom in the back, and they'd say sure. I'd walk in the back and know everything about the store, where the cameras were. What I don't like about what I'm seeing in this clip is he's robbing for fun, he's getting a thrill. I've known people who are very wealthy who want something, but they don't do it themselves, they hire other people to do it. Are you trying to imply that I had something to do with that painting? Trying? No way, if you were worth 10 million dollars, would you go rob something? If you got 10 million in your house, what are you gonna rob another million for and go to prison? That just doesn't make sense. Maybe it's for the thrill? Thrill, [jerk beeps] off more. Tommy, that 100,000 USD on a goddamn golf swing. It's a beautiful Saturday morning, John. I had an opportunity to rob millions of dollars in Rembrandts and Picassos, and I couldn't get two cents on the dollar. That means if I robbed a million dollar picture, I couldn't get $20,000. People don't understand, when you rob things, rob something you can get rid of. If I robbed right now a truckload of Apple watches, I can get rid of 'em tomorrow. If I robbed the truckload of Picassos, how am I gonna get rid of them? Can't, I'll take the Apple watches over the Picassos any day. It's not worth it, you have to be able to sell it. The only way you can do something like that is find someone who wants something specific. You set a price for it, and then steal it. Other than that, stay away. You're better off robbing hubcaps. It's the truth. The Italian Job. Stealing a safe is not unrealistic. In fact, I knew many people who used to take chains and pull ATM machines right out of banks. Take 'em with a big heavy truck or even take a bulldozer, rob the bulldozer, and literally take a safe right out and throw it in the back of a 4x4, and they're off and gone. So here's what I love about this scene, great timing, great misdirection. Misdirection's when you send police, or people, or whoever it is to another area, so you have time to do what you're gonna do in your area. In fact, I used misdirection in some of my robberies. I would actually light Molotov cocktails on the other end of a mall or a town, and cops and everybody's going towards that. And that's misdirection, so I know I have more time for the robbery itself. So that's done very well in this movie with the misdirection, when the safe goes through the floor. (Speaking Italian) They've got the safe in the boat! But the guards are either idiots, or they're in on it, because a 3,000 pound safe going to two floors is not gonna end up in a 21 foot boat flying through a canal. You know, in this clip also it's timing it, so timing is everything. And knowing when and where people are gonna be, and come to the place, is important. All right Charlie, someone just called it in, the police boat's heading your way. Seven minutes and counting, let's go. So how do you do that? It's a easy way to do that. You can light their alarm off, you can start a little fire or something right next to it, throw a brick through a window with an alarm, and see how long it takes the police to come there. That's called a false alarm, but you still gonna get response time. I used to know how many police cars the police had and how many cops were on. You can call, and know the size of the police department, and just do the numbers. So now if they have 21 patrol divisions, you probably have three shifts. So at the most, you're gonna have seven cop cars in any given area. So how do you know a cop's not patrolling in that area right then and there, and you do it and cop shows up within 10 seconds, 20 seconds, because he's right there? You better know where the cops are, there's where you go to misdirection. You know, in this movie right in the beginning, right after the Italian Job, they get away, and they're out somewhere celebrating and one character kills the rest of the people. No, no. No, no, no, John. Steve, what the hell are you doing? Made a few plans of my own. And in reality, that is more common, or would happen, with that kind of money. Steve, how many times do I have to tell you? I trust everyone, I just don't trust the devil inside them. Great movie, but why don't you just go with these guys in there, knock on the door, get in there somehow. They were in the floor below. They were painting some dynamite on the walls. You can't get into that top floor? Come on, that's a little unrealistic. Listen, I robbed people, I used to rob drug dealers. I used to tie them all up, we'd walk out with a million dollars in cash and the dope. So I mean and I was a bad guy all around—but I don't do that anymore. Let's take a look at the movie Snatch. So what we're seeing here, is for men walking in dressed as Hasidic Jews to rob a wholesaler. I knew a guy who did this. He dressed up as Hasidic Jew here in Brooklyn, and then robbed the people who take their diamonds to temple to bless them. Rudy, Rud, Rud, let them in, please. Mutti? These four guys go in through a buzzed door. The buzzer doors are good for me, the professional criminal, not for the smash and grab. When I went into a buzzed door, I was never surprised after that, because I would end up buzzing the person in and taking them down. You don't want someone just walking in and then walking out. In those buzzers, you also have to buzz out. Once you're in there, you're mine. You can't even run out of the store, it buzzes, it locks. Where is the stone? They're looking for a specific diamond. And if you notice, it's not in the safe. A lot of times a specific diamond, or very high end-stuff, might be in a false floorboard, or a safe that's hidden in a drawer. It does not have to be in the actual safe itself. A lot of times, that's the jewelry owners trying to not put all their eggs in one basket. So if that safe did get robbed, maybe that higher-end stuff doesn't get robbed, cause a lot of people don't know that. But when you case a store, you'll figure that out. This clip was actually very, very realistic. There's not much wrong, except, they would all carry their own gun. I didn't see why there were all four guns on one guy, that made no sense. They're walking in as it is, so if one guy goes off and hits a buzzer, they're gonna pat him down