He steals from the rich to give to the poor. We all grew up learning his story: a wealthy, privileged lord who could no longer bear witnessing the oppression of the weak and powerless. He and his like-minded Merry Men became outlaws as they tried to right social injustices and moral wrongs. Since the 14th century, he has appeared in ballads, folk tales, movies, cartoons, TV shows, and comic books. Did Robin Hood really exist, or is he just a conglomeration of the many stories and tales of a romanticized outlaw? Man or myth, the legend has inspired many real life stories of heroism throughout history.
10. Occupy Rolling Jubilee, 2012, United States
Not every Robin Hood act involves a masked bandit robbing a stage coach or a gangster with a tommy gun holding up a bank and leaving a bag of cash left in front of an orphanage afterward. Occupy Rolling Jubilee, a subset of Occupy Wall Street, aims to help consumers escape decades of crippling student loan and medical debt. To date, it has paid $32,000,000 in loans and bills. Occupy Rolling Jubilee has crowd-sourced about $70,000 worth of funds that are used to buy out student loans and medical debts from the original debtor. Once the bill enters the repayment phase, it is often sold by the original debtor and entered into a secondary market. The debt is then bought by companies such as Sallie Mae, whose entire purpose is to make a profit from these debts. Occupy Rolling Jubilee swoops in and buys the debt, often for cents on the dollar, before a for-profit/possibly less scrupulous company does. But instead of pursuing the original debt on their own at up to a 10% interest rate, the debt is considered paid in full with no strings attached. While the money may not actually be stolen, the corporations and banks aren’t able to profit off of these loans, and those who now have one less bill to pay certainly have a big weight off their shoulders.
9. Hamburg Umsonst, 2006, Germany
Imagine being at your local Whole Foods doing some light grocery shopping when all of a sudden, a group of superheroes burst in and absconds with carts full of gourmet food. In Hamburg, Germany, this is exactly what happened. On April 26, 2006, the group of superheroes descended on a gourmet supermarket. They stole €1500 worth of champagne, kobe beef, high quality olive oil, Valrhona chocolate, and cheese – all of which they donated to underpaid interns and low income families. Despite the 14 police cars and helicopter which arrived within minutes to investigate the crime and the group actually taking the time to pose for pictures of themselves with the store staff, the group has yet to be found and prosecuted.
When it formed in 2003, the group that called themselves Hamburg Umsonst (Hamburg For Free) made its mission “Everything for everybody. And everything for free.” Citing the city’s high cost of living and income inequality, Hamburg Umsonst has revealed tips for free movies, bus fare, and file sharing. In another bold move, the group once burst into the ballroom of a swanky restaurant and emptied the buffet into trash bags.
8. Anonymous, 2011, Texas
AntiSec, a spin off of the infamous computer hacker group Anonymous, earned the title of modern day Robin Hood when they launched a cyber attack against the Texas based security firm STRATFOR Global Intelligence. AntiSec stole approximately 30,000 credit card numbers and other security information belonging to police departments, the United States military and others from STRATFOR to make around $1,000,000 worth of donations to various charities.
AntiSec isn’t the only group to use stolen cards for a good cause. Often times thieves will test a stolen credit card’s validity by making a small donation to a charity to see if the card will be declined or not. As anyone who has ever had their credit card stolen can attest, under the best of circumstances this situation is inconvenient and frustrating. Fortunately for the card holder, the issuing bank will usually refund the stolen money if the card holder can prove that they did not authorize the transaction. Unfortunately for the charity, the bank may then demand the money back from the charity, often charging the charity a fee in addition to the refunded donation.
7. Honor Amongst Thieves, 2013, California
Being a thief doesn’t automatically mean someone doesn’t have a sense of morality. That morality may be different from what most people consider right and wrong. In 2013, a group of thieves in California broke into a rape crisis center in the middle of the night, costing the charity an estimated $5000 in stolen goods and damage. Much to the surprise of center workers, a few hours later the items, including several computers, were all returned with a note saying “We had no idea what we were takeing (sic). Here your stuff back we hope that you guys can continue to make a difference in peoples live. God Bless.” Because of the publicity surrounding the theft and the thieves’ consciences, the center has received much needed attention and donations.
