The Anatomy of a Perfect Bank Heist: Smoke Bombs and Police Scanners

Crime Magazine has a great excerpt from the upcoming book Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber, recounting the time when infamous bank robber Leslie Ibsen Rogge knocked off two spots in a single day, making use of police scanners and smoke bombs in the process.

When Rogge and his partner robbed one particular bank, they used the police scanner to monitor the status of the bank alarm system and to stay keyed in on police activity. Meanwhile, Rogge would calmly walk up and make his demands. As they escaped, a timed smoke bomb went off (which they planted the night before), which provided a perfect distraction for them to get away.

Here's how they made the timed smoke bombs which would aid in their escape after the robbery:

We decided to see if we could put the flare in the air handler at the mall by the bank with a timer to go off as we left Bank One. It for sure would keep the cops occupied for an hour or so as we did Bank Two, even though it was across the river. Who knew what kind of response would take place, if any? But it would guarantee our exit to the river bridge. But how were we going to make it pop on a certain time? We figured a battery-powered alarm clock and an old fashioned flash bulb-the kind with a lot of fine wire inside that flared bright when electricity was applied. So we then had to find some of those old types of flash bulbs, and we instantly thought of K-Mart! We got everything we needed back to the motor home, and the room looked like a light bulb-making plant. We had two alarm clocks, wires, tape, two smoke canisters and batteries. But the problem was the clock couldn't be set for longer than twelve hours, which meant we had to plant it at nine the night before. We went ahead and made up our smoke bombs: we cracked the glass on the bulb and inserted it into the smoke powder and sealed everything up real tight. We took one way down a country road to try it out, but it was late at night and very dark. It still made a ton of smoke and worked good, so now we had to figure out how to get the gizmo in front of the air handler for the air conditioning, which was on the roof.

During his two decade bank robbery spree, Leslie Ibsen Rogge committed over 30 heists without hurting a single person (hence the Gentleman moniker). He was only caught after helping a kid in Guatemala—where he was hiding—hook up a computer to the internet. The kid would go on to see his image on the internet and turn him in. Ouch. [Crime Magazine]