Wednesday, January 04, 2012


Maybe you remember a bizarre bank heist from 2003 in which Brian Wells, a middle-aged pizza delivery guy, wore a collar bomb while attempting to rob an Erie, PA bank, and, when captured, told the police that he was being forced to either come up with $250,000 or his captors would detonate the device. The police called in the bomb squad to defuse it, but it exploded before they arrived, killing the man.

The most perplexing and intriguing pieces of evidence, though, were the handwritten notes that investigators found inside Wells’ car. Addressed to the “Bomb Hostage,” the notes instructed Wells to rob the bank of $250,000, then follow a set of complex instructions to find various keys and combination codes hidden throughout Erie. It contained drawings, threats, and detailed maps. If Wells did as he was told, the instructions promised, he’d wind up with the keys and the combination required to free him from the bomb. Failure or disobedience would result in certain death. “There is only one way you can survive and that is to cooperate completely,” the notes read in meticulous lettering that would later stymie handwriting analysis. “This powerful, booby-trapped bomb can be removed only by following our instructions… ACT NOW, THINK LATER OR YOU WILL DIE!” It seemed that whoever planned the robbery had also constructed a nightmarish scavenger hunt for Wells, in which the prize was his life.

That was the last I had heard of the case, except for the 2010 release of 30 Minutes or Less starring Danny McBride and Jesse Eisenberg, which, astoundingly, uses the source material as the basis for a surprisingly funny action-comedy(!)

About a year ago, in their January 2011 issue, Wired Magazine published a fantastic article on the latest developments the FBI has made in this twisty case.


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