Grandmothers are supposed to be sweet, loving old ladies with a plate of fresh baked cookies in one hand and a handful of lemon drops in the other, ever ready to dispense hugs and wisdom. The ladies on this list need to re-read their job description and start knitting more afghans.
The Bank Robber
When called upon to help out family, most grandmothers supply tea, sympathy, and oatmeal cookies. 74-year-old Marilyn Devine took a slightly more aggressive approach to fixing her son’s financial woes after she finally got tired of taking out tens of thousands of dollars in loans for him.
When he called her in his hour of need (for the 200th time we imagine), she grabbed a 9mm semi automatic pistol and headed to the nearest bank. The gun-toting granny hid her face behind a hood and a black-and-gold Steelers scarf, walked into a branch of the National City Bank, and calmly pointed the unloaded gun at two tellers. She scampered off with nearly $6,000.
Jumping into her own car, she led the local police on a slow motion chase as she wove through slow traffic until a local Tow Truck driver with a police scanner got involved and blocked the renegade grandmother’s way.
She was sentenced to 3 months of house arrest and 20 years probation, and despite her testimony that the tellers appeared “… nonchalant. I really didn’t think I scared them that much at the time,” the judge ordered her to pay $10,000 for the duress her victims suffered and any treatment they need to get over being held up by a senior citizen.
Marilyn said she committed the heist “to help people who are starving to death and nobody cares about them.” “I’m sorry that I did that and upset those young people. They were very professional about it. I wasn’t out to intend to hurt anybody. I won’t do anything like this again.”
The Organ Harvester
At some point in the year 2000, Russian grandmother Nina Tkacheva showed up to her 5-year-old grandson’s orphanage and explained that he must come with her because she has arranged a trip for him to Disneyland (a euphemism?). We can imagine the joy the boy must have felt.
But Russian police say that instead of getting little Andrey tickets to the happiest place on earth… she had actually arranged to sell him to a Western buyer for organ harvesting.
According to police, the price this cold blooded babushka had set on his little organs was $90,000. Nina even ripped off the boy’s uncle in the deal, telling him the boy was being sold for $20,000 less so she could pocket the difference. Yes, apparently it was a family matter.
Andrey was as excited, as any five-year-old would be at the prospect of such a trip. He went with his grandmother to the big square with the fountain in Ryazan, and while she chatted to the expensively-dressed businessman who was going to take him away, Andrey sat with his Uncle Sergei and Aunt Larisa in a nearby cafe. The businessman handed Tkacheva a bag -- and suddenly the square was full of police officers.
“What’s the problem?” Tkacheva asked the police. But they knew the truth. The bag was full of dollars -- 65,000 worth of dollars -- and there was no trip to Disneyland. Tkacheva had sold Andrey so that he could be taken out of Russia, killed and his organs used for transplants in a foreign clinic.
The loving uncle (and father of two daughters of his own) explained his reasons to police: “I wanted to buy a house and a new car and some clothes. It was my dream.” When asked how he could be involved in such an evil scheme, he stated “My mother said that it is none of my business, he is her grandson.” Oh, that makes sense then.
Sex has been for sale, trade, or rent since mankind figured out how to trade pretty rocks to get their rocks off. For Vera Tursi the asthmatic madam from New Jersey, it was her main source of income.
Vera has the dubious honor of being one of the oldest women busted for working the world’s oldest profession. 80 years old at the time of her arrest and reliant on a walker to get around, police first started to suspect her age when they spoke to her on the phone as part of a sting operation. She was heard having a hard time breathing and using the word “dear,” adding a truly surreal note to the negotiations with such gems as “That’s all-inclusive, dear.”
Vera had taken over the operation of her daughter’s company, August Playmates, upon her death several years before. Originally used to supplement her retirement income, Vera took $60 out of the $160 she charged her clients per hour for time with one of her girls.
The Drug Dealer
Florida is known for being the retirement spot of choice for everyone over the age of 65, but it seems some of their senior population isn’t ready to give up working in exchange for lawn bowling.
Theresia Taylor was one such enterprising individual. She used her network of elderly friends to gather up what police described as a “veritable cornucopia of prescription pills,” including Oxycoden and Soma, a muscle relaxant, which she resold at a markup. Not content with all the prescription action, she also started growing weed.
