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Bank robber hypnotized tellers

Russian police say hypnotism is not an uncommon criminal technique.

People walk under a currency exchange advertisement banner of Sberbank, Russia's giant state-owned savings bank, in Moscow Nov. 18, 2009. A woman arrested in the southern city Volgograd is accused of using hypnosis to rob a Sberbank branch. (Denis Sinyakov/Reuters)

MOSCOW, Russia — Bank robbers have threatened tellers with knives, shot their way into banks and tunnelled up into vaults. But one woman in southern Russia chose a more peaceful method: Police say Galina Korzhova hypnotised a bank teller into handing over tens of thousands of dollars in what is believed to be just one in a series of daring, if non-violent, bank robberies.

Galina Korzhova was arrested, said Anton Kornoukhov, a spokesman for police in the southern city of Volgograd, on suspicion of hypnotising a bank teller in the nearby town of Volzhky into giving her more than $80,000. She is suspected of having robbed up to 30 additional banks in what Russian media have called a "grand tour" around the country.

“She met the woman on the street, saying that she would remove curses and help cure sick relatives,” said Kornoukhov in a telephone interview.

Korzhova is accused of telling the bank employee, whose name has not been released, to put the money into a plastic bag and meet her outside the state bank Sberbank, on Communist Street in the small town. There, the case goes, the teller gave Korzhova the money.

The robber took off with 30,000 euros, $20,000 and the rest in rubles for a total of 2.6 million rubles or $81,000, police said.

The teller only realised what she had done a couple of hours later and told her bosses at the bank what had happened.

Strangely enough there is a well-known tale of a Sberbank teller being hypnotised on longtime Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s orders. Wolfgang Messing was a German Jew who escaped to the Soviet Union from the Nazi Germany after he predicted Adolf Hitler's regime would collapse. Messing was said to be Stalin’s personal psychic and claimed that he hypnotised a teller to hand over 100,000 rubles as an experiment on Stalin’s orders. The Soviet secret police later gave the money back — the teller had a heart attack when he heard how he had been tricked.

Police say that Korzhova is a "tsiganka," or Roma. Police, who are often criticized for racial profiling, say this type of crime is most often perpetrated by Roma who are traditionally involved in fortune telling and are often seen begging in Russia.

The Roma, or Gypsies, are nomadic people who live throughout Europe. Human rights groups say they are severely discriminated against in Russia and that police routinely assume their guilt and harass them.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/russia/091212/russia-bank-robber-hypnotize