By C. Michael Forsyth
ATHENS, Greece — A gang of dimwitted thieves conceived the perfect crime when they coated themselves with an invisibility cream sold to them by an elderly Chinese herbalist, then waltzed into a jewelry store naked, certain that they couldn’t be seen.
But the brazen daylight heist turned into a humiliating fiasco because the magic cream was bogus!
The five crooks – who had doffed their duds so their clothes wouldn’t be seen – were busted by police less than 30 seconds after they exited the store in the historic The Plaka district.
“The gang leader Aristotle Panagakos has a reputation in this city as something of a criminal mastermind,” said police spokesman Sgt. Demitri Stathopolos. “The failure of this particular caper exposed his shortcomings.”
The three men and two women have been charged with robbery. Panagakos, interviewed in jail, told a reporter that all seemed well when he and his four cohorts entered the Megalos Jewelry Store off Adrianou Street.
“The sales people did not react to us and we were certain we were invisible to them,” he recalled. “Only when we walked out and I saw policewomen gawking at my privates and giggling, did I realize that something had gone awry.”
Cops from a special police task force, who’d been tipped that a robbery might be going down at one of the many jewelry stores in The Plaka, had instructed employees in the area to remain calm and press a silent alarm if they saw any sign of trouble.
“It was a little difficult keeping a straight face when those people came in, naked as the day they were born, and started poking about in the displays,” explained store manager Callidora Deiphobus. “But I did as the authorities instructed us and triggered the alarm. By the time the thieves left with armfuls of diamond necklaces and gold rings, the police were outside.”
Superstition is common among Greek criminals, who often purchase from Gypsies amulets to ward off police, experts say.
According to a statement given to the police by ring leader Panagakos, the robbers bought the “invisibility cream” from a Chinese herbalist named Chin Ho who purportedly sold magic potions.
“His nephew, a cat burglar I met at a bar, assured me that he had used the cream successfully many times,” Panagokos told cops. “I paid him a handsome sum, 7,700 Euros (about $10,00 U.S.). Now, of course, I realize the whole thing was a rip-off.”
24-year-old Phoena Zervas, the youngest member of the ring, was quickly covered in a coat by arresting officers a few yards from the store.
She is furious at Chin Ho, whom she now regards as an “a liar and an evil charlatan.”
“The morning of the robbery, the little old Chinaman came to our hideout with jars of the magic cream,” the bosomy brunette said in a jailhouse interview with a Greek TV station. “Chin Ho – if that’s his real name — explained that people wearing the cream could see each other, but no one else could.
“He offered to apply the cream to my body so that I wouldn’t miss a spot. I took him up on the polite offer because he assured me that because he wasn’t wearing the cream he couldn’t see me nude.
“Now I know that not only could he see every inch of me, I let that old pervert rub his slimy hands over me from head to toe. I feel like a fool.”
The crafty con artist remains at large.
“He is doubtless pulling his scam on other gullible criminals,” said Sgt. Stathopolos. “We’re not optimistic about finding him. And even if we do, we’re not sure what crime we could charge him with. All he did was sell some idiots goo that we have discovered to be 90 percent petroleum jelly.”
Copyright C . Michael Forsyth
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