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Cops once sent Super Bowl invites to wanted criminals just to arrest them once they arrived at the stadium

Dominic Smithers

Published 
| Last updated 

Cops once sent Super Bowl invites to wanted criminals just to arrest them once they arrived at the stadium

Featured Image Credit: The Washington Post

Every now and again you hear about a police sting that is so genius it almost sounds like it's made up. Well, this is another to add to the list.

Trying to pin some of the biggest criminals in the game is no easy task, I mean, it's called 'organized crime' for a reason. So they had to get creative:

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In order to draw some of the most wanted crooks out of hiding, the US Marshals Service came up with an offer they couldn't refuse: they invited them to the Super Bowl.

On 15 December 1985, over 100 guests arrived at the Washington Convention Center, having received letters telling them they had won tickets to the biggest sporting event in the country.

The invites claimed they had been randomly selected from a clearinghouse list of D.C. residents, and would receive two tickets to the Redskins v Bengals game that day.

In order to get in, though, they had to head down to a pre-game party to collect their tickets.

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And to sweeten the deal further, they were told that they would also be able to enter a draw for Redskins season tickets and an all-expenses-paid trip to Super Bowl XX in New Orleans.

US marshals went undercover to catch the crooks. Credit: Twitter
US marshals went undercover to catch the crooks. Credit: Twitter

Robert Leschorn came up with the operation's plan.

When he and other officials were discussing the best way to entice so many criminals to come out into the open, he knew that Redskins tickets were the way to go.

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He said: “In D.C., that was the holy grail of bait. I decided to work around that.”

His team then got to work, mailing some 3,000 invites out to the last known addresses of the band of crooks, who had 5,117 outstanding warrants to their names.

And it worked a charm.

Footage from the sting shows crowds of people lining up to get their tickets, with police in disguise as waiters.

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Speaking at the time, U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia Herbert M. Rutherford said: “It was party time, and they fell for it hook, line and sinker."

Swat teams waiting in the wings to swoop in. Credit: Twitter
Swat teams waiting in the wings to swoop in. Credit: Twitter

In the end, none of those 'lucky' guests caught a second of the game, which saw the Redskins win 27-24.

Over 100 criminals were arrested, and to this day Operation Flagship remains one of the most successful stings in US police history.

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Overall, it cost $22,100 to carry out and led to 144 arrests, which works out at around $153 per fugitive.

To put that into perspective, that same year, the average cost of arrests by marshals was a staggering $1,295.

Looking back, Louie McKinney, chief of enforcement operations, said: "It was a big highlight of my career because it was very successful and no one got hurt.

"It’s amazing how we dreamed that up."

Topics: News, Crime, Super Bowl, Sport

Dominic Smithers
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