anyway. What I don't like about what I'm seeing in this clip, is how they used violence. In all of my robberies, I've never used violence—didn't need to. In robberies you don't need to use violence, you need intimidation. And it's wrong, I wanna emphasize that. I didn't hurt anybody in a robbery, but I scared people and that's wrong. So, I gave... scarred them sometimes for life, which is wrong, but I never had to physically hurt somebody, ever in a robbery. Ocean's 11. So there's a couple of things this movie does really well, casing the joint and getting inside information. First task, reconnaissance. I wanna know everything that's going on in all three casinos, from the rotation of the dealers to the path of every cash card. I wanna know everything about every guard, every watcher, anyone with a security pass. Casing the joint is when you take the whole entire theft you're gonna do, and get every detail. When you know that the sun comes up and there's glare on the window at a specific time, when you know when the mailman comes by, when the most people are gonna be in the place, what time they open, where they park their cars. When I was casing jewelry stores, I would know what time the sun come up, so I'd get the maximum glare so nobody can look in. Casing a joint encompasses total control of the robbery—and you can see in this clip, they're doing exactly that. You can see they have inside information, they have a dealer who knows the ins and outs of that casino and is watching at all times. When you get inside information, you might have to do it a couple of ways. In the clip you're looking at, the girl got money. Thanks, Charmaine. I'll have this back in an hour. But in reality, it will be blackmail, and that's what usually gets people. When you blackmail somebody, it's not just about getting the dirt on him, it's getting dirt that's gonna hurt somebody. And that's what's important, because money will get somebody motivated only so much, but blackmail will keep them quiet forever. In reality, if a reward came out, a person who just did something for X amount of dollars can get more money by telling everybody what really happened. But if the person was blackmailed, you got them forever. And it could be really something as small as gambling or it could be something sexual, but once you have 'em with blackmail, it's more powerful than money. In the Ocean's 11 movies, all of them, the Ocean movies, there's just too many people involved. You need at least a dozen guys doing a combination of cons. When you have 12 people who directly know about what's going on, there's gonna be a snitch somewhere, and they're gonna get the reward also. So even on a mega money, if you have 40–50 million USD, and you split it up 12 ways, and they come up with a 5 million USD reward, you can get more money by snitching. And the snitches, somebody's gonna snitch somewhere along the line, or somebody was in bed with their wife and they told 'em what's going on and the wife doesn't like him anymore. When I was robbing, nobody knew who my fence was. And that's important, I did that on purpose. So if anything happened, nobody can get to the next person. Even my own crew didn't know what I was doing, as far as where the money was coming from, or who... how we were getting rid of the diamonds, and that's important. In this clip here, everybody knows everything, and that wouldn't happen in real life, never. The less people that know, the better, and that's how a robbery should go. You know, have I ever thought about robbing casinos? I think I thought about robbing everything. If you did anything in this movie, you'd cut down the amount of people, and you might get into the cages. But if you ever notice any casino, where the cages are, they're in the center of the casino, away from any exits. So there's no way you can get into them, believe me, I looked. Let's take a look at a robbery gone wrong in Hell or High Water. There's no money in the drawers yet. It's in the safe, and I ain't got the code. Prove it. What you're looking at in this clip is two brothers who rob a bank in a rural town early in the morning. All you're guilty of right now is being stupid. Just leave and that's all it'll be. Tell me I'm stupid again. The woman is actually giving him some gruff back and you would see that. People react to robberies in different ways. Some people cry, some people laugh, some people curse you out, some people stay silent, you have all different reactions. You see these guys use gloves, I used gloves. Or you can also use crazy glue and literally cover your fingertips in crazy glue, and then you don't have any gloves and you won't get prints out either. Also, they didn't cover their eyes. If you ever noticed somebody who really robbed something, if they put pantyhose over their head, it disfigures their whole entire face, and you could still see, but you couldn't describe the person's eyes. If you left your eyes open, a person will look right at your eyes, and they'll recognize those eyes again and it's a quick disguise. Wham, put it right over your head, and you're gone and nobody can recognize you, you're done. That's one way to do it. I'll bet we'll get people to do that. Yeah, you guys are gonna go home and find a pair of pantyhose from your mother. Hey mom, I need a pair of pantyhose! Where do you think you're going? Sit on the floor! You had one guy who was a little out of control, but that's actually what made the robbery work. Because unpredictability, if a person doesn't know what you're gonna do, they're gonna give you whatever you need to get out of there, and that's the smart way to do it anyway if you're getting robbed. Don't get hurt. There's no money in the drawers yet. It's in the safe, and I ain't got the code. They shoulda cased it. They shoulda known about the safe, and who can get into the safe, and at what time you can get into the safe. Also, most safes have time locks. It can only be open at a certain time, and that's very common. Damn it. Y'all are new at this, I'm guessing. Obviously, there's a couple of things banks do from dye packs to GPSs in the money. And they'll give a certain pack of money that has a dye pack, and once it leaves the store it blows, and all that money is done.