Volusia County police first became aware of her operation after a tip from a snitch. Behind a yard strewn with her grandchildren’s toys and cheery garden decorations, police say they found a large stash of prescription drugs, cash, marijuana, and grow lights.
The dope dealing granny was charged with trafficking oxycodone and hydrocodone in addition to two drug-possession charges. “It appears that she was moving a fairly good amount of prescription drugs,” sheriff’s spokesman Gary Davidson said.
We’re betting she baked the best brownies in the neighborhood.
The Racketeering Ringleader
Back to Florida again, where yet another criminal mastermind was hiding behind the veneer of blue haired biddy. Ernestine Williams was 67 when she was arrested as the leader of a racketeering outfit that specialized in stealing credit cards and check books from their elderly victims.
Though confined to a wheelchair herself, Ernestine commanded a crew of up to 80 pickpockets and thieves that operated for more than a decade. She recruited family, friends, and those she could entice with offers of narcotics in exchange for their services as criminal underlings. She gave instructions on who to target, what to wear, and how to approach their elderly targets — and even chartered bus trips to other areas to expand her criminal reach. This was one enterprising gangsta granny.
She initially escaped targeting because of her wheelchair, but the collective data on Ernestine and her merry band (army?) of junkie thieves was gathered from over one hundred and fifty police reports from departments all over Florida and Georgia and made it a slam dunk case. Judge Kenneth Marra rejected pleas Williams was too frail to go to prison, and so she was sentenced to four years in federal pound me in the geriatric cooter prison.
The Black Widow
Betty ‘Black Widow Granny’ Neumar was 76 when police arrested her, nearly 20 years after she allegedly arranged for a hit man to take out her fourth husband Harold Gentry for his $20,000 insurance policy.
Once they had her for that murder, we imagine a chill went down the investigators’ spines when they came to the realization that Betty had been married five times — and all five of her husbands had left the marriage feet first. Proving the adage “better late than never,” all of those deaths are now being investigated as possible homicides, especially considering the fact 3 of her 5 dearly departed died from gunshot wounds.
To add to this gruesome granny’s reputation, Police have also reopened the case of her son’s death in 1985, which was ruled a suicide back in 1985.
Gentry’s brother hounded the police for years to reopen the case, struck by the fact that upon her return to the family home, surrounded by flashing lights, sirens and police as they investigated her husband’s violent murder, Betty’s first words were to establish an alibi and never once did she show an ounce of emotion.
“If she had gotten out of that car with tears in her eyes and asked me why would anybody kill Harold, I would never have suspected her at all,” he said. “That’s where she slipped up.”
With more than 73 arrests spanning more than four decades, 76-year-old Katherine Kelly may be the world’s oldest pickpocket.
She was most recently caught stealing a police officer’s wallet during a sting operation in a local Manhattan grocery store, snagging the wallet and stuffing it into her bra. We admire the bravery of the officer tasked with fishing it out again, and we hope the department paid to have it cleaned to get rid of the scent of mothballs and peppermints.
Katherine is a career criminal with more than 36 aliases and has provided police with 26 different dates of birth. When arrested this time gave her address as 1600 Pennsylvania Ave — the Washington, DC address of the White House. Either she is a crafty old devil, or she’s a walking poster child for Alzheimer’s disease and has forgotten who she really is.
81-year-old Calogera Pia Messina aka Zi Calina aka Auntie Calina is an Italian crime boss who had been running her own crime family for over two years when she was finally arrested by Italian anti-mafia detectives.
This matronly Mafioso took over the family business (which involved, among other things, kidnapping and killing an 11-year-old boy and dissolving his body in acid) from her son when he was shot and killed by police attempting to capture him, the rest of his brothers having all been arrested and serving life sentences for previous crimes. With her boys all out of commission it fell to Zi Calina to carry on. The empire she inherited covered much of south eastern Sicily and was considered a rival to the Godfathers of Catania and Palermo.
The mafia matriarch gave out the orders, identified who got paid, who paid protection to the family, and saw to running the day to day activities of the crew of racketeering thugs, no doubt dispensing cannoli and lasagna while organizing up targets for murder and mayhem.