After a San Diego man named Alvin Lee Neal inserted his ATM card into the teller window at a downtown Wells Fargo, a clerk asked him if he needed any assistance.
Neal told the clerk, “You’re being robbed. Don’t make a mistake.” Confused, the bank teller hesitated, so Neal passed a note which echoed a similar sentiment. He told the teller, “You don’t want anyone to get hurt, don’t make a mistake.” Neal ran out of the bank $565 richer.
Unfortunately for Neal, when you swipe your ATM card at a teller window, your entire bank profile appears on the clerk’s computer, according to Fox 5 San Diego. Almost immediately, investigators used the information from his debit card to discover his identity; they also found that Neal is a registered sex offender.
On Tuesday, after admitting his crime, Neal was sentenced to three years and 10 months in federal prison for his foolish crime.
In a sense, Neal’s error demonstrates how easy it is to rob a bank—slip the teller a note, try to abstain from leaving any traces of identifying information, and get the hell out of there. But Neal isn’t the only thief who might’ve been able to get away with it had he not played himself.
In 2011, two bank tellers teamed up with a group of burglars who held up the International Bank of Commerce. Because it looked like an ordinary bank robbery, the thieves almost got away with it. But police figured out the heist was orchestrated by the tellers after one wrote “IM RICH...” on their Facebook page. The other made a more subtle jab, writing “WIPING MY TEETH WITH HUNDREDS” on the social network.
These not-so-smooth criminals are not the only people who have gotten caught from their social media brags. There have also been instances of bank robbers getting caught after posting about their heists on YouTube and Instagram.
So which is a stupider mistake—posting about your heist on social media or giving away your identity to the teller at the bank?