6. Edward Snowden, 2013, United States
In this day and age, information is just as important as money. Whistle blower Edward Snowden was an NSA government contractor who gave the media classified material that implicated the United States government in widespread illegal surveillance. Considered a traitor by some and a patriotic hero by others, Snowden exposed the US government’s warrantless mass surveillance program, which monitored millions of calls, emails and texts messages of anyone from ordinary American citizens to world leaders. The documents he stole from the government to share with the public led to Snowden having to flee the country and seek asylum in Russia.
5. Enric Duran, 2006, Spain
Enric Duran has been called the Spanish Robin Hood. Duran took out 68 loans from 39 various banks between 2006 and 2008. The loans ended up totaling about €500,000, all of which was donated to anti-capitalism causes and activities. Eventually he was caught and spent two months in jail before he could post the €50,000 bail. He was facing eight years in prison after his trial, so he chose to flee Spain and go into hiding instead. As of 2014, Duran was still in hiding and still deeply involved in anti-capitalist activism.
4. Corey Donaldson, 2012, Wyoming
Australian Corey Donaldson wanted to help people. As a child, his house was foreclosed on by the bank. That memory weighed heavily on him as an adult. He wanted to help those who had been left homeless, and to protest the banks foreclosing on homes that had left them homeless. So on New Years Eve, 2012, he walked into a Wyoming bank and told the manager that there were bombs hidden outside and that Mexican gang cartels would hunt him down and murder him if he did not hand over $2,000,000. Unfortunately for Donaldson, the bank did not have that much money on hand, but he still walked away with $140,700. He checked into a $347 per night room in a hotel in Salt Lake City under the name of Doobie Zanks, where he distributed the rest of his loot to siblings, homeless shelters and the Salvation Army. Only $16,000 of the money was eventually recovered.
3. ISIS Catfishing, 2015, Chechnya
Meeting someone online has become almost as common as being fixed up by a well meaning friend or falling for a coworker. Unfortunately, dating someone you met on the internet inherently has the risk that the other person may not be quite who you think they are. Catfishing, or using a fictional persona to create an online relationship with someone is not an uncommon event.
Three young Chechnyan women decided to take catfishing to a new level when they decided to target the terrorist group ISIS. Under the pretense of becoming ISIS brides, they contacted recruiters and convinced the terrorists that the only thing stopping them from dedicating themselves to their new potential husband was a lack of money for travel expenses. Once the women received the money, they severed all contact with the potential suitors and would start again with new recruiters. Together, they conned the organization out of about $3300.
The women are currently being investigated for fraud. However, the victims would need to file an official complaint in order to follow through on the charges, and since the terrorists are unlikely to make an official complaint with local authorities, further action against the women is unlikely.
2. Robin Hood 702, 2008, Nevada
A high stakes gambler in Las Vegas decided that in order to make his mother proud of him, he would donate his blackjack winnings to a family in desperate need of help. The chosen family had ended up $35,000 in debt after their child was diagnosed with cancer. This anonymous Robin Hood promised the family that he would pay off their entire debt if he won his blackjack tournament. If he didn’t win, he would still pay off half their debt. 702 has helped several other families in need pay off debts this way, and has even inspired his own band of gambling Merry Men to help his with his admirable mission.
1. Ozel Brazil, 2003, California
Around 18,000 men and women owe their education to minister Ozel Brazil. Brazil lived through the civil rights acts inspired by Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. He witnessed the riots that followed the Rodney King verdict. He stood in the human chain protecting firefighters from rioters and the protesters from themselves. Brazil realized that the best contribution he could make was to help poor and underprivileged kids go to a four year college. He was not satisfied with a trade school, not a two year community college, only a well respected four year university. Brazil started a mentorship program to help kids prepare for college, showing them how to strengthen their transcripts, applications, and essays to be accepted not just to any school, but a good school of their choice.
Brazil understood that one of the biggest hurdles to a college education was the prohibitive costs. Even if they and their parents could get loans to cover the costs, students would be saddled with the student loan debt for a decade or more. Brazil told parents and students how to fill out financial aid forms to ensure the most governmental help. He would tell the parents to let the grandparents claim their child on their taxes, or to even severe legal ties from their child to help play the financial aid system in their child’s favor to help guarantee their future.
In 2003 Brazil was arrested for 13 counts of mail fraud and 7 counts of financial aid assistance fraud. Despite the fact that by all accounts he never took a penny, he was convicted and sentenced to 41 months in prison as well an order to pay $716,179 in restitution. Brazil does not regret helping his students, and would still help them today. “If a student gets access to me and needs to talk to me, I’m going to talk to them.” “I couldn’t care less what….any naysayers think about me. But I care about the students.”